The Supralapsarian Dilemma

9 02 2011

“When the Boston Lighthouse was first built in 1716, the Massachusetts Bay Colony forbid the use of a lightning  rod for fear that such an instrument would be viewed by the powers of heaven as intent to interfere with divine strokes.  After the lighthouse was struck and damaged by lightning some 12 times in ten years, twice setting it on fire, a lightning rod was installed.  The justification was that a lighthouse, reaching skyward higher than any other structure, was too much of a temptation for the powers above.  Thereafter, the Boston Lighthouse suffered no serious injury due to lightning.” (Elinor De Wire, Guardians Of The Lights; Stories Of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers, 1995, p.108)

In their humble belief in the sovereignty of God, the authorities decided that every lightning strike was predestined by God and therefore should not be hindered by mortal man.  In their arrogant disbelief in the sovereignty of God, they determined that they were, as well as all of humanity, above and outside of that same power, even thinking that they were capable of hindering an act of God.  Why affix a lightning rod, when it might contradict the intentions of God?  They might as well have asked why they constructed a lighthouse at all, if human innovation against the forces of nature are a rebellion against God.  They neither considered that the lightning rod, as well as the lighthouse, were part of the same course of history, and that every last part of it, from beginning to end, was within his power.  Even the lighthouse keeper was a product of that destiny, moved to guide ships safely out to sea.


And somewhere out there the great cruise liner, the RMS Olympic, passed just close enough to glimpse the intermittent light from the lighthouse.  This massive ship, among the most advanced in its time, slowly chugged along the coast on its pleasure tour of the New England coast.  One might say that it was well-stocked with libations.  Perhaps it was too well-stocked, for a poor hapless passenger found himself in the unlikely position of examining the outer hull of the ship during a very rapid descent into the ocean, and, to make matters worse, the only ones to notice this event were a small collection of philosophers standing at the rail, pondering the significance of his fate.

They were five men of a society of thinkers who came to believe themselves to be merely fictional characters, whose destiny was predetermined by an all-powerful author of some sort.  They were the Authorians.  They were the only members of their society.  It is for this reason that the victim was especially unfortunate.  Had they been merely philosophers, we might fear that these thinkers would spend far too much time thinking about the problem, not doing enough about it until it was too late.  Being fatalists, they assured the demise of the intoxicated swimmer.

This group of five had been discussing the fine merits of their philosophy to one of their newest members, John Basques, who was, by virtue of his need to avert his attention elsewhere, the primary witness of the fall of the man.  The other heads did not turn until the splash was heard, and Basques’ eyes widened perceptibly.  Basques was a wiry little man badly in need of a wife, but his insufficiency in stature was generally unappealing to many women, and the remaining women were already taken or otherwise indisposed to marry him.  This had the effect of lending him far more time for the company of other men, and for a man like Basques, such men were usually either divorced or actively, though unwittingly, in pursuit of divorce.  Such clueless men have many opinions to offer, but little practical handiness around the house, what little time they spend there.  Doubtless, they thought themselves splendid husbands, though they could not understand why their wives were so upset at being left at home alone all evening, every evening, after being left home alone all day while these men were at work.  Needless to say, going on a cruise without their wives didn’t help much, either, but that would be beside the point.  The real point is that a man who had been aboard the ship was now in the water and swiftly trailing behind the ship.

“I say, that’s a bit of a trouble!” exclaimed Basques.  He started forward, when a hand grabbed him firmly by the arm.

“Never mind that,” said another of the group, a mustached man named Calvin Del.  “The hand of the author is at work, here.  You do not think that he would have fallen into the sea were it not his destiny.”

“His destiny?!” exclaimed Basques, “The author did not make him fall into the sea!  Don’t you take me for a fool.”

“John,” said Del to Basques, “It is not necessary to intervene.  Had it been the author’s will, then that man would have been saved anyway, or, better yet, not have fallen at all.”

