Slacker


God woke up feeling sluggish and mildly hungover. But it was a nice day in Thimphu. Nice enough to go for a walk. Maybe even a run. We’ll see how it goes, he thought.

He held up his pair of Asics for scrutiny. They looked fine enough, but smelled a tad funky. As he was lacing up, his phone rang. God winced. It was Grace. Grace Chung.

God: Hi Grace, I was just stepping out for something – can I call you in the evening?

Grace: God, I’m afraid this is urgent. I have to ask you what the status is with your new work.

God: It’s going well. I’ve got some great ideas in there.

Grace: So when are we going to see something?

God: Well there are some parts that aren’t flowing very well. And the structure needs a bit of work.

Grace: So when are we going to see something?

God: A week or two?

Grace (exasperated sighing): God, why is this so difficult? Malone is threatening to cut you loose. I can try and hold him off for a week, but that’s it. I’m setting up a call next Tuesday. 5 pm your time. Mail us your draft before the call.

God: What is that fool Malone’s problem? All right, all right, Tuesday then.

Grace: It had better be good. Bye.

God: Bye.

As he ran into the cool, crisp air that November morning, he thought about how easy it used to be. The Pyramid Texts had heroic poetry. The Epic of Gilgamesh was a rousing human drama. The Vedas were replete with rich philosophy. The Old Testament was all action, with plenty of fire and brimstone. The Quran extended some of the same characters, with some great new concepts thrown in. But without doubt, the high water mark was the Buddhist teachings. The middle path. It was really something to be proud of. But that was then. Now everything was a struggle.

God ran northwards on Norzin Lam. He passed the clock tower square where a musical ensemble was playing folk songs to a small crowd. He smiled as he passed a giant poster of a beaming young King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk and Queen Jetsun Pema. He turned east towards the Wang Chu river and then headed south along the river. As he approached the Changlimithang archery stadium, he heard the unmistakable sounds of a competition in progress.

He decided to stop by for a bit, and lend his own voice to the raucous cheering, the playful heckling and the ribald singing. He remembered the days when the archers used bamboo bows. Now they wielded compound bows made of hi-tech carbon fibre. But every time a bullseye was scored the victory dance that followed was the same that it had been for centuries.

By noon he was hungry, remembering that he had clean forgotten to eat breakfast. He walked into a modest restaurant down a small alley and ordered the usual ema datshi – a dish made from chili peppers and yak cheese, served with rice.

He mulled over the same old questions. Why Bhutan? Why had he stayed in one place all these centuries? Was this peace or stagnation?

The evening was chilly. At the local watering hole, God punched away at his MacBook, with a carafe of warm ara for company. A week was all he had. And a week flew by.

The phone rang.

Grace: God, I have Malone with me. Thanks for sending the draft over.

Malone: God, it’s been a while hasn’t it?

God: Yeah, what time is it over there.

Grace: It’s getting to 375.296 our time.

Malone: Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? We’ve had a look at the document. I’ll grant you there’s some good stuff in there, but here’s what’s wrong with it. It’s too esoteric, too subjective. It’s not directive enough and needs to be way more prescriptive. I don’t see this swaying the masses.

God: Malone, you need to understand, humans have moved beyond simplistic plot lines and thou shalt nots. Memberships across religions are dipping. The problem is that humans are outgrowing organised religion.

Malone: I’ll tell you what the problem is. We’ve given you exclusive rights for all these centuries. And what have you given us? Rastafarianism? Scientology? You should be embarrassed.

God: All right, you know what? I’m done. Good luck with your next big religion.

God hung up, took a sip of coffee and instantly felt a thrilling sense of liberation. He looked around the trendy hipster café. At the next table was a group of noisy twenty-somethings. Young men and women dressed traditionally in their ghos and kiras, drinking newly discovered lattes and flat whites. Their laughter sounded old and familiar.

#Bhutan #Thimphu #God

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