"May the jury and those concerned, please rise," a court angel said. Everyone did. As the judge, god almighty, walked into the court room, the angel said, "You may be seated." With that, there was a uniform brush of air throughout the court room.
"What is the complaint?" god asked, without looking around the room to gain an awareness of a place that he was very familiar with.
"Your honor," the plaintiff started, standing up.
"Please," god replied, "Refer to me as your almighty. Court stenographer... Make sure that is now on understood by all plaintiffs.."
"Your almighty," the plaintiff asked, "My name is Tacitus. I am here because I feel that I was cheated when I was born into this world."
"Heh," god chuckled, "Did you study the case law on that? You should find your answer there. In fact, how did you get past a judicial review? I see every reason to dismiss this case."
"The judicial review said that on account of the new evidence I was bringing forward," Tacitus said, "That I ought to be granted the right to a trial."
"So you shall have your trial, then," god said, "But, do not enter my courtroom thinking that I have not seen your kind before. I know precisely why you're here and precisely what it is that you're after. You'll not fool me."
"I did not intend to enter this courtroom to fool you, my almighty," Tacitus said, "I am entering this courtroom with these claims, understanding that others before me have been regarded quite generously."
"But, just as much," god replied, "Others have been laughed out of this courtroom with claims that their lives have been unworthy, that they were duped into something that they could not comprehend."
"I am very much aware of this, your almighty," Tacitus said, "I have studied the cases. I have read the pleas of other plaintiffs, of Halkor, of Midlar, and of Carloff. I am very aware of these, your almighty. I did not enter this courtroom, your almighty, uneducated and unaware."
"Okay, then let us begin with the proceedings of this trial," god said, and with the wave of his hand, the entire jury disappeared.
"What.... ummm... what happened to them?" Tacitus asked, pointing to the jury.
"The jury?" god said, "They're just a human idea of justice. Who do you think delivers a decision to your case? You think I created twelve minor souls, knowing exactly what they would think by the way I created them, who would deliver the decision to your case? Certainly not. And, second of all, this court room is too boorish, too thoughtless, too stuffy. Let us carry court procedures outside."
Tacitus found himself in a field, with grasses going up past his shins, a cool breeze throughout, and a few misplaced trees. He found himself a bit more peaceful, for now, though, he was in the afterlife.
"So, what is your complaint?" god said, with his hands interlocked, as he continued walking.
"My complaint?" Tacitus asked.
"Yes," god replied, meeting the eye of the plaintiff, "You've read the previous case files. So many people come to me with their complaints about their previous lives, wanting to be recompensed for what they had to endure. What is your complaint?"
"Well, your almighty..." Tacitus started...
"Please, we're not in a courtroom, anymore," god replied, "Just god will do."
"Okay, then," Tacitus started again, "Well, god... I don't come to you with a complaint about my life personally. I've read the other case files and I'm very well aware of peoples' complaints. The case of Nitzer, for example..."
"Ah, Nitzer," god said, pondering, as he thoughtfully counted two clouds, "I remember that case. It was one of the cases where I did recompense someone for the pains of their life. My goodness... You have certainly done your studies."
"Yes, actually," Tacitus started again, "You rewarded that woman with five painless lifetimes and a guaranteed spot in heaven. If you are so receptive towards plaintiffs trying to rip you off in your courtroom, why did you give her such a worthy compensation."
"I don't know," god said, "I think the jury was rigged."
"Come on, god," Tacitus said, "You, the all knowing, and me, the partly knowing, both know that you are the jury in these cases."
"Your eyes penetrate the illusions..." god said, the turning back to face Tacitus to his face, "So, friend, what is it that you want to know?"
"Why did you reward her with such a promising, valuable settlement?" Tacitus asked.
"Well," god said, as his eyes gleaned over several stones, "I reviewed her case personally. It wasn't just an angel carrying out orders. No, I personally took up her case. When I reviewed her history and accessed some of her memories, I was quite astonished at what this woman had gone through. In a single fire, five of her children died. She tried to save them, but she was carried out of the house by a fireman. Due to the smoke, the fumes, and the excessive heat, she lost consciousness. Until that last moment, her most recent memory was the dying pulse of her son, as she held his hand."