Basques looked back and forth incredulously between the faces of the other four, noting their silent assent.  Destiny seemed a sturdy and decent thing when circumstances were fair, but calamity shook it to its core, and the proscription to interfere with that calamity made it utterly repugnant.  “You men are mad!” scolded Basques, “We’ll discuss this later, but I will not stand by and let a fellow person die under my passive watch.”  With that, he made haste for the ship’s bridge, running as fast as he could, yelling “Man overboard!  Man overboard!”  A security officer stopped him before he got there, promising to relay the information to the captain.  Painfully long moments passed by, until the guard emerged from the bridge and relayed a message from the captain.

“Captain says we can’t turn this behemoth around and retrace our line of travel.  Would take too long, and we’d likely as not miss our man.  By the time we got turned about, we’d not be in the same place any more.  We’d be going back the same direction, but we might pass by miles.  We’ll be dropping anchor and hailing the Coast Guard.  They can retrace our steps better than we can.  If they don’t find the poor soul by tomorrow, then we’ll continue on our way,” explained the guard.

“Poor soul!” exclaimed Basques, “I wish more could be done.”

The gentle rumble from the boilers ground to a low murmur, hardly impacting the momentum of the ship noticeably.  On deck, shuffleboard games continued, and objectless mafficking continued unabated.  No one noticed the lowering of the anchor.  The captain of the ship, an admirably concerned fellow with a trim white beard and ponytail, emerged from the helm, passing directly by Basques without acknowledgment, followed at the heels by two deck hands.  They made their way down to the deck, where they headed straight to the stern and out of sight.  Two other men stepped outside and gazed back in the direction from which the ship had come, and then they quickly disappeared back inside again.  Soft music that had been playing over the house speakers truncated, and someone announced the situation to the passengers.  All were instructed to return to their cabins promptly, where the floor managers would take role and attempt to discover the identity of the victim.  Even members of the crew were required to check-in.

By the time Basques reached his cabin, his roommate, Del, was already there, waiting.  The other members of the group waited by their open doorways, smoking cigars nervously.  Del eased the door to within an inch of closing, and said to Basques in a low voice, “Now, John, I know you’re only trying to be helpful, but surely you must understand that the will of the author predestines the fate of the whole world, and not just the handful of us who believe.  I know it’s hard to accept, but these things don’t escape the author’s design.”

Basques, still uncomprehending of the man’s utter insensitivity, stammered for a moment and then replied, “But Cal, my man, surely you did not expect me to do nothing?  I could not stand by and let a good and innocent man be left to die out there.  What kind of creed is it that commands us to do nothing?”

“It is not for us to decide who is good and who is evil, ” replied Del.

“Then I claim ignorance,” replied Basques.  “You seem to think the man condemned because he happened to fall into the drink.  You seem to have decided that the man is evil.  I, for one, don’t know.  I only know that he is one in need of saving.”

“Then let the author save him,” countered Del.

“Author or no author, I am duty-bound to serve my fellow man,” replied Basques.  “Now, I don’t know any more whether I like this ideal of ours that all things are under the design of a higher power.  Even so, I like to think that I am under no obligation to sit idly by and let disaster befall my neighbor.  Am I required to do absolutely nothing?  Why do I even bother to feed myself?  If I strike you in the nose, then was it by decree of the author?  Answer me now, because I’m tempted to find out.”

Del took an unconscious step backward.  “Now, John, we are the protagonists.  Not everyone is like us.  We did not fall overboard, because we are the primary characters in the plot.  We are the good guys.”

“Good!  Ha!  Fat lot of good you are!  You think you’re a good guy, because you stood around with your hands in your pockets and did nothing!  You think that the author smiles favorably upon you because nothing particularly bad has happened to you yet.  The cruise is still young, dear Cal.  Misfortune visits everyone, sooner or later.  When it comes knocking at your door, I hope, for your sake, that your neighbor does not ascribe to your beliefs.”  Basques was about to say more, but the floor manager appeared in the doorway and took their count.  Then they were free to leave, which they did, promptly.  The other members of the society were waiting for them outside.  One of them gave Del a questioning glance, and was returned with an evasive look.

