A few small portraits grace the wall: William Blake, Carl Sagan, Emily Dickinson, Confucius, George Carlin, Siddhartha Guatama among them.
|Gratuitous kitten picture|
The two are watching what the son considers a pretty decent slapstick comedy, Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956).
The son is laughing himself silly, but the dad only emits an occasional grunt and shifts uneasily on his throne. Had he been visible, you would've seen only an intermittent wry smile.
"Oh, this is hilarious," the son said, wiping tears from his cheeks. "It's right up there with Zoolander and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. The guy who plays Moses cracks me up. Oh, and Ramesses II -- can he do anything besides stare up through his eyebrows? Wasn't Jamie Dornan available for that role?"
[Dad hits 'pause' on his RodStaff Comfort Control Remote.]
"Son, as you know I reviewed Ten Commandments in CineGod, the first film journal after the Big Bang. If I remember correctly -- and I tend to -- I criticized its 'vulgar allegiance to the literal . . . a lurid, shallow sideshow whose pretentious and obvious sermonizing was no more spiritual than the dancing, half-naked Jewish girls DeMille inserted at every opportunity,' or something to that effect. But don't be too hard on Charlton Heston, the 'actor' who played Moses. DeMille chose him solely due to his resemblance to Michelangelo's Moses. The sculpture, you know."
"The horny one?"
"Yes.The Moses with horns."
"Then who did Michelangelo want his Moses to look like? Did he know how Moses really looked?"
"So, dad, Charlton Heston became an image of an image that has no verifiable original. Isn't there a word for that?"
"Ask Baudrillard. Ask Don DeLillo."
"I'll EternaGoog it. But first, why does ABC even show Ten Commandments on Easter, which is a Christian-scripture thing, isn't it?"
"It is. And God only knows why TV networks do what they do. Mind if I hit 'play' now, please?"
"One more question, and this one should be easy: What was it like before the Big Bang?"
[Dad takes a deep breath . . . or spirit.]
"Snug, crowded even. All of us were dense. No yard work, in fact, no yards. No fences, walls, borders. No recognizable diversity. No political parties. We usually called ourselves 'singularity' or 'Father lode.'
"To anticipate your next question, there was free will, but nothing we could do with it. So, you know, we loved each other, but only because we had no choice -- even though we had free will."
"Eventually, though, didn't you prefer love with free will over loving without it? How did that work out? I personally haven't seen many people choosing to love each other, except in those horrible romantic comedies the damned are forced to watch. Maybe the Big Bang was a mistake."*
|The first reproduction|
"A surprise, maybe, but not a mistake. You know, when a singularity loves very, very much, after a while, well, it just, you know, was, is, and will be what it was and is and will be, and that's when choosing started, oh, and time.
"And, my son, we can talk more about the difference between pre-Big Bang love and love-by-choice when we get to marriage."
"And your interest in reproduction, right? Sweet. But tell me more about that early time before time before we get back to Ten Commandments."
"Okay, but listen carefully. This stuff's not easy: Before the Big Bang (or the Boo-ya, as we called it), we were never sad, never conflicted. Always in the present. Of course, there was a subatomic rumor going around that 'one day the One would become the Many,' but we ignored it because no one understood the concept of 'many' or 'day.' Or 'night,' for that matter."
"But what was it like before the denseness -- or singularity as y'all called it -- before the Big Bang, when there was nothing instead of something. And were you something then, or just part of the nothing? And the nothing before the denseness that wound up Big Banging -- is that something you could break down into parts?"
"Good Lord, someone has been watching too much Closer to Truth on PBS! There are perfectly good answers to your questions, but there was no language back when there was nothing, so I can't articulate them. I would say it was 'great,' but there wasn't even any 'great' back thing. There was no is, no there, no quotation marks."
"Rats. But you were there, right? Because people are always like, 'God existed even before the creation.' Right?"
"How did you pass the time?"
"There was no time. But I did do something. I knew that one day Calvinists -- or Puritans, or, oh, I never paid attention to what they named themselves -- would believe that I (of all people) determined their salvation or damnation before the beginning of history.
"So, what the hell, just to mess with them, I convinced a few thousand that they were among the Elect, and then 'predestined' the rest to everlasting flames.I figured that would keep things interesting in a society that didn't read novels, go to movies or concerts, didn't dance, dine out, any of that. That's what they get for believing such nonsense. If you're going to make that crap up, you have to accept the consequences!"
|Puritan version of serenity|
"But you didn't really set them on fire, did you?"
"Of course not! You must be confusing me with the Christians who torched my beloved Joan of Arc, and the whole Inquisition auto de fe scene in general. I made them feel damned, which is just as bad. And all the anxiety -- I can tell you the Irritable Bowel Syndrome incidence was very high during the Puritan days!"
"That's even funnier than The Ten Commandments! You're quite the prankster. You must've been laughing your divine butt off!"
"Heh heh. Voltaire was right when he said 'God is a comedian playing for an audience too afraid to laugh.' But remember, son, there was no laughter, no ifs, ands, or butts, not even any ors before the singularity that would eventually bang bigly. Now hand me the remote. Charlie Rose is interviewing Richard Dawkins, and he always cracks me up."
"You know Dawkins doesn't think you exist."
"Of course. I'm not so sure about him, either. I guess I'm sort of an agnostic."
*In an earlier "Dad, Son" installment, the reader learned that the dad long ago deleted the son's memory of being an earthling in the interest of preserving his (the son's) upbeat attitude and, yes, his sanity.