Thursday, 24 December 2015


(teatime of the gods, part 1)

*   *   *
“So,” said Topgod, taking a mouthful of ambrosia and washing it down with a glug of nectar, “what hast thou discovered … mm, a very decent Nectar, this, where didst thou get it?”

Deeply unfashionable though it was, Topgod preferred the old singular form for the second person, to remove all doubt and later dispute about exactly how many he had been talking to at the time.

“Elysian Fields has just released it, apparently there’s a new Honeybee working there now, with high Resistance to the Varroa Mite; strangely, they call it the Varry Mitey Bee …”

“Their Sense of Humour has always been a Bit of a Mystery.”

You could actually hear the capital letters in Topgod’s speech, so finely cadenced was it. He felt that capitals were absolutely necessary to distinguish (for example) station the verb from Station the stopping place for trains … back when there had been Trains, ah! what Fun that had been …

“But back to Business, Youngster, what are thy Findings this Time? Thou hadst great Hopes for Terra last Assessment; art thou satisfied with recent Progress? May I?” and he topped up his glass.

Godlet Gamma sighed. “I thought I’d sorted it out nicely when I gave them Evolution: what could go wrong? Everything would adapt and survive or fail to adapt and die out, and we’d have a Planet that ran smoothly because every Creature fitted its Environment – no Worries.”

^It seemed like a massively good Plan, yes. But thou soundst as if there was a Flaw. What has happened?”

“Well, I assumed that the Whale would turn out to be the dominant Creature, and in fact it did well, there was plenty of Food in the Sea, it was reasonably peaceful, and its Music was splendid – bewitching, even; but I worried about the Human: it seemed terribly lacking in Strength compared to the Elephant or the Tiger or even our good Friend the Rat, and its Rate of Evolution was so slow compared to the Virus; I feared it would be wiped out.”

“But wasn’t that the whole Point of Evolution? To get rid of unfit Creatures? What was there to fear?”

“Well, thou seest, even back at the Beginning the Human had this Sense of Humour, it made Jokes about Everything, and that was so refreshing because almost Everything else, especially the Virus, was so very serious; only the Rat made Jokes, and they were just so anally basic, they hardly made me laugh at all. So I tried to protect the Human, to give it at least a Chance.”

“Mm, this Ambrosia has gone soggy, dost thou mind if I get another Batch out? … So what Protection didst thou give – tough Hide? Claws? Wings?”

“Sure, help thyself ... No, no, I had an Idea that I wanted to try out. I gave it three Things – Three and Seven are usually lucky Numbers, aren’t they? – I gave it the opposable Thumb so that it could hold Things and work on them and make new Things out of them …”

“That isn’t particularly new, it’s been done before and no great Harm resulted … yes, this new Batch is much crisper, thou hast to tell me where thou didst get it.”

“As thou dost say, done before, no Harm, safe enough. And then I made it walk upright so that it could see farther and reach the high Fruit and leave the Hands free for throwing Stones.”

“It still hardly sounds too dangerous?”

“But thirdly I gave it a relatively big Brain, I made it clever. And then it began to get Ideas, Stuff I hadn’t thought of began to happen, Stuff I hadn’t intended … Stuff it invented all by itself, out of its own Cleverness.”

“Thou art describing an Unintended Consequence? Well we always get a Few of those. But after all, thy Job is to foresee possible Consequences and avoid them happening unintendedly. What was it that thou didst not foresee? After all, thou didst steer clear of giving it Religion, did’nst thou … er, didst thou not?” There were times when Topgod felt that old-second-person precision was hardly worth the trouble.

“How could I have foreseen that it would be so clever as to teach itself to speak? And there came a Time when these human Animals discussed Problems and found Answers that allowed them to survive. And at first I thought this was a huge Success, for their Jokes became ever more sophisticated and multilingual, and I encouraged them, saying “Go forth and multiply” and of course that was a Disaster, because they have gone forth into Places that I never intended a Human to live, and they have multiplied so as to take up all the available Space, and they have killed off all Manner of harmless Beasts, such as the Dodo, which I loved because it was harmless and helpless and a Joke in itself …” and Godlet Gamma trailed off into heaving sobs.

