I’ve sometimes heard fanciful people suggest that all creation is no more or less than an idea in the mind of God, that includes us humans too. I’ve never accepted this.
I can’t dismiss the things I feel in life, physical and mental, as belonging to someone else, nor can I ignore the relationships I have with other sentient beings. These appear to convey emotions between us independent of any Almighty.
I’m prepared to accept that the physical world is an idea God had. He created a void which his Spirit moved upon. He said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. The physical came into life. Aeons later, sentient beings emerged. The philosopher Kierkegaard saw God as creating us with the capability of being something against Him, against his Spirit. If we can defy God, then the physical world is more than his idea. Is it ours, or someone else’s?
I’ve now written a novel, Where’s Sailor Jack? It started as a blank sheet of paper which filled up as my spirit moved upon it. It only took a couple of paragraphs of scene setting before descriptions of sentient beings appeared. Unlike God, I didn’t need billions of years of celestial billiards. My characters were just ideas in my head. They had no existence of their own. They didn’t have bodies and brains. They only needed the lavatory when I wanted to break up the action. Their relationships with each other were not just mediated by me, they were dictated by me. I knew how the story was to end, what their fate would be.
Yet as so many authors do, I found that the characters made a mockery of this. They started to pull the story about. They delayed what I’d decided was going to happen. They’d tell another character what they thought of them in terms I would never think of. They decided when to be cruel and when to be kind.They taught me more about human character than I’d ever learn on a psychology course.
I know, there are better explanations for this. I was just channelling what I’d heard in real people into my characters, or picking up second-hand some emotion from a book I’d read, a movie I’d watched, a song I’d liked. God didn’t have that luxury to begin with. That’s perhaps why it took him so long to get things going. He’s a real Author, with a capital to prove it.
Pretty early on in the Bible tale, the writers had the idea of the devil. Did God plant the idea? Or is the devil a creature as real as we are? I’ve not given him a capital. But in my tale, I could only make sense of one storyline in terms of God having paid a ransom to the devil, someone over against him strong enough to need buying off. Life often does appear to have the devil as author with God as editor. And who has the final say?
I can only answer with an unknowing smile while not changing my policy on capitals.
John Uttley, 69, was born in Lancashire although he now lives just outside London. Where’s Sailor Jack is his first novel. Not fancying a memoir, or his family’s story, John instead recorded his Lancastrian sense of humour as well as documenting a tumultuous, exciting period of British history. History John just happened to live through.
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