The earth is a small grain of sand in a vast ocean cosmos. Hurtling around the sun it is always black on one side blue on the other and has been for a billion years. Except for Monday, when for a moment it was bathed in a great white light from shore to shore. One would be wise to assume a supernova or nuclear holocaust was at work but this light neither burned nor incinerated.
People from all over the world awoke and those who were underground arose from the shadows and everyone looked up at a huge blank sky. Everyone stopped what they were doing. Nobody screamed and nobody spoke. They were not panicked. They were mollified but the soft glow.
When everyone was attentive a voice speaking a thousand different languages to four billion people at once said, “I am God the creator. I have come to parlay with you. Soon I will share my truth with the world.”
Then, just as suddenly as it had started it stopped. The sky returned to normal. An audible gasp encircled the globe. Some cheered and others cried. The Hindus and Buddhists were confused. The Jews, Christians, and Moslems savored a belief that they would soon be vindicated. The believers prayed and the atheists prayed hard. Whether they thought it was the end or a new beginning all expected change and were euphoric with anticipation.
Misha was a local television news reporter in New York City trying to do a community garden story when all of this happened. She wasn’t much of a reporter and it wasn’t much of a garden, just a couple rows of carrots and sugar snap peas planted in a dusty lot. She was all alone. There were no gardeners, not even a camera crew. She had to take all the preliminary shots and put the camera on the tripod herself for her monologue. She was mid speech when the light show started.
The whole thing knocked her off her feet and when the sky returned to normal she was ass down on a pile of dirt. As she struggled to get up an old man with a white beard appeared and gave her his hand.
“Thanks.” She said wiping dirt off her butt and laughing at her own predicament. “I think I just had a stroke or something. Weirdest thing. Weirdest.”
She looked the old man on the face and he had very kind eyes. “I was out here doing a story for channel twelve. I thought I heard the voice of God and down I went.” The incredulousness overtook her and she kept laughing. “That was just me right? Did you hear God? Maybe I need to go to the hospital? I feel fine but obviously there is something wrong with me.”
She took a deep breath and tried to regain her composure. “I’m okay. Back to business. My name is Misha Rink. I am doing a story on the community garden. Do you want to be on tv? Have you planted anything here? Are these your vegetables?”
“They are. I am God.” Said the man who smiled wide and graciously.
Misha stopped laughing. “Excuse me?”
“I am God. I would like to be on television.”
“If you are…” she wanted to swear but stopped herself, “…with me! So help me… I will…”
“It’s alright. Don’t be frightened.” He assured her by taking her hand again.
“So the light and the voice, that was you?”
“Did everyone see that or just me?”
Misha knew at that moment that this was indeed God. All doubt left her. Her eyes grew large. “I have so much to ask you.”
“Shouldn’t we save that for the air?” God asked.
“Of course! Is now a good time? Let’s get out of here.” She gathered up her things maniacally and threw them into her car.
She turned to God and asked, “Do you want me to drive? Or do we fly? Or can you just blink us there?”
“You can drive.” He said.
“You could just blink us there if you wanted to though, couldn’t you?”
Once on the road Misha had to give God the run down. “I don’t want you to expect big things. We are like a sixth place network. I freelance and get little weekend spots. Saturdays usually. I hardly get paid. Not a lot of people are likely to see you. I don’t even know if I can get you on the air. I mean I would hope having God is a good enough reason to preempt a rerun of Friends but I wouldn’t count on it.”
“Don’t worry” said God from the passenger seat.
“I do get to do the interview though, right? I’m the one bringing you in.”
“Good.” Misha paused for a moment then asked another question. “Why me?”
“I have my reasons.”
“Sure you do. You move in mysterious ways. But, really I’m not the type am I?”
“I speak through many different people. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Mohammed was just some guy sleeping in a cave. Look what happened there.”
“There was Moses. Wasn’t he like a prince?”
“Not quite. Good guy. Terrible sense of direction.”
Misha cracked a wry smile. “That’s because of the forty years in the desert thing. You’re trying to be funny. I didn’t think God was supposed to be funny.”
“Why wouldn’t I be funny? I made you and you are funny.”
“Yes it does.”
As they walked into the station Misha whispered to God, “I don’t know how we are going to make this work.”
“It will.” God reassured her.
People began whispering as they passed by in the hallways.
“Do you think they know it’s you?” Misha asked. “You just look like a guy with a white beard.”