"But, she lived," Tacitus replied, "At least she had that much, no?"
"Yes, she did live," god said, "She lived an additional five years in a hospital, receiving medical treatment for her dying body. Those five years were restricted to being in a bed, not even her normal body functions can be carried out without the aid of others. In those five years, she had to debate with a nurse every morning why she couldn't see her children. It was the truth of the matter that tore at her heart, it was the abrupt interruptions to her dreams of family picnics that tore at her sanity."
"So, those five lifetimes without pain and without suffering," Tacitus said, "They weren't because of the five children she lost. It was for the five years she had of suffering?"
"Yes, yes," god said, "Sometimes an immediate end of otherwise beautiful life is better than an intolerable, prolonged existence that is nothing, but.... an existence that is nothing but confronting the same pains that debilitate you."
"Ah, plus Nitzer did have an exemplary lawyer," Tacitus said.
"Yeah," god replied, "Satan can definitely make his case in court. I thought I'd get him out of my hair once I gave him a home for himself and his angel buddies."
"I did some work with that guy, ummm, a few months back," Tacitus said, "Yeah, he can get real agitated easily, but yeah, he was nice some of the time."
"You're not forgetting the case of Tazra, are you?" god said, his hands still interlocked as his sandals brushed across the unmoved plains.
"Of course not," Tacitus said, "How could I fair to investigate and understand that case? It's almost identical to mine."
"Tazra..." god echoed into the vast expanse, "I remember seeing him in the courtroom. He was pleading with me. He had lost his son in a war. I did sympathize with him."
"Ah, has god become a liberal?" Tacitus asked.
"There is nothing liberal or conservative about understanding human emotion," god said, "After all, I did create it, and then they created the political parties. How could I belong to a new political party when I've had my own ideas set for nearly 15 billion years?"
"True, true," Tacitus said, "But what about that Buddhist phase you went through right around the third billion year?"
"Hey, now every spiritual entity is allowed to dabble in whatever philosophies that he or she wants," god said.
"That seems to be a reasonable enough precept, and I see that every philosopher agrees but every politician disagrees," Tacitus said.
"But, anyway, about the case of Tizra..." god continued, "Yes, he did lose his son in a war, and I was not unsympathetic to him. If all men are god's creatures, as your theologians love to speculate, then do I not also feel the loss of a beloved son or daughter whenever any of them exits the world?"
"Some of the early theologians argued whether or not women, your daughters, had souls," Tacitus replied.
"You're bringing this up after over 1,300 years..." god said, "Yes, I was there when it happened. I saw them arguing. But, if a group of fifty fools feel adequate by locking themselves up in a room and spilling as much passion as haughtiness and arrogance over paragraphs, then let them."
"So, then, why didn't you grant Tizra his case, about losing his son in a war?" Tacitus asked.
"Tizra," god said, "He lost his son, but he had seventeen years of life afterwards. In that amount of time, he managed to find a new lover and a new trade. Yes, his son was gone, but not his own life. He went on and found new ways to express himself. On several occasions, he attended therapy groups, using the confidence of a group to help him bring out some of his issues into the light to resolve them. This can be seen in his character on other levels. Yes, he did mourn and grieve at the loss of his only son. But, he did manage to find outlets for his emotion. He was thankful to those who appreciated his company. The very moments of his life were like a poet thoughtfully articulating new rhymes. He was thankful for how he lived the latter years of his life, but he felt he needed to be recompensed."
"Tizra had no other children?" Tacitus asked.
"That's correct," god said, "But equally irrelevant. Every person is an individual, valuable and worthy in their own rights. You cannot simply have them switch places. Things that are unique cannot have this done to them. Having a second child would not destroy the pains and the sufferings that he had when he had to let go of the passionate and living memory he had of his only son."
"What's the precedence that you set then?" Tacitus asked, "Is it... that it is more important how you live than how you die?"
God thought about it for some seconds, and then nodded, "Yes, I suppose that is perhaps one of the precedents of my own courts."
"And, do you remember the case brought to you by Vicnor and Zalaz?" Tacitus asked.
