A conversation with God
Poltergeists are generally benevolent phenomena that just get bored from time to time. That business with the throwing books around is entirely understandable when you bear in mind that they’re just looking for a Grisham they haven’t yet read a thousand times. This, my third house, which I moved into about a year or so before the Dandelion and Burdock incident that would make me famous; is haunted by a poltergeist from ancient Egypt called Frederick. Frederick has a particular penchant for my Art Garfunkel collection and will regularly slip a disc onto the turntable when my mood is hazy blue. Things got tricky in the spring of ’91 when I bought my first CD player. It took me two weeks to teach him how to use the thing and two months to convince him that the future of music was digital.
When the Internet started to become famous, Frederick nagged and nagged me to get a computer. In the end we struck a deal: I’d get the house connected if he told me where he’d hidden the keys to the video cabinet and my precious collection of early Springer shows. Hour after hour after hour he’d stay in front of that monitor, night after night after night. Best of all, he liked to surf the chat rooms (going by the name of Sally, to protect his anonymity), making out that they were haunted by levitating the icons across the screen.
Now, believe it or not, God has a Web site. We discovered it together. Available at http://www.ourfatherwhoartinheaven … foreverandeveramen.com (you have to type in the whole prayer), the site features information pages, chat rooms and an e-mail greetings cards service. The site has its good points and its bad points. Layout-wise you’d expect better from the creator of the universe. It needs more color. But what it lacks in aesthetics is amply compensated for by the sheer wealth of content, articles, diagrams, and recipes. Even a review of Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian” (not favorable, as it happens – apparently the Almighty has a thing about Eric Idle).
As you might expect from an omnipotent being, God is always in the chat room. Frederick managed to collar him one evening, to ask him why he hadn’t been let into heaven yet. and God replied, “Have you filled out an H21a? These things don’t happen overnight, my son, it’s a complicated system. Actually, we had you down as awaiting reincarnation as a Ugandan Princess. Vacancies like that don’t come around very often you know.”
One night I logged onto the site and demanded to know why the world was such an unfair place. “Didn’t they teach you that I move in mysterious ways?” God replied, “I put that down to my limp. Seriously, why don’t you download the Third Testament from the Publications page? There’s a lot of stuff about Nixon in there. You get a free screen saver too.”
Sensing that God was avoiding the issue, I pressed him further for answers. “Look,” said God, “Of course it’s unfair. This isn’t rocket science – not that rocket science is in any way confusing to me, naturally. What would be the point in a world with no pain? Who’d bother to do anything if nothing needed to be done? If everything was just good from the start there’d be no bravery, no sacrifice, no innovation. And nobody would know that what they had was good because they’d never have experienced bad. What would you celebrate? What would bring you together? It’s not about struggling for the good cause – it’s more that the struggle is the good cause. My advice to you is to stop thinking about it and go and do something useful. Do some charity work, donate some money, and/or write a successful sitcom that doesn’t rely on a nerdy guy for laughs.
“I said the very same thing last week,” He continued, “to a college student at Baltimore. We converse via graffiti in a toilet cubicle each time he gets a bad case of belly ache. A philosophy student. They’re always the worst. On top of it all, this one wears mittens. ‘I am in everything and in everyone,’ I told him, in my best handwriting, ‘in every place and in every time. I know what you’ve done, what you’re doing and what you’re going to do next. I know your thoughts, your dreams and your fantasies and they’re strange, my son, deeply strange. In that I am in you, you are also in me. I am the infinite particle that binds dimensions together and you are all the breathing of my soul.’ As you can see, I got rather carried away with myself; at this point I had to stop because I ran out of wall.”
“But if you know everything that we’re going to do,” I typed, mindful of the phone bill and wondering how I could wind this conversation up, “what’s the point in us doing it?”
“Think of it this way, if you will. Imagine life is a giant game of chess and I’m the computer opponent. You, the feeble human, can only look so many moves ahead; with each extra move you try to predict, your degree of certainty erodes. I, on the other hand, can see all of the possible outcomes. What I don’t know for sure is which one of them will finally happen. Do you get the picture? It’s a simplistic analogy and not even remotely accurate but I find it works well at parties. The point is, each time you go shopping for carrots, I’m in aisle fourteen, checking out the new brand of anchovies. Look, this is a chat room, right? Chat. What do you think of the new Bond movie? Personally, I prefer Connery.”
God would say no more on the subject. And by this time the birds outside were starting to sing and the dawn light was beginning to seep through the curtains. Downstairs I could hear Frederick in the kitchen, getting a healthy breakfast ready (poltergeists are useful things to have, once you’ve trained them).
But before I logged off, I clicked on “What is the meaning of life?” in the navigation bar. This took me to a blank page with one of those ‘under construction’ animations. At the time I guessed God hadn’t got around to doing that bit yet, but it’s been the same ever since. Maybe that’s what it’s meant to say; my personal belief is that He’s exceeded his webspace limit.