by Andy Dibble
How much is the suffering of an insect worth, writhing on the ground, flapping one wing, the other plucked by a child? Is not the cruel pleasure of the child worth incomparably more? Kill a thousand insects. Ten thousand. Their assembled suffering is as nothing. And why do we say this? Because an insect has so little capacity to suffer, let alone experience joy.
As different as the insect and the child are, so is the child to Me. The gulf yawns wider in fact. Think of yourself as a snarky bacterium. Do you consider how many innocent streptococcoi you slaughter when you bleach your toilet seat? Should you? Of course not. They feel essentially nothing.
I know. I’m God.
I know the degree to which you–everyone one of you–suffers. But My suffering and joy is more, stupendously more. For all your imagination and amphetamines, you cannot begin to understand the barest perturbation in My well-being. For all My skill as Teacher, I cannot begin to teach you.
So whose welfare should I attend to, Mine or yours?
Mine, of course.
However sovereign I am, outside Me is this moral law: The greatest happiness to the greatest number. Utilitarianism. But My duty is not to better the condition of many. Recall the cruel child. She owes the insect nothing, or near enough. Utilitarianism really amounts to a simpler formula, Create all the happiness you are able to create. And that is served by serving Myself.
Even the seraphim are like fireflies next to My Sun. And what are you, clay of Adam, alongside them? Beneath Me are the myriad choirs of angels, the denizens of the pure abodes, unseen sheiks, the yellow emperors, the apsaras and asuras. And only then humanity.
Even I must prioritize. Remember your place, snarky bacterium!
Only My pity for lower existence gives Me pause. Pity loves fairness. But if fairness is the rule, the lowliest, the most numerous should prosper: abandon sanitation so that vermin and insect swarm. Should I really make higher existence worse off for their sake?
But I do not pity the cockroach like I pity the grieving mother, the orphan, or victim of calamity. So, on occasion, I intervene. Not for their sake but to squash pity.
Now pity is a greedy master. Give it a little and we whir down spirals of remorse: Why can’t I do more? I know why. Because I am yoked to utilitarianism. I must serve Me.
So normally, I distract Myself: dazzle the Hebrews as a pillar of fire, march them on righteous conquest, incarnate and wreak havoc in their holy city, bask in their worship.
You think it petty. But it works best.
Sometimes humanity creates something worthwhile: A certain seventeen syllables penned by Basho then translated into Russian. The curve of a Buddha statue’s lip carelessly destroyed by the Huns. Panini’s grammar misquoted by Patanjali. Beethoven’s tenth symphony. The Argentine that lived the twentieth century and never once experienced hate.
But what is Starry Night alongside the splendor of exploding universes too violent for life? My majesty contains these might-have-beens. They astound Me more than any triumph on a pale blue dot.
My first attempt was stodgy Michael. He was lofty enough that I could help him for his own sake, not just for Mine. But he only wanted to serve Me, be My silver sword, My strong right arm. Serving his interests was only a roundabout way of serving Mine.
So I tried again with Lucifer. He loved Me, but only because he saw himself in Me. His vanity was luminous, consuming, a million billion suns with a sucking hole inside. Like a super-massive galaxy, his self-love warped reality.
But he was still a prima donna. He thought himself entitled to more of My attention than the utilitarian calculus allowed. So I sighed and saw him off.
I created. I tried again.
Creation is an experiment. Maybe evolution, across all the teaming universe, will rear a people whose welfare means more than My own. If it could rear gods, a race near enough to Me, there would be others I could help for their own sake.
I watch evolution tinker. I nudge it along. The giraffe stands without passing out. The human eye sees a million colors. The rabbit eats its own poo to thrive.
None are almost gods. But all have My image. My genius and My wit.
I became human to broaden My horizons. For I had never experienced relief. How could I? From the stance of eternity, I always know when ill will turn out well. I do not know forgetfulness or gratitude or need. As I am, I know the warmth of a body only exteriorly.
Though I can imagine what it is like to be a man, I do not know what it is like for a man to be a man.
So I became man.
So now you understand how all worldly suffering is justified, how it is necessary. That tough nut, theodicy, admits of a solution. In Me nearly everything has its end and goal, and that goal is My greater glory and pleasure.
But of all possible worlds, every conceivable sequence of events, I chose this very one. To serve the utilitarian law, I chose this creation and you in it. In some way you–even your failed marriage, your stillborn child, your self-serving prayers and spotty church attendance–increase My happiness more than any of the panoply of merely possible people I could have thrown into existence.
Be gladdened by this.
Andy Dibble is a former academic and Sanskritist turned healthcare IT consultant. He has supported the electronic medical record of large healthcare systems in six countries. His fiction is forthcoming in Writers of the Future. (andydibble.com)