Topgod patted Gamma comfortingly, and for a little while both were silent, munching the comforting crispness of the ambrosia.

Then, with a great sigh, Godlet Gamma continued. “But the worst Thing of all was – thou saidst I steered clear of Religion? Well, it’s true, I did. But what happened was – thou wilt scarcely believe this – what happened was, the Humans invented it for themselves!”

“No!” Topgod could scarcely believe what he was hearing, and nearly spat out his current swig of nectar. “That never happened anywhere else.”

“And because the Humans had divided themselves into Tribes, distinguished by physical Characteristics such as Colour, Shape of Eyes, Hairiness, and so on, each Tribe invented its own Religion; and each Tribe pictured its God in its own Image, and in its convoluted Way thought that its God had made the Human in its own Image …”

“Ah yes, back-to-front Reasoning – a quite common Failing in quasi-rational Creatures, a good Thing there are only a Few of them. My, my, the Bottle’s nearly empty, couldst thou …”

Godlet Gamma disappeared to get a new Bottle. After a while he reappeared clutching a magnificent Maxiflagon of Varry Mitey XXXX. Some time passed wrestling with the cork, and then he went on with his tale of horror.

“… so each Tribe had a God that looked different from all the other Tribes’ Gods, and this gave rise to an Imperative: thou shalt destroy the Unbeliever …”

“And naturally,” interrupted Topgod, “the Unbeliever was Everyone except one’s own Tribe. I see how this Imperative would give rise to an awesome Amount of Warfare. But surely it would also give rise to a significant Decrease in Population, thus doing at least some Good?”

“Thou wouldst think so, wouldn’tst thou, er, wouldst thou not? But what in fact happened was that this continual Warfare and enormous Number of Deaths caused the Human to concentrate on breeding more Humans, almost to the Exclusion of any other Activity. Except possibly for making Music. And, thou knowst, its Music is the best that has been produced anywhere … de-de-de-DUM, de-de-de-DUM hic! hast thou heard that one, can’t get it out of my Head … far better than anything the Whale did, course the Whale didn’t have the thingy Thumb, hic!” Godlet Gamma seemed to be drifting into another realm of thought.
“Well now, that is a veritable Train of Disaster (ahh! Trains! if only!) that thou tellst. Didst thou not realise that such Micromanagement was never Part of thy Remit? It would seem that thou hast done a baddish Job on Terra. I cannot be pleased with thy Report. Although I have to say that thy Sourcing of Food and Drink is excellent.”

“I know, I know, it’s all gone Pear-shaped and is likely to get worse if I don’t intervene … I was thinking that what I could do …”

“Stop right there. Thou hast intervened already and look at the Outcome -  a Disaster. The last Thing thou shouldst do is intervene again. Terra must now be left to itself: whether it survives or not is out of thy Hands. I now pass Terra and its Outcome to Fate. I have spoken.”

“Thou knowst it was my very first Assignment and meant a Lot to me …”

“That was the Trouble, thou wast too caught up and thou didst interfere overmuch. Best to stand back and let Things take their Course at the Dictate of Evolution; we have seen how wonderfully well it works.”

Godlet Gamma shrugged its shoulders like one relieved of a heavy burden. “I hear hic! and I obey” it slurred, “and now shall I show thee where I found this crispy Ambrosia, and hic! the Meadow where the Varry Mitey Bee …”

Spreading their great wings, off into the distance they flowed, relieved of the boredom of Assessment, getting on with the things dear to their hearts. Fainter and fainter came Godlet Gamma’s creaky tenor: de-de-de-DUM, de-de-de-DUM, hic!

*   *   *

No comments:

Post a Comment