A one-on-one with the Almighty.
| An Interview with God
By Marc Grabowski
I was busy working through my first internship at a small town newspaper called the Barrington Bell, a meager literary accumulation of mostly associated press articles from larger newspapers and various sources, and a few local editorials. As most young men in my field are, I was intent on scouring the small town for life-affirming truth and scandalous uproar. But apart from a few bar fights and the occasional fender-bender, news as the common man took it to mean was completely absent in this corner of the world. Ancient pickup trucks and old ladies wearing, I swear, bonnets carried baskets to the local market. Children played hopscotch and the teenagers smoked cigarettes in small groups behind buildings. I almost wished for a building to blow up so I would have some material other than the local taxes being raised a few dollars.
I sat in the town’s only local bar, which was creatively named The Tavern, and waited to commence my interview. I was scheduled to meet the new Town Selectman, and unassuming and sure to be excruciatingly boring man who would most likely want to discuss in detail all of the idiosyncrasies and benefits of corn. He was running a half an hour late. I began to pick the corner of my beer label in anxious boredom and dreamed of life where people told lies and were caught.
As I stared complacently at the curling label, I almost didn’t notice that someone had just sat down next to me. I turned to see if it was my interviewee, but it was certainly not a man who held any title. He was just another greasy redneck, probably just passed the end of his shift and looking to throw back a few beers before going home to eat his dinner and beat his wife. He wore a sleeveless, red plaid shirt and worn jeans. He had an excessively large dip of chewing tobacco in his mouth. He wore a faded trucker’s hat with a largemouth bass on the front, flopping in the embroidered water. I only took notice because the large bar room was completely empty except for he and I, yet he decided to sit right next to me regardless.
I turned away and tried to shift to my right without him noticing, as his hairy arm was brushed against my somewhat expensive dress shirt. He did seem to notice, but only grunted and spit in an amused manner.
As strange as I found this to be, he thankfully did not engage me in any sort of conversation, and we sat in silence for the next ten minutes. Finally I looked at my watch in disgust and decided to leave. I threw a few dollars on the bar, and before I got up, the redneck spoke.
“Not coming huh,” he said.
“Whomever you were waiting for. Not coming.”
“Yeah looks that way.”
“What’s a man so nicely dressed as you doing sitting in this place at seven o’clock on a Tuesday?”
“I was here to conduct an interview, but my appointment seems to have been cancelled.”
The grizzled man spit and wiped his mouth.
“Nah,” he said, “Not cancelled. Just replaced.”
I ignored him and slid my arm through the sleeve of my sports jacket. I turned and headed towards the door when he spoke again, this time with a bit more command in his voice.
“I’m here to be interviewed sir. Best not leave me waiting.”
“I’m sorry, who are you?”
“Tough question to answer.”
“Okay, well listen I don’t mean any disrespect, but I’m going to…”
“Just sit down and open your notebook. Selectman Hennock was never going to meet you in the first place. I’m the person who set this up, so if you would please be so kind as to have a seat, I would like to proceed. I came a long way to be here tonight.”
I began to speak and refute this man, and demand to know why I had been duped, but I was curious. I smiled and sat down next to him.
“Okay then. I’ll refrain from being angry about the fact that my time is being wasted, as long as you can prove interesting enough. Now please, tell me who you are.”
He smiled and spit again, and regarded me with a bemused look of intelligence.
“Well, no easy way to put this. I’m God.”
I dropped my pen and stared at this hillbilly and did my level best not to erupt into uncontrollable fits of laughter. I failed. The fact that the man’s face remained neutral, if not somewhat entertained, made me laugh even harder.
“Oh Jesus,” I said finally, wiping a tear from my eye.
“Well no. Not Jesus. Course you don’t wanna tell any of the locals around here that, they’ll be bound to be a little disturbed at that notion.”
I stared at him for a few more seconds, mouth still agape in a half smile, and laughed again. It was just too much. Not Jesus. Hilarious.
“Oh my,” I said, gathering myself, “I’m sorry to laugh at you like that. Now do you really have a reason to be here? To be interviewed? The whole God thing was priceless, sure as hell knocked me off guard, but I’d like to know who you are if you want me to stick around.”