“Let’s hit the galley for a bite to eat, shall we?” suggested the leader of the group.  The rest mumbled their assent.

Lunch was an awkward affair.  The members largely attempted polite conversation over the usual heady philosophical debate.  No one wanted to acknowledge the elephant in the room, who was Basques.  The leader of the group, a man named Martin Shirr, was about to say something, finally, when a uniformed officer invited himself to sit with them.  The sailor identified himself as Jacques, the first mate of the ship.  “Well,” he began, “The count has been finished.  A couple dozen passengers had to be tracked when they failed to show for roll call.  We finally narrowed down the list to a single individual, a man named Adam Boxer.  His wife, Dora, hasn’t been able to find him since the alert, and she’s worried about him.  He was a tall, skinny fellow in his forties, wearing a solid red polo shirt and white slacks.  Is this the man that you saw?”

“My memory is a little unclear on his attire, but I believe he looked something like that,” replied Basques.

“Well, then, gentlemen, I thank you for your help.  Hopefully we can find this man and be on with our journey shortly,” said the first mate, beginning to rise.

“Is there hope?” asked Basques, eagerly.

The sailor ran his fingers across his close-cropped head and replied, “Well, that remains to be seen.  The captain has, himself, left the ship on a dinghy to search for the man.”

“Left the ship!” exclaimed one of their party.

“Yes, well, he is a man of principle.  He would rather leave the entire ship at my command than leave a single lost soul adrift in the ocean.  I believe he will be out there for quite a while, unless he finds the victim,” explained the sailor, with a subtle pride.

Del looked at Shirr and mumbled, “Our fate is tied with that of an antagonist?”

“What?” begged the sailor, “By Jove, what are you talking about?  Who are you calling an antagonist?”

Shirr chose his words carefully, “Well, you see, sir, we are a philosophical group that believes our world is fated at the hand of an author, of sorts, one who exists in a higher sense than ourselves.  You might call him a god.  We call him an author, because we believe that our destiny, even our own choices, are at his mercy.”

The sailor rubbed his chin and replied, “Ah, I see.  So you have taken it upon yourselves as the heroes in this plot to help save a drowning man.”

There followed a moment of awkward silence.

“Ah, well, you see, sir,” struggled Shirr, “We believe that all things are under control, whether they be fortune or misfortune.  We do not normally presume to alter the fate as determined by one who knows better.”

The sailor had to think about it for a moment, before he replied, “So this is not a normal response for you?  Normally, you would have abandoned the man in need?”

“You might call him an antagonist, sir,” explained Shirr.

“And you are the protagonist?” exclaimed the sailor with delight.  “Why, however could you know that you are not the antagonist, while victim may actually be the protagonist?”

“Well,” explained Shirr, talking mostly to the table top, “We must examine ourselves carefully to determine if we might be among the chosen ones.”

“Take no care at all!” exclaimed the sailor.  “I wouldn’t choose you!  What kind of hero would not help a neighbor in need?  Bosh, man!  If I were like you, I would not need to steer the ship.  Let the author steer it, himself.  Surely there must be enough elect on a ship this size to warrant a safe journey, regardless.  This I’ve got to tell the captain!  Why, we’ve been going about this all wrong!  Why, we’ve been wasting hours at the helm, when we could be down here nipping at the bottle, chumming it up with old friends.  Let your author steer the ship.”  He let out a shameless laugh.  “No, I’ll tell you what.  Your destiny is in my hands, I’ll tell you.  You can move around on this ship all you like.  You are free to do as you choose, here, but I control the over-all destiny of your whole world…at least, until the captain gets back.  That’s destiny for you.  It’s all the destiny I know.  I don’t need a higher power to determine when I burp.  He can tell me when to die, but I’ll do as I choose until then.”  With that, he stood and left the room.