"Ah, of course!" god replied, "Such a pair bringing suit in the heavens is as popular up here as the cases of Sacco and Vanzetti, or Loeb and Leopold, on your green earth."
"You recall what happened to those two, then, correct?" Tacitus asked.
"I certainly do," god said, "Vicnor and Zalas were on a plane crash. Three of the engines were torn from the plane with internal problems. I remember reading the newspapers after that happened... Someone said that this was my way of saying that man has gone far in his technological development. This seems odd, even though I designed mankind with an intelligence to manipulate and use his environment, and to take the risks that came with such manipulation. When I want to tell mankind what I think, I'll be pointing to him and speaking to him face to face. What would some newspaper editors know about what I think? They probably think that they are themselves god, or at least friends with me. When they finally reach heaven, my angels are trying to stifle laughter as I have one of them reinform of what the guy's name is again."
"Right," Tacitus said, "Religious speculation is highly dubious."
"But, anyway, on to the case of Vicnor and Zalas," god continued, "When they lost those engines, Vicnor said to Zalas, 'If you ever wanted to do anything before you die, you have three minutes to do it.' Zalas, ignoring the instructions of the flight attendants, stood up and pulled out his brief case. 'I always wanted to do a painting of myself,' he said to Vicnor, 'I suppose I will just have to settle for a pen and paper portrait, that will be rotting at the bottom of the ocean for thousands of years.' Vicnor asked for a sheet, and when asked what for, he replied, 'I always wanted to write a poem about imminent death. I suppose that's ironic.'"
"And you granted them a reward, too," Tacitus said.
"Of course," god replied, "How could I deny the world of having these presence of the bold, brazen, and beautiful? Besides, their story was considerably touching. I was moved, honestly."
"Oh, so god has emotions now?" Tacitus asked.
"Ah, you've spent too much time allowing theologians and preachers twist your ears," god said, "If I created the emotion, the one of mankind and his lower animals, and if I created it as one of the most powerful things, why would I deprived of it?"
"Because people see it as being inobjective, absence of being absolute," Tacitus replied.
"True enough in some cases," god replied, "But, enough of that conversation. I'll allow the preachers to keep talking if they allow me to keep ignoring. I know, I know... The quality of omniscience, of knowing everything, is moderately accurate. Yes, I did listen, but I try not to pay attention. Intolerance on earth may be defined as a bunch of people who concern themselves with what name they call me. North American Christians are gonna be all up in arms about some kid who goes to the woods to smoke weed and be with himself and talk to spirits, but when they find out that Jesus Christ is one of those spirits, they all lay off. Call me Allah, call me Jesus Christ, call me Ganesh or Vishnu or Elohim. To these people, it really is important what name is given to god. Enough to kill and murder over."
"So, why did you grant Vicnor and Zalas a reward at all?" Tacitus asked.
"Well," god said, as his eyes wandered throughout the beauty of the nature he had surrounded himself in, "They stared into the eyes of death meaningfully and bravely. They had only been alive 25 and 27 years. Men who can die at the hands of a reckless nature that they don't entirely understand, and who can do this while still believing in some ultimate and unending good, are men who deserve a second life. I granted them each one new life, not necessarily full of misery, not necessarily full of ecstasy I am allowing them to make out of it what they can."
"Ah, so with that same courage, they will meet life face to face and create a new life?" Tacitus said.
"They should be," god replied, "But, don't let any of that mislead you. Your environment is perhaps the greatest thing that molds you. I haven't looked over their case files recently, so I don't know precisely what kinds of lives they are leading. If they were born in ghettos, then of course they'll be more susceptible to the evils of gun violence and drug abuse. If they were born in mansions, then of course they'll be more susceptible to the evils of golfing under par and taxes and Jews."
"Ha, surely," Tacitus said, "No person has come to your court asking for a new life on account of those things?"
"Oh, you wouldn't believe the stuff I have to address," god said, "Everyone thinks themselves a victim. Half of the time they're right. The other half of the time I'm pissed off that they could think they're right."
