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The Universe and Everything Else January 31, 2008

Posted by Steve in excerpts, reflections.
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[RL] I love science. I have been a science geek for as long as I can remember. Once, as a child, I got a fold up map of the solar system from McDonald’s. I loved that thing, despite the flying french fries and hamburger space ships. I used to take my finger and pretend it was a space ship, and spend what seemed like hours flying from one planet to another. Kidtime is somewhat elongated, so it was probably no more than five minutes. But, as odd as it sounds, I remember that as one of my happiest childhood memories.

As virtually everything does, this brings me back to considerations of religion. One of my principles problems with the Bible is its earth-centric viewpoint of creation. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The heavens. 99.9999999999999999999% of creation is tossed away as an afterthought in that sentence.

Does the reader really have any idea how big “the heavens” are?

In my unpublished and one day to be rewritten book, Of Cabbages and Kings, I considered this question. I tried to create a version of God that was consistent with the universe as science says exits. Satan is one of the characters within the story, and he has been living largely in hiding under the name of Alphonsus Luke (sound familiar) for the past 1000 years.

At one point, he relates to the story’s protagonist, Alex Taber, and Alex’s girlfriend, Charlene, the tale of how he was once allowed to see the universe the way that God sees it. This is an excerpt:

******

“Dr. Luke?”

“Call me Alphonsus, Charlene.”

“Okay. Alphonsus. I have to ask you something.”

“Yes?”

“I need to know if…well…I mean, have you killed people?”

Dr. Luke closed his eyes and sighed deeply.

“Charlene, I know what you’re asking. But you’re not really thinking. The real question you want to ask–the real information you wish to divine, is if I am evil. One definition of evil is murder–killing. But really Charlene, what do you think? I’m 39 thousand years old. Those thirty-nine thousand years cover every violent moment in recorded history. Do you really think that I, as an immortal being, could have gone through that much of life without having killed anyone?

“So, the answer to your question is yes. Yes, of course I’ve killed people. Look at Alex. He’s only an embryo at forty years old, and he’s already killed people.”

Alphonsus paused a moment, remembering.

“Life long ago was much different from life of today. Just as one sample, look at language. You have to understand, Charlene, that ancient languages were not always very flexible. There were usually not a lot of words, and sometimes it was difficult to get one’s point across. Often disagreements were caused by simple inability to get someone to understand what you were talking about. Many times, if there was a significant enough disagreement, the easiest way of settling a dispute was simply to cut the other guy’s head off.

“But,” he continued, “the real question you’re asking is if I liked killing people, and the answer to that question is no. Do I think some people are better off dead? Of course, but if I’ve learned one thing after all this time it’s that sometimes even the worst people can surprise.”

Dr. Luke hesitated a moment. “Most of the time they won’t, of course. But I’m not going to take it as my role to rid the world of the assholes. There’s an infinite supply of them, and I have better things to do with my time.”

Charlene snorted. “You don’t want to play God, in other words.”

He grimaced bitterly. “Why should I? Most of the time even God doesn’t play God.”

Alex interjected, “I thought that was the reason you got kicked out of Heaven. I thought it was because you wanted God’s job or something.”

Luke stared at him for a long moment, and then he smiled, closed his eyes, and began to laugh. It was not a happy laugh, or rather, not one that suggested happiness. Rather, it was a laugh that suggests irony or pain.

He laughed for an uncomfortably long time.

Finally, he stopped himself and opened his eyes again, smiling.

“Do you have the slightest idea what God is really like? Do you have the slightest idea how incredibly powerful–yet limited–He really is?

He paused and became serious. “All Knowing? Everyone assumes it. I believe it. I have seen what he sees. But have you ever given any thought to what the words really mean?

“He is capable of managing a Universe. An entire Universe, Alex! The Universe is not a fantasy. It is really out there, and it is large. You are both educated individuals. Do you have any idea of just how big it really is?

