What if the pop song was right on the money? What if God really is just one of us, a slob like one of us, trying to make His way home?
I ask because Norman Mailer asks the same question. In a recent article in which the subject was ostensibly Sartre and his particular existential ethos, Mailer hinted at what has been one of his decades-long, if infrequent, obsessions: The notion that God, if He exists, is just as confused, fallible and fucked-up as the rest of us.
All of us our our own Gods, of course, capable of changing the worlds we live in, conversation by conversation, action by action. Word by word, if it comes to that. But it's nice to think, even if you are an agnostic, that somebody up there has got their shit together. Because if He doesn't...
Paul Theoroux's book The Mosquito Coast deals with this idea of a man who believes he is God angry at the God that already exists. At one point, in both the novel and Peter Weir's film version (starring Harrison Ford), the main character, Allie Fox, blames the absolute shithole that is our present-day Earth on a reckless God that was like a child letting loose his spinning-top to roam around a room, destroying everything in its path, and then not bothering to stick around and clean up the mess. (Of course, in the film, Ford tells off a holier-than-though bible thumper by sarcastically saying: "That's what I love about you people -- your total lack of self-riteousness." The joke being, of couse, that his character is guilty of the very sins he's condemning, only he's too self-riteous to realize it.)
This is a concept, though, that I don't think has been considered very often, in religious or agnostic circles. Our image of God is usually an omnipotent one, a being who knows all and sees all, a force who exists outside of time and space, an entity that does, in fact, know what happens on Desperate Housewives the week before it airs, but couldn't give a shit one way or the other.
But what if He's sick, this God? What if He's, I don't know, mentally retarded? Or wounded? Spiritually torn?
Most religions aren't down with these kinds of questions. It would be like Beaver asking June Cleaver if father Ward every got some ass on the side from the secretary at work. There are certain questions you just don't ask. (Eddie Haskell might ask those questions, yes, but we can't all be Eddie Haskells now, can we?)
But I'm not affiliated with any particular church or sect, so I just let the questions fly...
What if God is aging? What if He used to be a good guy, but now is kind of a prick, cranky and agitated? What if he's like one of the writers of The Facts of Life or Growing Pains, some dude who started with great ideas artistic aims and ideal plans for his path in life and then finds himself, on a week-to-week basis, forced to come up with derivative shit just to keep himself busy, his once optimistic goals reduced to asinine one-liners? (Not that I'm comparing Toottie from The Facts of Life to the almighty; that would be ridiculous, not to mention blasphemous. I was thinking more of Jo, the butch one who wore the leather jacket...) What if the tsunami was not an act of malice, but an accidental oversight, the result of God being asleep at the wheel?
Or look at it this way. You're watching your nightly Wheel of Fortune and looking after your little two year old, and during the commercial break you go to the bathroom to take a piss, and when you come back, your kid has flopped on his face and bashed the living hell out of it, staining the carpet red with remnants of his lip and the cigarette tray you'd be meaning to throw out since you quit smoking, like, two, three months ago, but you never got around to it, and this is what you end up with, blood and glass, and a shrieking toddler wonder where his God was when all this insanity went down.
Just as we wondered when the tsunami hit.
Well, maybe God was taking a piss. Taking out the trash.
It may seem crude, almost obscene to equate the horrors of the tragedy to something as trivial and, well, as human as the above, but I'll tell you, sometimes I think it's more obscene to think that there is a God up above who stood back and watched all of this go down. Allie Fox in The Mosquito Coast was a nut, but even nuts sometimes make good points. Living in Cambodia for two years, seeing poverty and degradation on a daily basis, makes me want to ask God a few questions. I don't know if He's up there or if He isn't; I don't know if He's listening, or if he's mute. But like I said a few posts ago, when I see a lady tap on the window of my taxi in the middle of a rainstorm while holding a dead baby in her arms, it makes me question the nature of the universe.
Maybe God is lonely. Maybe He has no one to talk to. He could be like the brilliant kid who sits at the back of the class and doodles in his book, because nobody can relate to the images and inertia he feels. Maybe He's upset that all of His followers down below have screwed up what He meant. Maybe he wanted, sincerely, with all His power, to stop the tsunami, but He couldn't, because He isn't as strong as we think He is. He could be like Superman in Superman II after he lost his powers, watching Zod take over the world.
Or He could be like one of us -- aging, slowing down a bit, wondering what happened to His youth, his ambitions, his vitality.
He could be mortal.
Which would make us fellow travellers on His bus. Gods, in a sense.
Like we have been all along?