The group of five were inconsolable.  They were a meek bunch, not used to impolite words.  Shortly, they seemed to think that the author was calling them to pursue other ends, so they stood and wandered off by themselves.  Each was certain that he was the only one whose faith was shaken.  They were nearly apostate by sundown, as they anxiously awaited the return of the captain in his dinghy.

All eyes were astern in the darkening dusk.  Hope was nearly gone by the time that boat came abreast of the ship.  On deck were two sailors, the captain and a soaked man in a red shirt and soggy white slacks.  Greeting the victim was a flustered wife, accusing him of his drunkenness.  The victim replied that his wife was to blame for opening the bottle and tempting him to fall off of the wagon.  One would think that at the uncorking of that bottle all of the world’s evils were unleashed upon the world.  A man could hardly be blamed for drinking too much, and, having drunk too much, could hardly be blamed for sitting on a rail and falling overboard.  Even the witnesses claimed absolution from attempting rescue.  It would seem no one was to blame for their own actions.  All were victims of fate.

Basques turned to Del, on his left, and said, “Cal, I must leave the group.”

“Why?” replied the disheartened Del, “Your man survived.  He was not condemned by the author.”

“Yes, but he could have been.  Some are not so lucky, ” replied Basques, “I cannot accept an author like that.”  He began to walk away.

“I believe you are a protagonist,” said Del, to his back, “even if you do not believe it.  I am more certain of you than I am of myself.”

Basques paused, then replied over his shoulder, “Thank you, Cal.”

When Basques began to walk away again, Del called to him, “Oh, do reconsider, won’t you?  Surely you did foresee such a possibility as this?”

“Yes, I did, Cal,” said Basques, “but I was not ready for this.”

“Will you think it over.”

“I will, Cal.  I will.”  And then John Basques returned to his room.

I suppose I should mention that, although they were shockingly wrong in the application of their philosophy, they were also astoundingly correct, at least in principle.  For they were quite right.  They are, indeed, characters whose destiny is in the hands of an author.  They have found it easy to accept salvation by my word, but they would not have easily accepted failure by that word.  Basques would have been no less a protagonist had he failed.  His comrades correctly assumed that the man overboard was caused by the destiny of my choice, which is why they thought not to override it.  However, they incorrectly assumed that they were powerful enough to override that destiny at all.  They were not.  They generally did not see that their intervention was as much a part of their destiny as was the fall of the man the victim’s own destiny.  They did not see that being a protagonist had much less to do with things going right for them, than that they would respond rightly to the things that happened to them.

I suppose I could be blamed for having a man fall overboard, but I could also be credited for giving the man any life at all.  Anyway, this is my story, and I have every right to tell it as I see fit.


The Art of Paradox

25 11 2008

Paradox is something of a lost art these days. The American mind, I find, has generally been given over to simplistic thinking, such that people either accept blatant self-contradiction without reason, or else they accept only the most straightforward thinking possible. A paradox is something that, at first glance seems unreasonable, but upon further inspection is seen to be true. It is not simply a matter of combining unlikely ideas in some vain attempt to imitate a sage.

The Trinity

The first thing that gets lost in the formation of any cult is the Trinity. The notion that anything can be three, yet still only be one, is absurd to many minds. The problem with this line of thinking is that it seems entirely rational. In fact, it is not at all unreasonable to say that one plus one plus one does not equals one.

1 + 1 + 1 = 1?

Yet, the problem is not in the math of it, but in the underestimation of God. If God were finite, like some mere mortal human being, then there could be no way for a Trinity to exist. However, if God were infinite (if God were God), then three of God would be the same as one God. It is mathematically true that three times infinity equals one infinity. To be precise,

3x = ∞ as x approaches infinity.

So the real question is, “How big is your God?” If he is all-knowing and all-powerful, then he must be of an infinite nature, and the Trinity is possible. Otherwise, he is only a god, not the God.