“I look differently to different people. I look like this to you because this is how you think God looks. To Indians I look Indian. To Chinese I look Chinese. To each individual I look how they assume God looks.”
One of the people in the newsroom asks aloud, “Is that Misha and Morgan Freeman?”
They make their way to the programmer’s office and enter. “Bob, I have someone I want you to meet.”
He doesn’t even raise his head when he says, “Not right now. There is so much going on.”
“I know. This is the reason why.”
Bob looks at God and knows who he is immediately. A devout Catholic with seven children, Bob knows his maker when he sees him. “My God.” is all he can seem to say.
“I want to put him on the air right now.” Misha says. “Is that alright?”
Bob nods in approval.
“I need you to call the booth, Bob?” Misha tries to snap him out of it.
“I go to church.” Bob blurts out.
“I know.” God replies.
“I go to confession every week.”
“And you are usually honest.”
“Don’t be. I already know. You don’t go to confession for me. You go for you. I don’t care one way or the other. If it makes you feel better then it’s fine. If it doesn’t then don’t bother.”
Bob gives out a gulped, “Okay”
“Misha and I would like to be on television now. Is that okay?”
While God and Misha get ready everyone is eerily silent. Before the broadcast begins Misha says, “I didn’t think it was going to be this easy.”
“I’ve never done this before, live in the studio. What do you want me to ask you?”
“Ask me what you would ask anyone.”
“I am really nervous.”
God smiles at her and says, “Don’t be.” She smiles back and pretends to herself that she does stuff like this every day.
The stage manager cues her and she starts. “Hello, I am Misha Rink with a news twelve exclusive. The whole world is abuzz with the strange happenings this afternoon. We have in our studio to explain the phenomenon is God.”
Channel twelve may be a bush league station that no one usually watches but at that very moment every television in the entire world turned on whether it was plugged in or not and on every set was the face of God looking out.
“Thank you for coming God.” Misha steadied herself. “I guess I’ll start by asking why you are here.”
“My children, ever since the dawn of creation I have returned to earth at frequent intervals to check on your progress. I have tried to impart my wisdom as best I could because your welfare is important to me. Sometimes you have taken my advice and sometimes you have not. In the past I have tried to forward my message through one emissary or prophet. Often what has been related has been misconstrued or blatantly misrepresented. I am here because I want there to be no further misunderstandings. “
“Why now?” asked Misha.
“When you were primitive people throwing sticks and stones at each other I was not pleased but I did not worry that you might destroy the planet. You are all aware that this has changed. What’s more is that you are killing each other in my name and I will no longer be responsible for this madness. You have Sunnis killing Shias killing Hindus killing Buddhists killing Christians killing Jews killing Mormons in a vicious circle and I will not tolerate it. I am God. You may not kill in my name anymore. I have never condoned this sort of behavior ever. I have only ever told you to love and respect one another. The truth is you kill for yourself and not for me. I am just the excuse you use to justify your own behavior. Have I made myself clear?”
The whole of the world responded with a, “Yes.”
“Is there anything else you want from us?” Misha leaned in with a follow up.
“Any sacraments we need to follow? Commandments you’re particularly fond of?” Misha was grasping for more.
“The rules you make are your own. I’m not here to tell you what to do. I try to help. I give advice. The rest of it is stuff you’ve invented for your own benefit. The commandments are just laws like you have in any town but they’re not my laws. That’s not to say some of them aren’t good but I didn’t give them to you. Some of the stuff you say I want you to do is weird and twisted. I am God and I do not care about your foreskin. That is bizarre. If you want to eat a pig, eat a pig. Women can wear say and do anything they want. There is no such thing as magic underwear. I never said an eye for an eye.”
“I think people worry about a vengeful God. That’s why they do those things.”
“I am not vengeful. I warn Lot that Sodom is going to go up in smoke and instead I’m the one making it happen. I warn Moses about the plagues and he plays it up to sound like I’m making it happen. I know it’s going to happen. I’m not the one doing it. I really don’t do anything. Forces of nature are just a part of living on this planet. So is bad luck.”
“What about miracles?”