The man sighed. Before he could answer the bartender approached him and asked what he would have.
“Yeah, so what does God like to drink?” I asked, amused. The man ignored my comment and answered the bartender.
“I’ll have a Long Island iced tea,” he said. Again I tried to hold it in, but I couldn’t help myself. I started laughing again. The man took a sip with a grin on his face.
“What can I say? They’re good,” he said. I laid a few dollars on the bar to pay for his drink.
“All right my good man. I’ll be leaving now. Enjoy your drink, if you should be so kind as to let me win the lottery tomorrow I’d be much appreciated. Hell I’d even go to church. Nice to meet you God,” I said, and stood up.
“That’s completely random,” he said without looking.
“The lottery. How could I possibly make you win?”
“I would assume you would enact your divine providence and make my luck.”
“Doesn’t work that way,” he muttered. He seemed content to let me go and just enjoy his drink in solitude. I took one step towards the door, then stopped and turned back.
“Then how does it work then?”
He turned and looked at me with a smile. “Observation,” he replied.
“Observation? So you just sit on a cloud above and watch?”
“You can’t sit on a cloud. You can drift in one, but it’s awfully stuffy. I don’t really like to do it.”
“Okay fine,” I said, and sat back down, “You observe the human race, amongst us or above somehow. And you make judgments.”
“Of course. You make the rules. I gotta tell you God, I’ve always wondered why you set up the game the way you did. You gave us humans natural inclinations to do what you call evil, and then you turn around and threaten eternal damnation if we give in to them. Seems to me like the game is rigged.”
“That’s just ridiculous. Although I will say one of my favorite hobbies is theology. Did you know that mankind has invented over 10,000 religions since they could form societies? Each unique to their own god or gods, each with its own moral structure, traditions, and each with its own funny hats. I love the funny little hats,” he said in all seriousness and took a drink. I started to laugh again.
“Hats?” I asked, in the midst of a burst of laughter.
“Haha, I know. But think about it. They all have their own little hats! And at the end of the day, what is the difference between a witch doctor’s headdress full of feathers and shrunken skulls, and the pope’s ten gallon steeple hat? They’re both just silly little hats, and only the top dog can wear one.”
“Well I guess the good lord has a sense of humor after all.”
“There’s an old saying here in America I’ve come to agree with: If I didn’t laugh about it, I’d be crying.”
I ordered a beer, and took out my notebook. It was ridiculous of course, but I hadn’t been so interested in an interview since I arrived in this corn hole town. It had come to this, interviewing a mad man.
“Well God, should I call you God?”
“What would make you comfortable?”
“Um, heh, I don’t know. How about Frank?” I asked, trying not to be blatantly rude but unable to control myself.
The man raised his glass upward, “All bow down and worship the mighty Frank then,” he said, and took a drink. It was just too funny.
“Okay Frank, now let’s get started then. My readers will of course immediately want to know why it is that you purport yourself to be God.”
“Well, the concept of God in this day and age is quite a bit off the mark, but if we are talking in the celestial sense, I am the Prime Mover.”
“In a certain sense, I am responsible for the universe.”
“So you created the universe then?”
“Created? No. Instigated? Yes.”
“Instigated? Frank I gotta tell ya, all of the Creationists will be sorry to hear this. They’ll have to change their title to Intelligent Instigation.”
“It’s just wordplay. I don’t know that I would be capable of explaining it you, but let me just say that the stuff of life, and you can define that in scientific terms or mystical, it really doesn’t matter, needed a push. They need, on occasion, a cognitive trip to get themselves going. It has to be just the right time and just the right nudge, but if you do it right you’ll get results.”
“So you’re saying you’ve tried this before?”
“Oh my, countless times.”
“I see. So I will note that you do not claim to be the creator or originator of life, you simply manipulate nature in an attempt to facilitate it? To quote Einstein, you play dice?”
“Albert was such a good soul wasn’t he? But I must refute your postulation,” he said. The strange quality of his astute vocabulary was starting to lose its novelty. Crazy or not, this was an intelligent charlatan, “First off, the term ‘manipulate’ is not accurate. Again this may come as a shock to you and your, um, readers, but I am not able to manipulate any basic fundamentals. Things are what they are. But the cosmos is always shifting and growing and evolving. You can direct it this way and that if you pick your spots and understand how they work. After all this time I’m still just getting the hang of it.”
