Sunday 5 December 1999

Snowy landscape

Pic of the day: I'm taking pictures of the snow while it is still pretty. A few months from now, I'm not likely to see anything cute and beautiful in the cold white stuff.

Walking the god

It is Sunday. Have you remembered to take a walk with your god?

Yes, it is a cruel word play. Yet the most scary thing is that there is some truth in it. There are some people who treat their god like little more than a dog. A personal belonging who they can show off at Sunday and throw some bones (metaphorically, one would hope) the rest of the week. A part of their life, yes, but rather inconsequential. They are in command. Their god may or may not do as they command, but they keep trying. And come Sunday, they show up anyway, displaying to the world that they do their god a service.

Yes indeed. In Norwegian and German at least, the language actually has a word that imply that people are doing God a service by attending church. ("Gudstjeneste" and "Gottesdienst" respectively.) I'm not sure if it is so explicit in English. I understand that it is called "service" there too, but I haven't heard so clearly that it is the churchgoer who is doing the service and God who is on the receiving end. I am sure He is impressed. And He probably appreciates people reading his book too, just as I like to see people reading my journal. Perhaps God has a hit counter in Heaven that registers how many hits He gets on each page of the Bible.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps God - or whatever name applies - is doing us a service instead.


Once upon a time, people had small gods. Here in Scandinavia, the main deities were the Aesir, who were supposedly descended from a giant man whose shape was hidden in a salt stone. The ur-cow licked the stone until the shape within was set free, and he and his sons set forth to end the terror of the giants and make an orderly, habitable world. These gods were masters of might and magic, yet mortal. They could survive one death, but not the final night, the Ragnarok. Yet after their final sacrifice, a new generation of gods and men would survive, to get a new chance of making a better world. Or perhaps just repeating the previous cycle in some variation.

To the Aesir (and their co-rulers from Vanaheim) people built monuments on holy places, and held blot ... a kind of holy feast in which the gods were offered meat and mead as guests of honor before the human guests. The gods would be represented by a carved picture, or by something symbolic of each deity ... such as a pig's head, or a mummified animal phallos. They were small gods indeed, yet people feared and respected them in their way.


As our universe grew, so did our concept of a divine creator. By now, it is well beyond any comprehension. Sure, we are creators too. But we do so like children playing with Lego bricks, those small plastic building sets ready made for putting together. We faintly suspect that someone must have made the bricks for us, but we don't really know how or even what they are made of. Is the universe made of matter or energy or information? Superstrings or multi-dimensional membranes? The brightest heads in the sand box debate intensely. But who found out that time and space would be a good idea in the first place? Who decided to limit it to three dimensions plus time? Who drew up the laws of nature when there still was no nature and no law?

I don't have any trouble with the hard-nose atheist, who says that it all just happened. That the universe is just a random fluctuation in the great nothingness, and that we're here to observe it because if the universe were much different, there wouldn't be any "we" here to notice. It may not convince me, but it is sort of logically consistent.

What I do have a problem with, though, is saying "My god made all this, from the galactic superclusters down to the insides of the elementary particles. And I know god, I and my god have a special and close relationship and have had so for years. And I may or may not take his advice as regards my personal life, depending on whether or not I feel like it."

Some things, I guess, are easier done than said. This is one of them. I'm guilty as charged by myself, but I do think I've grown a lot humbler in recent years. (If I become more humble now, I'll probably be proud of it and lambast all the ones who are not as humble as I. -Oh wait, I just did, didn't I?)

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