God of the Universe Next Door

Edgar Allan Poe’s prose poem “Eureka” suggests that if there are multiple universes each has its own god.

Review of “The Reason for the Darkness of the Night” by John Tresch, The Wall Street Journal

It was Sunday, so after 11:30 church services were done in my universe, I decided to take a stroll over to the universe next door to see my fellow god Thanatos. He’s a gloomy guy and I like to check in on him every now and then to make sure he’s okay and isn’t planning to do something stupid, like trigger a mudslide in the Andes just for the hell of it. His universe has a hell, mine doesn’t. I went “lite” a few eons ago, now it’s just Pass-Fail. If you die with outstanding sins, you can’t eat in heaven, you’re stuck in the second-tier dining room, whose food resembles that in a U.S. Post Office cafeteria.

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Thanatos: Dude–chill!

He was sitting out on his “front porch”–the THX 1138 spiral galaxy, from which he had a commanding view of all good and evil in his jurisdiction.

“Hey Than, how’s it going?” I called out with a wave as I approached, going 20 light years per minute.

“Same poop, different millennium,” he said with a shrug as he took a sip of his Ballantine Ale in the half-quart “tall boy” can. “You want one?” he asked. Guy may be grumpy, but he is hospitable.


“No thanks,” I said. “I wish they’d bring back the 12 ounce cans. Sixteen is too much for me.”

“You don’t have to finish it.”

“Sez you,” I sezzed. “The rule in my universe was set by Sister Mary Joseph Arimathea.”

“Who died and left her boss?” Than cracked.

“Jesus H. Christ.”

“So what’s her rule?”

“There are people all over the world going to bed sober, so don’t waste beer.”

He took a long pull on the big green can, then exhaled with satisfaction. “Nectar of the Gods,” he said. “What’s new in your world?”

“Oh, you know, everybody thinks theirs is the one true religion, no one has any doubts except for the UUs.”

“The UUs?”

“The Unitarian Universalists. They’re so liberal they won’t, as Robert Frost would say, take their own side in a quarrel.”

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UU Minister (not shown actual size)

“Sounds good to me,” Thanatos said.

“Well, let’s just say they’re not as good as they think.”

“You’ve got a beef against everybody.”

“True, but I reserve special scorn for them. They like to stand outside their church with signs to let passers-by know they aren’t letting them off the hook for moral failings they might possibly have.”

“So they’re mind-readers?”

“You could say that,” I said, and I meant it. “How do they know whether I’m thinking bad thoughts?”

“EVERYBODY does. Otherwise guys like us . . .

“You mean Gods . . .”

“Thanks. Gods like you and me would have nothing to do.”

“Still. They think they’re better than the snake-handlers who hold up signs from the opposite end of the religio-political spectrum.”

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“Who has the better coffee cake after church?”

“I think that’s the Methodists. I know for damn sure it isn’t the Catholics.”

“Watch your language!”

“Why–we’re gods, we can say whatever we want.”

“Still, I’m trying to soften my image. I don’t want to have to put my riches in the ‘swear jar’ by heaven’s door.”

“You . . . have riches?”

“Are you kidding? Being a god I got people giving me money like crazy when they realize the end is near.”

“That sort of thing is beneath a self-respecting deity. What are you going to do with it?”

“I don’t know, maybe inject it into a monetary system, trigger hyper-inflation.”

“Huh. Hadn’t thought of that. So instead of buying a red sports car, a motorboat, a boob job for your trophy wife . . .”

“All of which would do me no good.”

“You do some evil with it?”

“Why the hell not. I get tired of hurricanes and pogroms and plagues.”

Having heard this, I thought of Than–and try to say that five times fast–with a strange new respect. “Any other goodies I should have been taking advantage of all these eons?”

“Frequent flyer miles.”

It was my turn to look at him with pitiless contempt. “Dude–we’re gods, we are everywhere and nowhere at the same. No need to upgrade to first class, we are first class.”

“Again, you’re letting a simple concept fly over your head.”

“How so?”

“If I’ve got a million frequent flyer miles, I exchange them for a million miles of some other god’s universe. I want to be a survivor if there’s a shake-out in the divinity industry.”

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“I’m happy with the cozy little universe I’ve got, thanks.”

“It’s only 93 million miles in diameter,” Than said with disdain for my limited ambitions. “Suppose you want to add a deck out back, or a hot tub, or a fire pit. You may not get the zoning approval you need.”

“Thanks, but I’m not the acquisitive sort. Any other ‘perks’ out there for naive divinities like me?”

He eyed me with a look of low cunning. “You ever wondered what happens to balances on Starbucks gift cards when people die?”

“Not interested. Their coffee’s too bitter me.”

“You don’t have to spend them on coffee!”

“You don’t?”

“Good Lord,” he said, then corrected himself. “‘Good me,’ I mean.”

“What great treasure am I missing out on?”

“Bearista stuffed animals and Best of Starbucks Love Songs CDs!”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Oh . . . My . . . God!”

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