This piece appeared in the first and only issue of Mosaic: A Magazine of Arts, Sciences & Everything in Between, which evolved into this website.
In the beginning there was nothing. Lots and lots of nothing. Then one day a voice rose from the great nothingness singing: “Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes, head and shoulders, knees and toes, I am God, bow and say: Whoa!” and then appeared God and the universe, simultaneously, in the first and most impressive piece of creativity of all time.
God had the head of a horse, two crocodile shoulders, a big set of spider knees, eight dodo toes, the gills of a dogfish, and a short layer of fungus from head to toes. Contrary to popular belief, God did not look like a man; nor did God look like a woman. God did not even have genitalia.
So, there was God, looking around at lots and lots of nothing, slowly realizing that there was no one around to bow and say “Whoa!” or be in any way impressed that God was God.
God thought: “This sucks. There’s no one here to be impressed by my Godliness. Here I am with all this Godly power, and no one to show it off to. Hmm, I know! I can use my Godly power to create unGodly creatures!”
So God focused It’s great will to create new life, until a creation stirred somewhere in the vast universe. God looked around and saw nothing but gases, planets, and stars, which, though spectacular, were incapable of bowing and saying: Whoa!
“Where’s my creation?” God wondered aloud. Since there was no one there to answer God, It focused almightily once more, until sensing life on a little planet in the far reaches of the universe. Once there, God located the creation.
God looked from the heavens of the little planet, with great trepidation, at the creation: bacteria. At first God was disappointed. They were wee little things that did nothing but leisurely move around.
“Crap!” exclaimed God. “These things aren’t at all impressed by me.” God stood there, staring at the bacteria, waiting for them to do something. God stayed that way for millions of years, patiently waiting. And as God watched God became increasingly intrigued with the minute creatures. Looking inside them, God was reassured of Its own brilliance. What intricate little creatures they were! And the way they moved, using a rigid propeller-like thing we now call a flagellum, made up of protein shaped in a left-handed helix — they were actually pretty fast for their size. The more God thought about it, the prouder God was of the achievement.
“Whoa!” said God. “The power of my will is Almighty!”
So God continued to watch as the bacteria formed and reformed and clustered and declustered over millions of years. And with time God started to notice that they were changing; new developments were constantly appearing. What God witnessed was the development of amoebas. Then came some sea-sludge, algae, seaweed, and out of the water, over the earth, grew splendiferous grass. Some flowers bloomed and later came trees and forests. Later full-blown fish were swimming, and birds were plucking them from the water and eating them. Viruses had developed and occasionally fed on the plants and animals. Worms and other earth crawlers were commonplace. Lizards were cropping up everywhere. Plants too numerous to mention were flourishing. As new species emerged, others sometimes departed.
Soon came the biggest creatures yet: the dinosaurs. For hundreds of millions of years these beasts rumbled around the planet with their sheer physical power and brains as big as peas. Had their brains been bigger, they might’ve seen the asteroid coming and run for cover, but as it was, few of them survived the impact.
God was so upset It cried. From God’s vantage point, the life creation was ruined. Ruined! God had planted a complex seed and watched it flourish into an incredible array of life, only to have some damned asteroid put an end to it. God sank into an immediate and lasting depression, during which God cowered in a far off corner of the universe, conjuring up images of creatures more like Godself. Amongst these imagined creatures God was the most powerful, most exalted, and most worshipped. God considered attempting to make such entities real, but it Its depression couldn’t seem to find the energy to make it happen.
One day, for old time’s sake, God gathered up the gumption to journey back to the little planet where mortal life began. For the first time in millennia God looked upon that little planet, and immediately God kicked Godself in the spider knee for not checking it out before. God saw bacteria! And that wasn’t all; there was life all around! God realized that a rebuilding of the complex systems of life had taken place, with many changes but, sadly, no more dinosaurs.
God watched as a whole new world of life slowly unfolded. Imagine God’s surprise upon seeing Its own image on a horse, a spider, a crocodile, a dodo, a dogfish, and all over the forest floor.
Eventually there appeared a species of animals with bigger brains, proportional to their bodies, than had ever existed before. They were unusual creatures. God was excited and scared when God first saw them: excited because finally there were creatures with the wherewithal to be impressed by God, scared because they looked so fragile compared to their many predators. God was sure they were but a blip in the menagerie of species that seemed to come and go on that wild planet, with only the lucky few surviving for very long.
But these creatures proved themselves to be rather resourceful. They made use of their big brains to create more tools than any species before them. They developed complex verbal languages that varied across different regions of the planet. They created weapons to kill food when their bodies alone would have failed them. In some cases they even learned to control the behavior of other animals, and invented fencing to keep these animals enclosed, protected from other predators and kept for their exclusive use. They also learned to cultivate plants, and bred both animals and vegetables for food even when their usual prey was scarce. Through skilled hunting, farming, prolific tool building, and other adaptations, not to mention some lucky breaks (like a lack of dinosaurs), humans survived much longer than God initially anticipated.
God decided it was time to make an appearance before the people. God had longed for billions of years for someone to look at God, bow, and say: Whoa! Finally, God thought, there existed a species smart enough to understand and appreciate God. So, God appeared before a crowd of people one day and said to them in their own language, which God had easily mastered: “I am God, bow and say: Whoa!”
God made a bad call on that one. The crowd screamed at the hideous form before them and ran like hell to warn the masses. God decided to split. When the others came back with torches and such there was nothing there, so they burned the messengers who had told the tale of the beast with a horse’s head, crocodile shoulders, spider knees, dodo toes, dogfish gills, and short green fuzz all over.
God was perplexed by this incident, and by what God was observing among this increasingly abundant species. It started with a small group of them. They had grown tired of relying on the whims of the system of life God had started so long ago, and were trying to take greater and greater control of the situation, expanding on their existing farming projects, which up until that time had been fairly small.
They cleared away more and more of the existing plant-life around them, creating expansive fields for all of their plants and animals, which they called livestock. But what they found was that they could not manage all of the land themselves, despite working longer hours than ever before. So, they enlisted the help of their neighbors in exchange for some of the extra food they were producing. God watched with increasing fascination as this laborious food production technique caught on. In some cases folks saw all the food its producers had in storage and willingly signed up to farm. In other cases, the farmers decided they needed more land, so they paid people (with food) to join them in conquering new territories and peoples. What had started as a small group was becoming a sprawling mass of people spread all over the planet, moving farther and farther from their place of origin and creating colonies, where more people and more animals were put to work for the most domineering of the people, who seemed to be working on the common assumption that everything on the planet was there for their own benefit, for them to control, exploit and manipulate as they saw fit.
Not only was this growing mass of people making life difficult for other creatures, they were actually killing off entire other species, including the dodo, the plains buffalo, the United States Timberwolf, the carrier pigeon, the akia and countless other plant species. They even committed genocide against several groups of their own species, like the Beothuk and the Tasmanians.
The situation became so bad for so many people that many who had previously been faithful to a god or gods of some sort started to doubt God’s very existence, let alone God’s benevolence. God felt a bit insulted by this change. Was it God’s fault that some people kept trying to control the system of life rather than let it take care of itself, as it had done successfully for so long?
And so, God is flabbergasted by humanity’s continuing attempts to control something that can only control itself: the infinitely improbable, originally miraculous, enigmatically complex web of life on a little planet near a little sun, where for a while, everything fell into place just so. As this planet stands now, the question to be resolved is whether the species calling themselves people will surrender their illusions of control, save themselves, and give paradise back to God.