We sat in silence for a few seconds. I laughed again, I couldn’t help it. He continued unfazed by my outburst.
“Secondly, your assumption that I ‘facilitate’ nature in order to bring about life is incorrect as well. This go around is really the first time I’ve even been introduced to the concept. Oh there were a few times when I noticed some strange squirming bacteria, very different than your scientists would observe but in practice the same thing, beginning to form under a rock on some planet that I could ponder at. But for the most part I never even considered such a thing was even possible. Not only that, it never even occurred to me. I had no frame of reference to even define it until it came about this time.”
“I see. Am I correct in assuming when you say ‘this time,’ you mean this universe?”
“That is correct. Your scientists, while ignorant of many things, have postulated for the last sixty years or so what is almost true. There are two schools of thought. One being that the universe in it’s current state will expand forever, that there will be insufficient matter to hold the universe together by its gravity, and therefore the universe will flatten and become cold and sterile and eventually fade away into nothingness. The other theory is that there is enough matter to create the gravity necessary to contract the universe, back to the infinitesimal point where it began. This second theory, while ridiculously flawed in its detail, is ultimately correct in essence. It’s a cycle.”
Now this was getting interesting. I suddenly regretted not bringing my tape recorder.
“So every time it contracts back, you give it a ‘push’ and start all over again.”
“In words it is simply impossible to explain, but yes, that is correct.”
“Well now we’re getting somewhere Frank,” I said, and ordered us two more drinks, “Okay then, I think I’m following you here. But explain to me why life is a new concept in this universe?”
“Well, like dear Albert said, well more accurately what he denied, is that I play dice. Each new beginning, what you all call the ‘Big Bang’ or ‘Genesis’, is like a roll of a slot wheel. You see, at the state the cosmos is in, compressed to the smallest point imaginable, the laws of Physics are random. They are not constant or reliable. The simplest way to put it is that when I do my thing, which I cannot and will not explain to you, the point explodes and whatever random state the laws are in at the very moment the explosion occurs, they solidify and spread across the new universe, and stay constant all the way through. It’s a different ball game each time, and the laws are so fundamentally different each sequence that it usually takes me about half the age just to understand it fully. I’m not really that fast of a learner,” Frank said, and took a sip of his new drink, “Anyway, in this particular universe the laws were fashioned so that it became possible for this radical new concept of life to arise. Imagine my surprise when I first noticed it!”
For the first time ever in an interview, I wasn’t sure what to say. I didn’t even know how I felt about what I was hearing. Frank continued.
“At first it was just small bits of single celled organisms spread across the gulf randomly, nothing I hadn’t seen before except there was a lot more of it this time. But to my astonishment, I started to realize that the new laws allowed a kind of natural development. Yes, I am talking about Natural Selection. Evolution. You fellas did get that one right. You actually figured it out faster than I did!”
“Wait, you’re saying that mankind realized this concept of evolution before you did?”
“Chronologically no, I knew about it billions of years before you did, but in terms of how long it took me comparatively, yes humans made the connection faster.”
“Well I can see you are not a prideful god. Why do you suppose we knew it faster?”
“I’ve pondered that. I think it has to do with your development in your environment. I’ve been used to eons of steady states, while your culture grew and evolved in a world where change and progression were all around you. You became cognizant that changes were inevitable. And although you foolishly attributed it all to random deities, and still do to a large extent, eventually some of you figured it out for what it was. I was too surprised by it to understand it for a long time.”
“Well Frank, now that you are familiar with us, what are your thoughts?”
“On life itself? Or mankind?”
“How about both?”
“Well, life itself has been a blessing. It has been such a joy to watch it grow and learn and prosper, and die off. Like I’ve mentioned, I have no real stake in the outcome, but I sure do enjoy watching.”
“I see. And mankind?”
“Well in many ways you are not very different from the millions of other intelligent beings spread across the universe. The story is usually the same. You evolve, you learn, you build, you believe silly stories, and eventually you destroy yourselves. Not a pretty picture I know, but it seems to be natural. There are different scenarios of course, and there are some civilizations that have endured for millennia and are still actively pursuing the reaches of space. There are beings that have spread throughout galaxies and have become self-sufficient ambassadors to the universe.”
