I asked Mister Big, this morning, if He’d attended Harvey Johnson’s burial the other day in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.


“I don’t attend burials,” He said.


“I’m not surprised, really. The reason I asked—I came away from the service wondering, as I often have, whether graveside prayers for the soul of a dearly-departed ever make a difference.”


“Only to those who are praying,” He replied. “It comforts them. But a soul’s fate is a soul’s fate—there is no appealing it. And, besides, I don’t answer prayers—for the souls of the dearly-departed or for anything else. Not anymore, anyway. I gave it a go earlier on, curious as to where it might lead, and where it led was to people living for hundreds and hundreds of years, all along the way siring offspring who did the same, which led to massive over-crowding and widespread belligerence, which, in turn, led to their praying for an end to immortality, a return to simpler, more peaceful times. When they weren’t praying for this, they were praying for that, and it would ever be thus. I have universes to create and countless other things to do—Infinity makes big demands—so I stopped answering prayers altogether. Stopped cold. Haven’t even listened to one in centuries. And I’m surprised how few have noticed. I could have stopped long before I did.”


“You might have created another couple of universes by now.”


“There’s no rush.”




“Is it true we’re created in Your image?”


“No. You are nothing like me. But humankind is not alone in believing me a grander version of itself. All but one of my creatures do the same. Birds imagine me a bird—fishes, a fish—pigs, a pig—frogs, a frog. And how could it be otherwise? Could a human confide in a lizard? Could a frog worship a pig? No. Each, quite naturally, believes me a likeness of itself.”


“All but one, You said.”


“Yes, all but the dog. The dog imagines me a human.”




“A growing number believe that You’re indifferent to our welfare, that You have no involvement in our lives, whatsoever.”


“If that were entirely so, I wouldn’t be talking to you. But, in the main, they’re right—I don’t intervene in the lives of my creations. I’m a creator, not a manager.”


“As You know, I’m a creator, myself.”


“So you know what I mean.”


“Indeed I do. I can barely manage myself.”


“Have You checked out my creations, yet? They’re no match for Yours, certainly, but I’d love to know what You think of them.”


“I’ve long ago checked them out and among my favourites is your depiction of me tooling around the Great Beyond in a VW Beetle with a dog on the roof, which is no more off the mark than the myriad other depictions of me but, unlike them, is distinctively off the mark. It has become my favourite depiction.”


“May I quote You? Your testimonial would certainly boost print sales, which, believe me, could use some boosting—I’ve yet to sell a single print of that one.”


“You’d have to be me, I think, to truly appreciate it, but if you think it might help, go ahead—quote me.”



























“It is believed You watch over the sparrows, know when each has fallen.”


“Yes, there are many take comfort in believing so. But if I were to watch over any birds, it would be the starlings. I love to watch the starlings.”


“Me, too. How do they do that—the murmurations?”


“Your split-second is a starling’s second, so what seems to you a masterfully-executed orchestration of precision flying at great speed is, to starlings, a leisurely-performed flight of fancy. The sea turtle’s experience of time, on the other hand, is very different—what seems to you an hour, seems to them a quarter-hour. All creatures, whatever their life spans, experience it lasting the same length of time.”


“A mayfly’s 24 hours of life seem as long to that mayfly as 75 years of life seem to me?”


“They do. Were it able to recount them, a mayfly’s adventures would fill volumes.”




“Do You mind my calling You ‘Mister Big’? Many accuse me of blaspheming and trivializing You.”


“In believing me the least concerned with so trivial a matter, it is they who trivialize me. As it happens, I rather like ‘Mister Big’, much prefer it, in fact, to ‘God’. It’s less sombre and mysterious, much less likely to inspire worship, which I neither want nor need. in believing otherwise, they again trivialize me. And, while believing me omniscient, they persist in reminding me of their uncalled-for adulation.”

  

“Are You omniscient, as they believe?” 


“Ask me anything.”


“What was my first dog’s name?”


“I’ve only now learned you had a first dog. So, there’s your answer. And that’s how I like it. Omniscience would consign me to an eternity of no surprises, of never experiencing the joy of discovery or the thrill of watching what I’ve set in motion evolve.”  


“Was it You said 'Ignorance is a bliss’?” I joked.


“I’d like to think so—it’s quite punchy.”


“I like that You’ve a sense of humour.”


“I wasn’t kidding.”




“Is there a Heaven?” I asked.


“Yes, there are many, but only for the living. Heaven is mankind’s creation, not mine.


Have you, yourself, ever imagined one?”


“As a child being raised in a Christian home, I imagined Heaven as something akin to an eternity in church, a place I could barely tolerate for an hour a week. This was the last place I wanted to end up, so, for a while there, I made it my daily practice to steal, blaspheme, and covet, and, worried this might not be enough, I even toyed with the idea of becoming a juvenile delinquent. During most of my youth, however, when I thought about it at all, I viewed Heaven as little more than an adult fairy tale—and have, ever since.”  


“What would your Heaven be like if you had one?”


“I’d have to give that some thought ...


“In many ways, I suppose, it would resemble my childhood, with an embellishment of later passions ...


“It would probably smell like early Spring smelled when I was a kid ... and there’d be dogs ... lots of other animals, too ... and country fairs ... and Saturday auctions in a market square, baseball in the evenings ... and there’d be dinner parties ... and lots of laughter ... and a pool hall, of course ... and a golf course ... and horseshoe pits by a river ... thunderstorms out over a lake at night ...


“There’d be pies cooling on windowsills ... we’d eat tomatoes fresh from the garden, and grapes directly from the vine ... fish and chips would be out of this world ... wings, too ...


“And, most importantly, perhaps, there’d be a special woman to love and share it all with.”


“Just one? Forevermore is a very long stretch.”


“Well, no more than one at a time.


“Oh—and I’d be young again ... we all would ... forever young ... and I’d play a musical instrument.”




“Were you ever a believer in the Biblical me?”


“I remember, as a young child in church, hearing the minister say we were in God’s house and, looking around, thinking I’d spotted You behind the piano. So I suppose, at that stage, I believed in the Biblical You. But it never really took hold and, soon as I was on my own, I immediately quit going to church.


Early on, this occasioned a few bouts of guilt, one of which led to my dreaming that uncle Carl had invented a booth in which one could talk to You. It was red, like an English telephone booth. At my uncle’s insistence, I stepped inside, closed the door, couldn’t think of a single thing to say, and woke up in a cold sweat. I joked, later, that, being omniscient, You had probably appreciated my sparing You having to listen to what You already knew and that You probably wished others would follow my lead.”




“How do you imagine me right now?”


“I’ve tried and failed to imagine nothingness, then tried and failed to imagine something arising from nothingness and, from this, concluded that something must always have been here and that You are that something. Beyond this, my imagination fails me.”


“Have you ever considered renaming me ‘Something’?”


“Yes. But, if it’s all the same to You, I’ll stick with ‘Mister Big’.”


“It’s all the same to me.”




“How can I be sure this is You?”


“You can’t. I might be a figment of your imagination.”


“You do sound a lot like me.”


“I speak to each in his own voice.”


“Or so I imagine.”


“Perhaps.”

Mister Big and I