"So, what if Zalas got shit out of luck, and finds himself in a Vietnamese village with his mother dying of malaria and his father already executed?" Tacitus asked, "Or, what if Vicnor ended up in some African village in poverty."
"Ah, your soul is full of the disease of nationalist egoism," god said, "But, I'm not going to blame you. It's common. Everyone thinks that, unless other people are living just like them, that they are living under the fist of injustice and misery. Yeah, and I suppose they are right half of the time. Some kids in Africa suffering from the AIDS virus, as it saps their body of strength and as their last heartbeat approaches closer and closer, yes, they are in misery. But, that is not true of all kids in Africa. In fact, some of them find peace through tribal chants as they go through their beaten paths in the woods. Of course, what is a tribal chant? It is precisely the same thing as a national anthem, or a state song, or a community's chorus. They excite the same emotions of mankind, of well being and even pride. Why have they cast the title of 'primitive' down on one and not the other? Man, even though my own invention, I must admit -- he puzzles even me."
"So, so, what if the scenarios I brought up are true?" Tacitus asked.
"You can put a hopeful person in a hopeless situation and it could still bring tragedy," god said, "So, what if the scenarios you brought up are true? I don't know what to say. Perhaps that debate is as old as the question of the existence of evil, period."
"Yeah, that is something I've been meaning to get at, too," Tacitus asked.
"But, first, you must tell me what the case you brought to me is," god said, stopping and then turning to Tacitus. Before them, there was a magnificent forest, with trees and a canopy that would inspire the heart of every artist, writer, or musician.
"Well, you should know why I filed this suit, feeling that life wasn't worth it," Tacitus said, "Didn't you read the preliminary reports?"
"Oh, psh," god said, "Nobody ever reads those."
"I am here not on account of previous tragedies," Tacitus said, "I am not here because I lost a loved one or experienced some harsh cruelty."
"I know," god replied.
"I thought you said you didn't read the preliminary report?" Tacitus asked.
"I lied," god said, "Come... Let us walk through this rather illusory forest." With that, the pair continued their journey through a beautiful afterlife.
"I read about your case," god said, "It was unique, though not entirely unusual."
"What makes you say that?" Tacitus said, "I fumbled through at least 8,000 files when I was in hell. I don't recall ever finding a case with this assertion."
"Okay, let me get this straight," god said, stopping in front of Tacitus, and standing there, as the vibrant life of the forest around him pulsed. "Let me get this straight," god said, "You think that life from beginning has been flawed, rather than life in ending?"
"Yes," Tacitus replied.
"You think that whatever the plant grew up to be, it was the seed that was rotten," god continued, "The child was not insolent naturally, it was the parents and educators who brought him up that way. A painting will be terrible if its painter is awful -- a poem will be disgusting if its poet is without any understanding of beauty, or passion. And, so, too, another analogy must -- inevitably -- be drawn. Just as creation is dependent upon creator, so too is the universe dependent upon me, god. Your case is, that life as it came out to be is not itself so evil, as the root that it came from, as the seed it sprouted from."
"Yes," Tacitus said.
"You do realize the result of this case, right?" god asked, "The logical conclusion?"
"I am very aware of it," Tacitus said, "It indicts you as being the cause of the world's ills."
"A lesser god," god said, continuing his walk with Tacitus, "would be more intimidated than intrigued by your case. So, please, prove your case to me."
Tacitus sighed, "Well.... You see, as I studied the history of the world, I found myself engulfed in the tragedies of the world. Thousands of people were killed in this nation for religious opinion, millions in another for political opinion, the entire globe bleeding the tear-soaked blood of oppressors. I hear stories of men being burned at the stake, and I see videos of concentration camps in Nazi Germany. As soon as I find one beautiful piece of literature, I am barraged with more than five different sordid tales. I hear about police brutality, of arsonists burning down stores, of men beating their wives. The pores of society, ancient, premodern, modern, postmodern, all of it.... the pores are excreting a poisonous residue. Since the inception of the world, there has been tragedy to follow. I need not to inform you of everything that has made my heart ache. You are god, omniscient, the all knowing."
"Yes, true, true," god said, "But, the fact that you personally understood the history of my world, the world I created, so well, still has its effects."
