There was a knight of Arthur’s band Who did great deeds by strength of hand But no wise would he be content Till Guinevere lay in his tent. Disloyalty was his downfall Without which he had had else all. “If only I had Guinevere” Quoth he, “There’s nought else I hold dear.” But all men know how that turned out In Caxton’s book of Arthur’s Morte. If Lancelot had not been false Then things had not come to this pass. But even in the courts of kings Man’s fatal defect evil brings And that’s why we can’t have nice things.
Man came and passed, and his existence was as the briefest, tiniest spark of light in the vastness of his Multiverse, which was but a single grain of sand amongst the things that the gods would create, each vaster and more magnificent than what came before, things whose name alone would take a thousand years to say.
But at last, the gods themselves grew old.
“All that we can do, we have done,” lamented one.
“All that can be, has been,” said another.
But the god who in the beginning had studied what was, before the gods, remained silent.
And so they came to an end.
* * *
“Look, how pretty!” said the little girl. She pointed at a jewel that had grown overnight on the tree.
“Yes,” said the Gardener. “It is perfect.”
A shorter version of this story will appear, or has appeared,
Abba Jerome’s only companion in the desert was a ferret that would come and lie in the shade of his cave.
One night, he walked meditating among the hills. Hearing a sudden noise underfoot, he saw how the ferret had caught a desert rat, ripping its belly open. In compassion, Abba Jerome laid his hand on the rat, which was miraculously healed, and scampered away.
But God spoke out of the night, saying, “Knowest thou the ways of God? The rat’s death was the ferret’s life.”
Abba Jerome admitted his sin, but thereafter, the ferret would never enter his cave.
Abba Jerome left his cave to visit his neighbour Abba Genarius, thirty miles away. He confessed ashamedly, “I have written a book.”
“If it concern our Lord,” said Abba Genarius, “that is a praiseworthy thing.”
Abba Jerome sighed. “It began so, but to quicken the reader’s heart I invented stories of the people around Him. Now His life is hardly mentioned, while the stories breed and multiply of themselves. Surely some demon afflicts me.”
Prophecy came upon Abba Genarius. “In time to come, it will be called ‘airport fiction’,” he said, “but do not ask me what that means, for it makes my head hurt.”
When I was five, the universe scared me. The big encyclopedia talked about billions of years, billions of billions of miles. When I worked out what a billion was, I was terrified. “But what’s it all for?” I wailed. “Wait till you're my age,” said my mother.
When I was thirty-three, I asked her again, “So, what’s it all about, remember?” But she just said, “wait till you’re my age”.
She died at seventy-six, and now here I am, seventy-six myself, her age at last. And I still don’t know what it’s all for.