“Do humans have that potential do you think?”
“Well anything’s possible. But from my vantage point you have too many disadvantages. The more successful civilizations usually started in an environment where territoriality and warfare and selfishness were not necessary or even thought of. Humans had the bad luck of needing those traits in order to survive early on. It was necessary, and it is stamped on your genes forever. Now that your culture has grown enough where you can feasibly leave those aggressions behind you, you are poised to make many breakthroughs. But unfortunately those old habits seem to overcome you.”
“So there’s no hope?”
“There’s hope. But only if you become globally aware of the potential you have, and decide as a group to deny the impulses for ownership and greed and war. I’m sorry to say, it doesn’t seem likely to me.”
“Yeah I see your point.”
“Which is a shame, because humans are unique. Unique in the sense of the scale of your attributes. It is a varied and lovely tapestry. You are capable of so many good things, so many things I admire, but also prone to such unnecessary destruction. You really are your own worst enemy. Most other civilizations have a more predictable flow; they are for the most part either aggressive or docile, generous or miserly. But humans show equal treatment to all the good and bad impulses available.”
He stopped there and took a drink.
“Who are you?” I asked him, “Who are you really? Please for the sake of my editorial I will proceed with the whole ‘God’ angle, but just between you and me, I need to know who you are.”
“Before life came about, the concept of ‘who’ didn’t even exist. I am only defined through you. And through you, the only answer I can give is God.”
I was again speechless. It was no longer funny. I was not in danger of believing a word he said, but the confident and entitled manner in which he spoke was undeniable. He believed every word he said.
“Okay then. I’ll take this at face value for the sake of the interview.”
“How generous of you,” he said.
“So why me? Why have you descended from the sky to allow an interview with a young aspiring journalist in a nothing town?” I asked.
“I have a lot of time on my hands,” he said, and smirked. I knew I wasn’t going to get that particular question answered.
“Fair enough. Well how do you want to proceed with the interview?“
“I assume you will ask me questions and I will try to answer them.”
“Okay Fr…you know what I’m going to go ahead and just call you God.”
“Wonderful,” God replied.
“Okay, here’s one. What is my birthday?”
“What is my birthday?”
“Ah I see. And how does that work into your claim of being the Almighty?”
“You’re assuming omnipotence I presume? Well you are very wrong. There is no such thing.”
“So you don’t watch mankind, and all of these other alien worlds, and count every fallen sparrow as the Scripture says?”
“I watch. And although my gaze reaches very far and in many places, I cannot see everything at once and I do not know everything.”
“So you aren’t a personal God then?”
“Ah, now there’s a good reader question. The answer is a definitive no. I will try to hide my disdain for organized religion as best I can, but that answer is inevitable. I cannot hear your prayers; I cannot read your thoughts. Of course I have become quite adept at noticing certain chemical balances that signify specific emotions and intentions, so I suppose in a way I have a precognitive ability, but it is nowhere near what is believed on a large scale on this planet.”
“Ouch. Well that puts a dent in the religious fervor.”
“Okay. Well let’s avoid the nitty gritty for a moment and concentrate on some lighter fare, what do you think?”
“I think you’re unremarkable. But please proceed.”
I stopped a moment to take in what he had just said. He really didn’t seem to mean it as an insult, just a random observation. It’s not every day that God himself tells you that you’re unremarkable.
“So, who’s your favorite baseball team?”
“Gotta go with the Red Sox,” he replied immediately. I chuckled and took a drink.
“I know a lot of Boston folk who, until recently, would vehemently deny that God’s favorite team is the Red Sox!”
“I know! Poor guys,” he replied.
“The curse of the Bambino have any cosmic significance?”
“Well as foolish as it was to trade Babe Ruth, there is no such thing as a curse. Well, in the literal sense. But suggestion is very powerful. You can fulfill your own prophecy if you get enough people to believe it.”
“That makes me think of Revelations,” I said.
“I thought we were avoiding the nitty gritty for now?”
“Yes yes, my apologies. Let’s see…umm…have a favorite food?”
