Man Gave Names

by Jim Gillan



Long experience tells me that it’s 3am or thereabouts. Ros is curled up in the duvet, her breathing even, her presence a joy.  But for me, nature calls, so it’s off to the toilet. The curtain moves softly as the faint breeze brushes past the partly opened window. Outside a fox screams and downstairs Spike, our dog, responds with a low growl. I flush and, as ever, put the seat back down. As I do, I feel warm approval sweep over me, so intense that I almost ignite. Surprised and pleasingly disconcerted by this, I step into the bathroom, the light from the top landing being just enough to give shape to what’s in the shadows. God is lying in the bath, suds stacked high and a-popping. 

“Howdy!” I say.
“Hello yourself,”
is the agreeable reply - although I’m sure neither of us speaks. 

“What brings you here?  Not that you aren’t very welcome, of course.”
“Well, in God’s truth, I need a bit of a rest from all the blather. The only place I can get that is around an atheist. Believe me, it’s tough having the whole world – and everywhere else in the universes – giving it some. If they’re not asking for something, then it’s the clamour of celebration and praise, with one lot trying to out-do the other.  It all gets a bit wearing.”

“Then you DO exist!”
“For those who believe.”

“Ah!  H’mmm!  I need to think about that – meantime, what name should I use?”
“Whatever takes your fancy. But what’s in a name? Though there are some I haven’t heard for a while, like ‘Thor’. It wasn’t exactly me, but it was once pretty popular.  These days it only has ‘myth’ tacked to it.  It’s like fashion.  One moment in demand, but soon no one cares a fcuk.

“E’rmmm, as I recall, Viking fashion included using Thor, Odin and co to justify actions such as rape, pillage, destruction, invasion, exploitation and conquest.”
”Given the things that are still done using me as the justification, what has changed?”

“But how can you let all the obscenities and absurdities happen – and in your name?”
“Interfering only makes things worse. I tried it a few times, but a powerful few hijacked my attempts for themselves and fooled the rest of you with their take on my message. It’s why you’re now over-burdened with theology, ritual, schisms, sects and – NOW what!”

“I though for a moment you were saying we were over-burdened with ‘sex’, then I realised I misheard.”
“Most do. But there is absolute nothing wrong with lots of rumpy-pumpy. God knows it does you much more good than a bullet. But humanity only seems to want the destructive and hateful. Too many of you have allowed anything loving to be cast as sinful, as a weakness of the flesh. And you believe it! I don’t think that humanity has ever grasped the true meaning of irony - most of it seems to think it’s what is used to make armoured cars. Now you’re looking even more perplexed! Why?”

“Well, no offence, but as I don’t believe in any deity, any religion, how come I can see you?
“How well?”

“Only middling”
“And what does that tell you?

“That as a collapsed Catholic, I have minute traces of dogma imbedded in me? So try as I might, I could never really be a 100% atheist! But all my past denial means you’ve now come to pass judgement on me?”
“HA! The old guilt trip. By God, that was a cracker they came up with as a way of controlling the masses. But no, the reason is simply that I’m in shadow. Pass the sponge please.” 

“So are you saying that it doesn’t matter whether we believe or not?”
”Not exactly. However, subscribing to the tenets of a religion isn’t the same as adopting the ethical and moral principles integral to a compassionate deity.  Which, if you think about it, is all a Creator can be.  Exploitation, brutality, extortion, violence and so on aren’t God given. Practised by individuals they’re called crimes.  Practised by corporations they’re called good business. Practised by those in office they’re called government.”

“How come you don’t make all this clear to the world?”
“You’ve already asked me that.  I said I tried, but that interfering made it worse!  Dylan understands what I mean.”

“Yes, Dylan. Shortish bloke. Funny walk. Predictable taste in underwear. Reads a lot, paints, ponders. Writes endlessly. Performs a fair bit.  Sings – well, sort of. But never explains anything, anymore, as no one really listens. Instead they prefer to turn to an army of untiring investigators, inventive commentators and self-appointed experts, who all feel the need to explain Bob. When they’re not scrapping amongst themselves over what he means, they’re trying to sell their take on things to those too lazy to think for themselves, or who are fooled into believing that others know better. Remind you of anything?”