“I don’t do those either. Who here has seen with their own eyes a miracle that cannot be explained in some way by science. Someone comes out of a coma after forty two years. It’s a one in a million chance. It’s not a miracle. A touchdown is not a miracle. You pray for stuff you have no business praying for. I’m not going to make you rich. I don’t care about money. Why does God care about your new diet or what school you get accepted to or whether or not you beat a red light? I don’t care. If you want to pray then do so for each other and not for yourselves. It’s selfish. “
“if you don’t have any laws and you are neither an angry God, though you seem a little steamed right now, or likely to bestow favor on anyone why should we worship you?” Misha gets to the heart of the matter.
This stuns the entire world.
Misha tries to clarify, “You mean to say you don’t want us to worship you?”
“No. I am not some megalomaniac. I am God. I am all powerful. I do not need you to bring me offerings. I do not need you to bow at my feet. I do not need hymns or chants. I am not vainglorious. If I wanted slaves I would have made slaves. Why would I give you free will and then spend eternity trying to strip it from you? You are not my plaything. I want you to be happy and I would hope that you are although most often you are not. I do not need anything from you.”
“Then why are we here?”
“I created the universe. Once you set those wheels in motion life becomes an obvious byproduct. I made stars and asteroids and comets and sometimes under the right circumstances life can arise. It’s science really. Some of you have been able to figure it out. Darwin was a smart human. I liked Einstein too. All of it is easily explained once you know what you’re working with. The trick is where did it come from in the first place? That’s me.”
A noticeable concern crossed Misha’s face. “Then what is the purpose of life?”
“The purpose of life is to be lived. Cherish every moment of it. Appreciate it in yourself and in others. Every living thing is special, plants, birds, people, cockroaches. People are just proteins and enzymes and peptides taken to their logical conclusion. I remember when the smartest thing on this planet was salamander. They weren’t developed enough to have any concept of God. For a while though they were the chosen ones. I have made thousands of worlds that are filled with life. Each is beautiful. Those that can appreciate it should. I do not always have the same worry with them that I do you. You should know how lucky you are.”
“There are others?” Misha’s voice stammered with shock.
“Of course there are. It’s science. Everyone wants to think they are unique, that they are alone in the center of the universe. They aren’t. It’s the same story on planets all throughout the galaxy.”
“And what about heaven?” Misha was almost afraid to ask.
“You have this. This should be enough. This is your moment in time. I know that you often equate heaven with some end game. There isn’t one. Just imagine how crowded it would be. Every living person since the dawn of time sitting on a cloud? It’s absurd. Hell doesn’t exist either. You have right now. You should take care of it.”
The joyful mood that preceded God’s broadcast did not follow him into commercial break. The mood of the world ranged from dour to bleak. He knew that he had said many things that they did not want to hear. Few faces looked up at God and Misha as they left the studio and climbed back into her car.
“Where to?” she asked as she started the motor.
“Same place you found me is good.”
“Do I really need to drive you?” Misha was visibly upset.
“I would like it if you did.”
“Why did you do that? Why did you say all those things?”
“I had to.”
“You could have just told us to be nice to one another and left it at that.”
God turned in his seat to face Misha and she turned to him as well with her face hanging down.
“The thing is I didn’t tell anyone anything that they were not already well on their way to figuring out for themselves. In fact many of you already knew the truth. The problem lies with those who will not let go of their mythology. If I had left them with half of the truth they would still be fighting over who knows me best, who has my favor, which ones get the best seat in heaven. They are much too powerful and before long they would drown out reason completely.”
God reached out and placed a finger under Misha’s chin pulling it upward. “I didn’t want to hurt you.” He smiled at her and she returned it with a strained smile of her own.
They drove back to the garden in silence. Once there God said to Misha, “The Garden of Eden is a parable. It is not about defying the will of God or making me angry. It is about the burden of knowledge. It is about that moment when mankind evolved into a being capable of complex thought and reasoning. Before they ate from the apple Adam and Eve were no different than the braying asses that live to eat tall grass and rest under shady trees. Intelligence may have cast them out of their tranquil home but the struggle of humanity also provides for great joy that no animal in a cage could ever begin to fathom. A garden is a prison if you are trapped by its constraints. Mankind may have been cast out but tomorrow when birds are singing and children are smiling the meaning of the pleasure you find will be worth more because it belongs to you and not to me.”
With that being said, the old man with the grey beard and kind eyes went back to his carrots and sugar snap peas. Misha circled the block to see if he was still there but he was gone. She could have stopped and tried to do the story she had started in the first place. She didn’t feel that she needed to anymore.