If believing in the Trinity is easy for most believers, there’s one thing that gets completely lost on the American mind, which is predestination. For the Christian who believes in self-determination, the idea of predestination is not seen as a paradox at all, but a contradiction against reality. He looks at the idea and thinks that he controls himself, therefore God does not control him, and that’s the end of it. The fact is that anyone who has ever accepted the idea of predestination has acknowledged its paradoxical nature and never assumed that the will of man were somehow overridden by the will of God. The fact is that the Bible is replete with references to predestination, and that it cannot be fully understood apart from it. However, predestination, itself, is hard to understand. Shall we blow it off as unreality, or shall we try to see if it makes sense in a paradoxical way?

As I’ve said before, if God created the Universe, then it stands to reason that he exists apart from it. If this is the case, then his reality may be of an entirely different nature than ours. Specifically, it may be a higher one. Everything that we see as reality may be as fiction to someone of a higher reality. Hamlet, as a fictional character, was a right physical and natural being within the realm of his own story. When his uncle killed his father, he blamed his uncle, not Shakespeare. People say that God lets us make our own choices, and this is true. No part of predestination denies this fact. Hamlet made his own decisions, within the context of the story. We make our own decisions within the context of ours. However, what part of “all-powerful” and “all-knowing” do we not get, to say that God has no direction in our lives? If we are predestined, it is not to say that we have no control of ourselves, but that God, on some other level, has complete control over the whole thing. Again, the question is, “How big is your God?”

It is the Americanism of Christianity that most reels against predestination. We are independent and self-reliant. We rebel against any notion that we might not be masters of our own destinies. We have, in part, become our own gods. The tendency to usurp God is as old as Satan’s rebellion. There is more to it, though. We do not want to blame God for anything. Job could easily have blamed God for the curse that fell upon him, and he would be right. Satan may have done the deed, but God gave him the license. What was at stake with Job, as is with us, was not whether or not God was to blame, but whether or not God had the right to do exactly what he did. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. God is not a mere mortal that men should judge him. But, then again, how big is your God?

Divine Authority

If the Bible says that there is no authority that is not established by God, that our rulers were instated divinely to give order to our society, then how are we to deal with democracy? Really, this is just another matter for predestination. Every authority is assigned by some person, whether by a Pope or another King, or by the people who are governed. Still, God establishes all authority. Democracy makes it harder to grasp, because we perceive ourselves as the basis for that authority. In reality, God establishes the President of the United States as much as he establishes the King of Jordan. Though people choose the President, he is still established by God. The physical cause appears to be the people, but the metaphysical cause is God. This is the essence of it.

Some people believe that they accept no paradox. In truth, everyone accepts some manner of paradox, because the biggest questions in life have no natural answers that can be derived from the evidence at hand. Life is full of apparent contradiction. Any answer that attempts to explain these contradictions is going to be a paradox. Over-simplifying a paradox does not remove the apparent contradiction, but merely casts it off further down the line of reasoning to a point not yet considered. For example, rejecting the Trinity means rejecting the infiniteness of God (any number times infinity equals one infinity. Anything for which this is not true is therefore not infinity). Reject God’s infinite nature, and he ceases to be perfect, all-knowing and all-powerful. Reject his perfection, and Christ’s death cannot save you. Reject his omniscience and his omnipotence, and he is not God. Then we’re all polytheists or atheists, and we revert to the mythological idea that the universe, life and everything just magically formed out of chaos, all by itself. It’s not that those who reject the trinity claim this end conclusion at the outset; it’s that they haven’t thought that far. So everything formed all by itself, some say. The irony is that they don’t see the paradox of this belief. Life does not, by nature, form itself out of nothing, and disorder does not, by nature, become order by itself. One can twist and contrive the evidence in any manner, but whatever the explanation is it will be a paradox….

Or else, it will be utter insanity. But then, one person’s paradox is another person’s absurdity.