“Prophets? Preachers? Mystics? Theologians? The Inquisition? Congregations? Michael Gray?
“Exactly! Pass the soap please. And sing something. Even a voice like yours can soothe.”

“Do you get much opportunity to hear music?”
“Not really, on account of all the noise made by praying, counting beads, and groaning with the pain of some self-imposed fast. Would I really ask someone to go hungry?  Yet music is one of the few things that gives me any hope that humanity can find an answer for itself, instead of looking to me to do it all for them. Though now and then, even music gets hijacked.  Look at what the Nazis did to Wagner. And Ronald Reagan to Bruce.”

“Fair enough. Any tips on what I should put on the CD player?”
“I’ve just told you, I can’t think for you, you will have to decide.”

“OK. What about the BIG question. Why am I here?”
“Your mother and father are much better placed than I am to answer that.”

“My father died in 1984”.
“Doesn’t mean you can’t have a chat though does it? Which I know you already do.”

“OK, OK. The REALLY BIG question then, What lies beyond this life?”
“It depends on what you do in this one. Everything has consequences, though not necessarily those that people generally hope for or expect.”

“For example?”
“Well, many believe things in an afterlife (whatever form it might take for them), are going to be better than what the have in this life, especially if they drape themselves in the trappings of religion. But why should that be? Is it enough to go through the motions of being good whilst also oppressing, exploiting and destroying others, whatever justification they invent? What sort of God do these people think they might face?  One who believes their lies?

“So does that mean there is a Heaven and, by extension a Hell?  Or whatever they might be called?
“Maybe.  It depends on what you alone believe. Oblivion can be nirvana for some, just as reincarnation can be for others. It’s your integrity, your behaviour that matters, not what others want you to subscribe to and do, however clever their arguments. Here’s a parable for you. Once, everyone in the world simultaneously heard a piece of music. Many found something profound in it and were satisfied. Others however wanted to thrust their views on the rest. The differences were tiny and utterly meaningless, but they escalated in to major conflict. It doesn’t matter if it’s Scripture or Bob’s songs. More sublime moments lost to humanity’s stupidity.

“I’ve always said that the future of humanity is utterly irreconcilable with the future of the planet.”
“As it behaves at present, and is likely to continue doing, you’re right. But does it matter?”

“Not to me – but then I don’t believe that humanity is at the core of things.”
“Right again. All life, however it is expressed, whether as a rock, tree, microbe, sheep or lead singer of the Sex Pistols, has a purpose. Yet humanity doesn’t really value any form of life. It’s not just war. Too most, all manner of things are held to be more use dead than alive – yet no one asks the chicken or the tree how it feels. It’s how life is expressed that gives it a value. Which, as Attila, Stalin, Hitler, Bin Laden, Bush, Blair and more demonstrate, can be negative.”

“Yes, but there are very many good people, who lead by shining example. Nelson Mandela for one.”
For a terrible minute I thought you were going to cite Mother Teresa. Who on the whole was well meaning, but who got a bit too hooked on appearances. Anyway, good intentions and worthy acolytes won’t necessarily produce the best results. Though Mother Teresa was a handy person to have visit if you were short of a tea-towel.  What about you?” 

“You.  Goodness begins with the simple individual, not with the inflated figurehead.”

“Is it OK if I say that my ambition is not to do good, but to do as little harm as possible?”
“Of course it is. In the world as humanity has made it, it’s all anyone can hope for.  Well done! One which note, I’m away. Besides, you’re out of hot water and not in it, if you follow me.”

Back in bed, Ros turned sleepily to me and said “you’ve been a long time. Are you OK?” “I’ve been chatting to God,” I replied. “What did she say?” murmured Ros, before dropping back into the sleep of the mostly untroubled. Just the same, I hugged her. Afterwards I though about things and eventually realised where (and why) that feeling of approval must have come from when I put the toilet seat back down.