“Well, no matter what you think, you don’t. I don’t either. Gigantic. Colossal. No word is big enough. Not by a trillionth. The human mind cannot even conceive of its real size. The imagination is not capable of it. Think of infinity. Multiply it times infinity. Imagine what you get. Do you think your imagination is accurate? It isn’t.

“He sees all of it at once. He can focus simultaneously on each of the six billion people on this planet all and at the same time count the number grains of sand on a beach on the other side of the Universe, call it, oh, nineteen billion light-years away as the trans-dimensional crow flies. And he sees every star, every planet, every dust mot, in between.

“Do you think I would aspire to do something like that? I can barely manage myself some days, Alex.”

He looked at us for a moment, suddenly frowning uncomfortably, his expression darkening. He seemed to be remembering something.

“He took me into his realm, once,” he said after a long pause. “His realm … His reality … I don’t know what else to call it. He did it soon after He created me. I think He wanted to deal with me on a one to one basis; face to face, so to speak. His regular angels go there all the time. I think that’s why He created me–so that He could finally deal with a human on His level. A normal human body could never survive there.”

He paused again, and then continued hesitantly. “I found it…disconcerting…to say the least. Basically, I saw…no, I can’t say that I saw…I became aware of, the entire Universe, all at once.

“And then, there was the awareness of His presence. It was…indescribable…there are no words–no concepts that I can draw parallels from. You may trust, however, that the idea of some old fart sitting on a throne is mistaken. And, you may also trust that if we were created in his image, then Jackson Pollock is a realist.”

He paused. “The experience left me in a catatonic state for, well, how could I really tell how long, but at least several decades. It certainly would have killed me if such a thing were possible in my current state.”

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Comments»

1. FD Spark - January 31, 2008

That is really well written.
Thanks for posting it.

2. Mykyl - January 31, 2008

This is very much the Gnostic view of Satan (or “Lucifer”, bringer of light – bringer of comprehension) – and very much the reason I do not believe in a deity, or that if there is one he/she/it can’t possibly have any interest in such an insignificant species as humans living on a tiny ball of rock out on the edge of an average galaxy amidst a sea of galaxies… but I guess that if there were such a deity, creating “Satan” in the way you have just described would be just about the only logical way for he/she/it to interact with humans…

hmmmm… you know – for almost a year now you have been teasing me with bits and pieces of this book now and then – I _really_ hope that you will finish it someday. Of course, I’m one to talk with and unfinished ballad I’ve been working on for over a decade and a novel I have not worked on in so long that I have forgotten the names of a couple of characters… 🙂

3. Princess Ivory - January 31, 2008

Regarding the characters, Mykyl, I can tell you that the main love interest for Alex might remind you of a certain red-haired, blunt-spoken girl!

And I will expect a large chunk of the royalties when this is finally published. Much like F. Scott and Zelda, Alphonsus has mined my writing and speech to bring his character to life!

4. Princess Ivory - February 1, 2008

You said:
“[RL] I love science. I have been a science geek for as long as I can remember. Once, as a child, I got a fold up map of the solar system from McDonald’s. I loved that thing, despite the flying french fries and hamburger space ships. I used to take my finger and pretend it was a space ship, and spend what seemed like hours flying from one planet to another. Kidtime is somewhat elongated, so it was probably no more than five minutes. But, as odd as it sounds, I remember that as one of my happiest childhood memories.”

Hmmmm. Sound like what I do with Second Life. Except I use graph paper and colored pencils. But only because McDonald’s quit putting the space maps in the bags. Then I switched alliances to Burger King, so I would get that lovely gold crown instead!

5. malakyte - February 1, 2008

Very nice Alphonsus.

I really hope to be able to read your book one day also.

6. Wildstar - February 4, 2008

wow !
a great fragment !
I look forward to read more (despite the fact I do not quite agree that ancient languages were simpler 🙂 )

BTW … did you get and read “The Physics of Immortality” ?


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