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


“I don’t go to burials,” He said.  “If I did, I’d be doing nothing else.”


I told Him I wasn’t surprised, really—I’d only gone, myself, to reconnect with some old friends. The reason I’d asked, I said, was that I’d come away from the service wondering if a loved-one’s prayers for the soul of a dearly-departed ever win that soul a last-minute reprieve from the fiery furnaces of Hell—not so much in a case like Harvey’s, I added, but when it’s been a close call, like when a soul’s fate has been decided by just a couple too many sins, for instance. 


“I don’t answer prayers, period,” He said, “for the souls of the dearly-departed or for anything else. Not anymore, anyway. I gave it a go early 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 that 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. The bird imagines me a bird—the fish, a fish—the pig, a pig—the frog, a frog. And how could it be otherwise? Could a human confide in a frog? Could a fish 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.”




“Many believe You don’t care, in the least, what happens to us, that You have no involvement in our lives whatsoever.”


“If that were entirely true, 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.”


I asked if He’d ever checked out my creations. “They’re no match for Yours, certainly, but You wouldn’t expect them to be, either, and I’d love to know what You think.”


“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.”


“I do, 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 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? There are many say I’m 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, of which I’ve absolutely no need. In believing otherwise, they again trivialize me. And, while believing me omniscient, they insist on reminding me, over and over again, of their gratuitous adulation.”

  

“Are You, in fact, 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. Knowing all 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 can’t recall, though 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 envisioned Heaven being an eternity in church, a place I could barely stand for an hour a week. This was the last place I wanted to end up, so, for a while, I made it a daily habit to steal, blaspheme, and covet—and, worried this might not be enough, I even considered, at one point, 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.”  


“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 ... and there’d be dogs ... lots of other animals, too ... and lots of laughter ... and country fairs ... and auction sales ... and ball games in a market square ... and a pool hall ... and a golf course ... and horseshoe pits in a shady spot by a river ... and thunderstorms out over a lake.


“We’d eat tomatoes from the garden and cherries from the tree ... fish and chips would be out of this world—wings, too.


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


“Oh!—and there’d always be something to look forward to—forevermore is a very long time and I don’t know that I could endure an eternity of anything without something to look forward to.”


“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, at the time, that Uncle Carl had invented a booth into which one could step and talk to You. It was red—looked a lot 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?”


“As You’d expect, I imagine You a grander version of myself, but only to ease conversation. I’ve long ago accepted that You’re beyond my ken. 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