“There’s a crop of trees on an extremely distant planet that grow a bulbous fruit that would satisfy your hunger for generations. Its nectar can provide nearly eternal life in this cycle. Too bad no one knows about it,” God said casually, and spit out his tobacco.
“Sounds delicious. How about your favorite dish on good ol’ Earth?”
“In and Out has some great burgers man,” he said. I couldn’t tell if he was joking, which was probably his intention. I laughed anyway.
“Republican or Democrat?”
“Ha, what a question. What a foolish, short-sighted, wasteful, corrupt, divisive, and utterly unnecessary thing,” God said. That apparently was his answer.
“Here’s one. You are appearing to me in masculine form. Does that imply that you think of yourself, as many of the more popular religions do, as a man?”
“I’m also wearing a cut-off flannel shirt and a fishing hat. Does that imply that I think of myself as a country boy?”
“It’s an interesting choice I’ll give you that.”
“Appearance, and gender as well, have absolutely no significance whatsoever when it comes to me. I am neither male nor female, just as I am neither tall nor short. You know, the Old Testament God (and don’t get me started on him) did have a rather poignant name. I AM. I don’t agree with his way of doing things, but his name hit the nail on the head. I just am.”
“So why do you feel you are often portrayed as a man?”
“For the same reason I am often portrayed as many other things. Whims of the culture. Power grabs. There are many reasons, none of which has anything to do with the truth.”
My strange guest and I took a brief respite and looked at one another. I was completely intrigued, I couldn’t even define it. He just sat there and looked right back unaffected.
“How would you define evil?” I asked.
“Harm,” God replied.
“And good would be just the opposite?”
“Don’t you think that’s a good way to think about it?”
“Yes I suppose I do.”
His confidant demeanor shocked me. I decided to up my game.
“Okay then. Is it possible to travel faster than the speed of light?”
“Then how can you be here? How is it these other civilizations have spread out into the galaxies?”
“Are you asking me to draw you up some equations?”
“No offense, it’s just a paradox my readers might want to hear your thoughts on.”
“Go buy a balloon.”
“Go buy a balloon. One that hasn’t been inflated yet. Then glue two small specs next to each other on one side of the balloon. After they are in place, side by side, blow up the balloon. As the balloon stretches, the two specks will move farther and farther apart as the balloon expands. Now, did the specks themselves actually travel any distance relative to their original position? Are they responsible for the distance between themselves now?”
“No, the expansion pushed them apart.”
“Exactly. It is impossible for the specs to move that far apart from each other on their own. But the expansion made this possible. This is the most basic explanation I can give you for traveling past the light speed barrier. It isn’t actually even travelling in the traditional sense, there is no velocity. Your culture, granted they don’t destroy themselves first, will realize this capability in 1-2 thousand years. That’s the best answer I can give to your readers.”
“That’s an elegant analogy but really doesn’t provide any substantial answer.”
“Take it or leave it,” God said, and sipped his Long Island.
“How about UFO’s. Have alien life forms been visiting Earth?”
“You mean the green little men who always seem to kidnap people dressed like me?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Not that you know of,” I repeated.
“Are any of these alien races aware of our existence?”
“Will they be?”
“Care to elaborate?”
“If you don’t destroy yourselves, it may happen one day. I wouldn’t bet on it though. It’s a very big universe.”
“So if we don’t destroy the planet…”
“Yourselves,” God interrupted, “Not the planet. It always amuses me when I read the billboards and T-shirts that exclaim ‘Save the Planet.’ Your planet has endured upheavals of gargantuan proportion during its lifetime. Asteroids, mammoth volcanoes, ice ages. Humanities threat is really quite minimal. The planet will endure with or without you. It’s you that you need to worry about. Those billboards shouldn’t read ‘Save the Planet,’ they should read ‘Save Our Own Ass.’”
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to change the subject, but I can’t help but point out the fact the Almighty God just used an obscenity.”
“Just be glad I didn’t tell you to go to hell,” God replied. He looked at me with a sinister stare. I was frightened for a moment until he tipped his head back and laughed. I joined him uneasily, “I always love using that one!” he said.
“Ha, nice one there God.”
“I thought so.”
“Do you like music?”
