Published May 10, 2010
The Lord looked at the world he had created and saw it was—largely—good. Each continent, though different, had its own charm, and when it came to Europe, it was Italy that stirred the greatest pride. Its golden coasts complemented the Apennine mountain range, the Po valley a perfect contrast to the hills of Sicily. It sometimes seemed to him that the rest of the continent was merely an appendix, an afterthought to this finely crafted piece. The thin strip, a prosciutto of meticulously designed landscape, was cut off from the more vulgar lands to the north by the Alps, shielding his piece-de-resistance from works in progress.
When the man-monkeys, with their unpredictable yet God given free will started settling the area, it came as a pleasant surprise to the Creator of All Things that the fruits of their imagination were almost a match for his own. It was at times like these that he did not regret having allowed the monkey men to crawl over his creation, even though he himself had been partial to giant lizards for a while. He took pleasure in watching the rise and fall and renaissance resurrection of the inhabitants of his favourite peninsula. If lately they took their pleasure in bad television rather than Michaelangelo, they could easily be forgiven. They had done their part, left something behind for others to admire and, like him, they deserved a rest.
His attention spanned the globe. To the north of the Alps there was, at first sight, less to please the eye. Still, he felt he had done quite well with the Norwegian fjords, but this had inspired their inhabitants to no such feats as the Apennines had the Italians. Perhaps the fjords were beautiful enough that no more aesthetics were needed in that part of the world. It was impossible for mere apes to compete with him at his best, or so he liked to believe.
Celestial eyes drifted to the left of his famous fjords. There, sticking out of the sea, was a barren rock that looked like none of the other places he beheld. His peers, had he any, might remark that its appearance seemed somewhat unfinished, an interesting idea but sorely in need of a finishing touch. In fact he had been meaning to do something with it for quite a while, but there were always more pressing concerns. Now and again he returned to it, and wondered what use could be made of it.
Perhaps it could be used to fill up the Baltic, but he had to admit he had gotten quite used to the Baltic as it was. It served its purpose in any case, there had to be some way to tell Swedes and Danes apart. Somewhere between Britain and the mainland, he thought, would probably be a good place for it. It might even keep the sea from chipping away at the Low Countries, which, he had to admit, were something of a flaw in the overall design. The Dutch where an industrious people, they would no doubt find some use for it. The British, however, who sang so loyally of him saving their Queen, would no doubt complain if they suddenly found themselves a part of the continent.
He had been meaning to do something with that barren and useless island that he had placed temporarily somewhere north of Scotland. But the Mediterranean had occupied him for so long that when he finally turned his attention back north, he saw that the island had already been settled. This was not part of the plan, and he prided himself on having a plan for everything. Even if some decisions were a bit more spontaneous than he would like to admit.
Now, tribes he had intended should move to America from the West, to see how they would interact with those who had moved there from the East, had stopped halfway. Instead of discovering a New World, they had taken to dividing up and quarrelling over tiny fragments of land on this island they now called Iceland. These deathly pale northern monkeys never ceased to amaze him. Why call something Iceland and then fight over it. In any case, he found the name quite fitting, so he let them be for awhile.
He blinked his eye and centuries passed. It was not, of course, the Icelanders who finally got a foothold in America but the Mediterraneans, followed by other tribes: French, British. The man-monkeys of the West had failed to create a golden civilisation by intermingling with the natives. Instead, they exterminated them. In retrospect, this was obvious. For someone all-knowing, he could sometimes be remarkably naive when it came to bringing people together.
Nevertheless, the Americans now claimed to have created a new kind of country. The Lord looked on with interest and even, dare we say it, a glimmer. It was only when events there were at a lull that his gaze again caught its reflection in the glaciers of Iceland. He started counting on his fingers, a hundred on each hand, and found it had been almost a thousand years since the land had been settled. Rome rose and fell in only a slightly longer timespan and still the northern ice monkeys had not created anything that passed for a decent civilization. Instead of building walls to hold out their enemies or coliseums for their amusement, they had simply dug themselves into the ground. Even the English, who at this point seemed so intent on colonizing everything, ignored it.
God initially considered making improvements on this icy land, but decided instead to start over. The island of Iceland was to be drowned in an ocean of fire. Somewhere up above, the stars rearranged themselves into a smile. Perhaps he had learned something from his children after all. Was this not what they liked to refer to, when they encountered something they did not understand, as irony?
Fire erupted from the mountains; the sun was blocked from the sky for those standing down below. It reminded him of Pompeii, and he wondered why he didn’t do this more often. A dash of lava here, a pinch of smog there. Just as he was getting ready for the final touch, something started to stir down below. It was the French. They were having a revolution. They were saying there was no god. This he had to see.
He blinked and then blinked again. The world turned briefly pink, and then, red, white and blue. The American experiment, and the French, had turned out just like all the others. Who was next? God gave the ball a twirl. From here it all seemed a foregone conclusion; you only had to know how to count on all your fingers. When he played dice, as he did from time to time, he knew that the Chinese were now the ones to bet on.
But a game of dice is not just about calculating the odds, and history is not just about the numbers. For it was not the crafty Chinese who were planting their flag all over Christendom. It was those unpredictable Icelanders. This, he thought, cannot be good.
As he had done when Atlantis had its day and when Eldorado outshone all others, he decided to sit back and watch how this would play out. Even if the outcome seemed obvious. God looked down from the heavens and decided to bet against the króna.
And yet, as he saw the expected events unfold, he was nevertheless stunned. More stunned than perhaps he had ever been in the long and at times amusing history of human folly. Sure, the sensible Germans had been out of their minds for a while, but that was after a world war lost and in the midst of a great depression. The Americans had their Civil War, the Chinese their Cultural Revolution, but never before had a country that had it so good decided to so utterly destroy itself.
That was it. This tiny speck was an insult to all creation. The Lord knew that it was time to finish what he had started so many seasons ago. It was time to return to Iceland, and not since the last days of Gomorrah had he been in quite such a mood.
Next issue: God Returns.