"But you knew what I was going to say, if you know everything?" Tacitus said.
"True, true," god said, "But, it's best to let a person speak their own mind and defend their own ideas, than to simply remain in ignorance and assume what they think or believe. Sure, sure, I may have known that you were going to make that plea on behalf of all the suffering of the world. Maybe I knew it not because I'm god, but maybe because I understand what you think."
"If you know everything," Tacitus started, "Tell me how this case is going to go then?"
"I could," god said, "If I've made up my mind on it yet." God smiled at Tacitus and continued walking through the enveloping forest.
"Do you know why I created the world?" god asked.
"Actually, I have no idea," Tacitus replied.
"See, there's one thing," god said, "I asked you that question, but I've not asked it of anyone else. The scholars of philosophy, theology, sociology, and metaphysics have concluded a variety of answers. I hear the prayers of people, thinking that I created them because I was lonely, because I wanted to create something magnificent, that I felt others deserved a chance to be alive and exist. Some say that I created them to exemplify my own glory, and others say that I created them as part of a universal saga. I hear everything, from all these cultures, superstitions, and myths."
"Are you going to tell me why you created the world?" Tacitus asked.
"Hhhhmmmmm?" god pondered, "I could. But it's not directly related to this case. However, I will say this much, so far. I never created this world with the idea of creating all this misery. I created sex, mankind turned it into rape. I created life, mankind turned it into death. For every field of flowers and trees that I have given you, mankind has paved over them with a new parking lot. Every beautiful and magnificent thing that has been created, there has been a way to pervert it into some form of misery and suffering. Ask me to take away the ability of sex, and there would be no rape. Sure, sure. Ask me to take away the flowers and the trees, and then of course there could be no destruction of the environment. You want to end death? Then let make take away life. Maybe it's a sad, unfortunate fact that one comes with the other. You cannot create happiness, without absence of happiness being somewhere."
"Okay, I understand all of this," Tacitus said, "But there are still some discrepancies about the world that I think need to be addressed."
"What?" god asked, "What did I miss? Did I miss the massive rape of the tens of thousands of girls under the command of Moses? Did I miss the massacres of every nation? Did I miss the oppressive and brutal treatment of kings, dictators, and presidents? What did I miss?"
"You missed nothing," Tacitus said, "But, the mind.... The minds of the world that you created... Could you not direct them closer to civilized behavior and less towards barbaric tones? Could you not give them a sense of compassion that would not die, no matter their culture?"
"I have considered that, Tacitus, my friend," god said, "Trust me. I have to feel everything that one of my creatures feels. And I have considered what I've done in creating their minds. It does hurt. Understand that I do feel what you're asking, probably so much more than what you're asking."
"I'm pretty sure that once the conscious and unconscious started to divide and separate in human development that suicide became a viable option," Tacitus said, "Nobody ever thought about life and death when their primary concern was eating enough food and breeding."
"What? I thought you just wanted to bring humans towards civilization and away from barbaric behavior?" god asked.
"Being simple is not cruel," Tacitus said.
"But it has been the mistake of the cruel to believe that simplicity is a sign of goodness," god said, "And it quite clearly is not."
"True, true, god," Tacitus replied, "That's not the argument I was erecting, anyway... There is so much reason to believe that the mind could have been developed in a way that could have alleviated the misery of the world."
"So, what are you asking for in this case?" god said.
"What?" Tacitus said, "Are you confessing that you --"
"I didn't ask for your second judgment," god replied, "I want to know... what did you ask for in presenting this case?"
"I want to lose my memory of all of the things that I learned," he said, "I want to have that part of my soul burned up and destroyed. And, I want to live one life on earth, in a rural, simple village, removed from the rape and massacre and wars that have plagued everything. Put me some place that I won't have to see that, hear about that, or even read about it. And, when I die, I want to join the others in the after life."
"Are you sure that you want this?" god asked.
"Yes, I am," Tacitus replied.
"So it is done," god said, "You win your case."
[This story brought to you by Punkerslut. Tacitus was myself and god was a conscionable entity that I used to bounce ideas off of. Thank you for reading.]