“Love it. I shall miss it when it’s gone. It’s like the miracle of mathematics, it is ever expanding and beautiful in its complexity, yet you can reduce it to its simplest form and still thoroughly enjoy it.”
“Do you play any instruments?”
“How about Thunder and Lightning?”
“Is that a joke?”
“Are you? Or are we doing a puff piece here.”
I sat in silence, wondering if I had just incurred the wrath of God with my superfluous questions.
“Shall we move on, or do you want to know my favorite movie?” God asked.
I was silent a few more moments. He was waiting.
“What is the secret of life?” I asked. I was surprised to find that I was somewhat afraid to ask this question. I felt humbled.
“The term ‘secret of life’ implies that someone is trying to hide something,” God replied.
“Well isn’t there some purpose to all of this? Some plan?”
“Why is it that humanity, with all of its violent bravado and ingenious invention, is so stuck on the notion that someone else must be holding the cards?”
“I don’t think I follow.”
“Think of what you are suggesting. That mankind, and many other forms of life, were created while some divine plan ticked away in the background, unbeknownst to them. And while your culture has enjoyed, and corrupted, the blessings of intelligence and reached mighty heights of knowledge, you have this perception that there still must be some reasoning from a higher order. Some secret that explains it all and justifies the struggle.”
“What is so wrong with that?”
“Think of the alternative! Look, there are many people that believe without blind faith in a higher being, life becomes meaningless. Trivial. Many claim that without belief in a personal God, there would be no comfort, no joy in life.”
“I must say I can at least understand why people would think that.”
“But you’re missing the point. Take away the laws of scripture and the ‘secret of life,’ and what do you have? YOU hold the cards! The secret of life is in your hands. You can make of it anything you wish. It is complete freedom. And not only that, there also comes the realization that life is fragile and must be tended to, nurtured, and inspired. Petty wars and arguments and wealth seem pointless. Before one could always say ‘it’s God’s will’ or ‘everything happens for a reason’ whenever something was inexplicable or did not follow that person’s idyllic perspective on life. But if you take away the higher order of things, what you have left is personal responsibility. You have the realization that your time is short and you have to make of life what you can. And in that there is joy. There is comfort. There is truth. So that would be my answer to your question. The secret of life is to live it.”
“I think I understand,” I replied, and I meant it.
“Good,” God said.
“Then why keep yourself hidden so long? Why haven’t you shown yourself to the world?”
“Oh I’ve thought about it. But to what end? I have no interest and very little ability to enact any major changes, and even if I did, what right would I have to do so?”
“I’m sorry, are you asking what right God would have? Isn’t that really up to you?”
“Sure it is. And I don’t see the logic in doing it. I am not a puppet-master holding the strings of fate. I am an observer. I have no need to be worshipped or sacrificed to. Like I said before, there is no secret of life. Which means I am not the answer. There isn’t even a question. Now you may take that to be a nihilistic concept, but I believe what it really means is that life can ask its own questions, and in doing so become its own answer.”
“I really don’t know what to say,” I said.
We sat in silence again for a few more moments. Two more drinks came our way, but we both ignored them. A few more patrons were in the bar now, but none of them close enough to hear our dialogue.
“So, why do you think you exist?”
“That is a question I do not know the answer to. All I know is that I am a necessary being that performs a necessary function.”
“Is there life after death?”
“I don’t see any evidence to support it. But I can see why it’s a popular idea.”
I stopped again. It was strange, but I couldn’t think of anything else to ask. I didn’t know what I believed about my situation, but I suppose you could say that in that moment, sitting on that bar stool, I was under the impression that I was speaking to God. And I had run out of things to ask.
“Are we all finished then?” he asked me.
“Is there anything else you want my readers to know?”
“It’s your interview,” he replied.
I laughed, and he laughed with me.
“What advice would you give a struggling young journalist like myself?”
“Couldn’t say. You’ve already interviewed God, where else can you really go from here?” he said with a smile, and stood up from his stool. I was unable to speak, I wanted to keep him in the chair longer but couldn’t find the words. He regarded me with a warm grin and patted me on the back with his brawny arm, “Thank you for your time.”
And with that, he turned and walked towards the door, and exited the bar.
God didn’t leave a tip.