Twenty Minutes

11 10 2008



The morning sunlight cracked into the dark bar, framing Josh Davidson.  He was a man in his early thirties with shoulder-length sandy blond hair, curly sideburns and a sparse and not so neatly trimmed goatee.  He took one quick glance around and headed to a booth in the far corner, with his eyes on the ground as he covered the distance.  He had a slight smile that was a mixture of nervousness and amusement as he grabbed a chair and slid it up to the table, where three men sat on the bench that surrounded it.  His eyes averted from the floor to the tabletop as he sat down and greeted them, “Good evening, gentlemen.”


The men mumbled a greeting in return.


“Hey, I noticed that you guys were talking about some pretty heady stuff, and I thought I might like to join in,” Josh said, as he produced an empty glass, which he placed on the table and requested, “Would you guys mind sparing me just a little to drink, if you could?”


The man sitting directly across from him was a middle-aged fellow with dark hair, bushy eyebrows and a handlebar mustache.  He lowered his eyebrows in thought and reached for his beer bottle, saying, “Sure, I don’t mind, but what do you mean you overheard what we were saying?  You just walked through the door”


Josh watched for a minute as Handlebars started going through the motions of delivering a sample of brew, but the man paused expectantly, as though holding the drink for ransom in lieu of an explanation.  “Well,” Josh started, “It’s hard to explain, and I might not have time to finish before the world ends in the next twenty minutes.”


“Hmm,” said Handlebars, “And you think we were talking about important stuff?”  He poured a small amount into the glass.


“…Before the world ends in the next twenty minutes?” scoffed the man to Josh’s left.  He was another middle-aged man, with male pattern baldness and a basketball for a belly.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”


Before Josh could answer, the guy to his right, a man with chiseled features and a pock-marked face declared, “Man, that doesn’t look like beer to me.”


They all looked at the glass that Handlebars had just filled, and the “beer” was just a clear liquid.  Josh took it and thanked him, “Water’s fine, thanks.  I don’t actually like beer, anyway.”  They stared at him as he took a drink, and Handlebars spied down the neck of his bottle, mumbling his confusion.  Josh put the glass down and continued, “Let me ask you guys something.  How long has the universe been around?”


“About sixteen billion years,” said baldy, without hesitation.


“Less,” Josh quickly replied.


Baldy looked at him sideways with an obvious touch of scorn, saying, “Oh, you’re one of those people who think the world was made in seven days, only a few thousand years ago.”


“Actually,” replied Josh, looking over the man’s shoulder, hoping to give the impression of eye contact, “The whole universe began just minutes ago, when I walked through that door.”  The group visibly relaxed, thinking that this must be some kind of joke, rather than a heated religious debate, but Josh continued, “Everything that you think happened before that point is merely implied.  It’s all just background, like this bar is to our conversation.  In one sense, this place was built by the Allenby Construction Firm thirty-three years ago, but on the other hand, did any of this, or any of you exist before the moment I walked through that door?”


“Well,” said Handlebars, “if that were true, then you’d better tell my wife, because then it would mean we were never married.”


“Actually,” said Josh, “You were married three times, and the woman you’re living with now isn’t your wife.”


At this, Handlebars was clearly shaken, and the tension at the booth rose a notch.  “Man, I don’t know you from Adam, but if you’ve been watching me and my family, then you’d better be ready for a fight, ‘cause I won’t put up with no peeping tom.”


Josh was so agitated about his response that he could barely continue.  “I haven’t been watching you.  It’s not like that.”  Pointing to a basket of bread at the table, he explained, “See that bread?  Do you think that’s the only thing keeping you alive?  It takes more than food to keep you alive.  You people are just fictional characters put into existence by the writing of an author.  You live by every word that the author writes.”


Baldy rubbed his mouth and mumbled sideways, “That’s a new one.”


“Your entire existence and the entire universe began the moment I walked through that door, and it will all end in a few minutes, the moment I walk out through that door,” Josh explained, “In that time, between the beginning and the end, you have only one thing needful to do, which is to solve the riddle that I put to you.”


“Which is?” Baldy replied.


“To discover who I am, and to accept it,” Josh replied.


They all paused in silence as a patron entered, letting in the bright noon sunlight.  The patron, clearly a man who had just come from some other bar, stumbled up to the bar and asked for a drink.


“I’m not going to play your game,” said Baldy, “Who are you, and why are you here?”


Josh looked at him in surprise, “You don’t want to try to figure it out?” he asked.


“Don’t jerk me around,” retorted Baldy.


“I am the author,” said Josh, straightly.


They all shifted in their seats, trying to get more relaxed.  “I’m not buying it,” said Baldy.


“How could you be the author if you’re here, with us?  An author can’t write himself into existence,” Handlebars reasoned.  His brow furrowed even deeper with the thought.


“Prove it,” said Baldy, sharply, “do something that only a creator of the universe could do.”


Josh sat back and took a measured breath.  He thought about it for a moment as he caressed the end of his nose and then said, “No, I don’t think I will.  If you want magic tricks, then you can go find a magician.  The magic that the author can do is the magic that he does every day, and you take it for granted.  Every breath you take is pure magic, made possible by the author, himself.”


“There you go, betraying yourself,” said the bald man, crossing his arms in triumph.  “You just referred to the author in the third person.  You said, ‘he does,’ and ‘himself,’ like it was someone else.  What is it, man?  First you try to tell us that we’re just fictional characters put into existence by an author, and then you say that you, yourself, are the author, and then you go back to saying he’s someone else.  Which is it, man?  You can’t have it both ways.”  He leaned over and slapped Josh somewhat unkindly on the face.  “Who did that?  Me or the author…excuse me…me or you?  Is the author slapping himself?”  He continued slapping Josh, harder each time.  “Tell, me, who hit you?” and then rose to his feet, laughing, “Man, you are funny!  If I didn’t think this was just some kind of joke, I’d have the funny farm called.”  Handlebars chuckled at that.


There was a ruckus in the bar, as the previously mentioned patron stormed out, having been refused a drink.  The bartender was hot on his heels shouting something about calling a taxi.  The bartender returned shortly, picking up a phone and calling someone.  The patron returned to the door, holding it ajar, letting in the dusky early-evening sunlight.


Josh turned back to the table and told the two who were still sitting, “There’s not much time left.  The world is about to end.”


“And then what?” asked Handlebars, as Baldy strutted off toward the bartender.


“Then it’s over,” said Josh.  “The story ends and you cease to exist.  Either you accept who I am and let me write you into the next story, or I let you come to your own end.  No one is forced to accept the riddle.  Everyone has a choice.”


“Except,” said Chisel-face, “That if we are all written into existence, then our choice rather goes beyond us, doesn’t it?  Sounds a bit fatalistic doesn’t it”


Josh shrugged his shoulders and said, “Yeah, you’re all predestined, but you still have a choice.  In the author’s world, you are chosen.  In this world, it’s a choice.  Call it a paradox, if you will.”


Chisel-face grunted and said, “Yet, you say that you are the author, which is hard to believe, because then you have to exist in both worlds.  You’re on the outside looking in, but you’re also on the inside, looking in.”


Josh spread his arms apart and said, “Look at me, man.  If you’ve met me, then you’ve met the author.  I don’t know how to interact with you any better than that.”


Chisel-face nodded slowly and replied, “I can believe that.  You walked in here without a glass, then produced one out of thin air.  You turned a bottle of beer into water.  You recited the marital history of someone you never knew.  I’m not even sure if that bread basket was on the table until the moment you pointed at it…I just can’t remember.  And then, then that light outside keeps changing, like the entire day is passing in just minutes!”


Josh stood and asked Chisel-face, “What’s you’re name?”


“Mark,” he replied.


Josh reached over and shook his hand, saying, “Pleased to meet you, Mark.  I’ll see you in the next story.”  He took one quick look at Handlebars, who was looking quite confused, then he headed for the door.  When he got there, he paused to see that Baldy was making small talk with the bartender, and then he headed out into the night.