I must admit, I was as surprised as anyone.
Hitherto a deity of such fine standing. A pillar (and often pestle) of many a community. That he should stoop so low. That he need stoop at all given his inferred omnipotence.
And yet, several hours after being relieved of my wallet, roughly one hundred euro of quite hard earned cash, a newly purchased smartphone (unsurprisingly, having the direct number to the Almighty has not resulted in any more success when attempting to contact the Good Lord directly) an assortment of bank cards, ticket stubs and souvenirs, it was the only possible explanation. The Lord God Almighty had revealed himself to me just long enough to steal my possessions before he buggered off once more into the ether never to be heard from again.
As far as clean getaways go, it’s pretty impressive.
As an atheist, I was all the more surprised to find that my finger of suspicion sought finally to rest upon the Good Lord as his non-existence ought to have made it even more difficult to have carried out the heist and yet even this salient fact managed to escape my attention as I poured over the night’s events in an effort to understand what had happened.
It is difficult to describe the myriad emotions that tumble in one’s mind like dirty water on a wash cycle after such misfortune. It is a bewildering tumbling of retribution, second guessing, resentment, ‘why-mes’, shame and some particularly foul thoughts of what soon might visit upon the head of the perpetrator(s). I admit, I was rather shocked by the ill fortune I would willingly have willed upon my attackers without another moment’s thought.
Even the Bard made an appearance as I wailed,
Wha shall say that Fortune grieves him,
While the star of hope she leaves him?
Me, nae cheerful twinkle lights me,
Dark despair around benights me.
The consequences of crime, as is always the case, were not mine to carry alone with those around me equally affected. My partner, Áine, fuelled by a heady cocktail of empathy and concern for seeing myself so distressed proved to be capable of even more imaginative violences as we sought out a universal judiciary to impose our will.
Finally, the plaintive and ubiquitous invocations of ‘what goes around comes around’, and ‘no good will come of it for them’ were hopefully offered by way of comfort and reassurance.
Sadly, what is true of roundabouts is not true of life, however much we wish it to be so. In all likelihood, the individual(s) went about their Saturday night, drank themselves silly at my expense, partied into the early hours, were treated to a tasty kebab on the way home then woke the next morning still chuckling at my misfortune before selling my phone and repeating the process, laughing wildly as they did so.
I wish it were not the case but for me to believe anything else I must redact one critical piece of the story. That what befell me – if the karmic roundabout is to be entertained – was simply a result of what once went around, coming back around again to kick me squarely and deservingly up the arse.
And yet I am courteous (when reminded), kind hearted, champion humility and for the greater part, am generous in spirit and with my time. I have worked more voluntary hours than the bitterness gained through my experiences ought to countenance and endeavour wherever possible to be equitable and true. Quite what I had done to deserve this…
And there it was. Without fanfare or prior genuflection…
I had found God.
Or at least I had conjured an agent that given enough encouragement might become one.
Given my vulnerable state, it was inevitable I suppose – mankind’s ability to discern patterns is proven to increase when he feels threatened or out of control – but still it came as a shock to me. The concept of ‘deserving or not deserving some thing‘ is a result of firstly having pleased or displeased ‘someone‘. Without too much effort on my behalf, I had stumbled upon an idea of agenticity that ought to shame any right thinking atheist.
Agenticity, to use the phrase coined by Michael Shermer is the belief that all things are created by a thinking and deciding mind. In my search for an explanation I had settled on any explanation, questioning what I had done to deserve such misfortune as though my misfortune were a response to some tangible, if unknowable, previous event.
What was most astounding to me however was the will to find the agent orchestrating the evening’s events. I consider myself to be a rational and clean thinking individual, not inclined toward fantasy or leaps of faith but I was astounded by my mind’s irascible longing to find reason with the unreasonable. The sensation lingered for several hours, long after I had finally been persuaded that no more could be done and to retire. There too, staring at the ceiling in the darkness, the compulsion toward seeking congruence was as strong and it was necessary to chide my thoughts as they surfaced, returning each attempt with a more rational response.
It seemed to me then, as I continued to search for answers in the inky recess of Sunday morning, that the search for agenticity was the default position of the mind when faced with the unobservable. Human knowledge and understanding ought always to be limited to the immediately observable but the conveniency of the intelligent agent behind the unseen has ensured that agenticity has remained with us still and continues to hold court over the many lacunae still to be found in our understanding of the world in which we inhabit.
The brain is a pattern seeking machine. Like Pavlov’s Dog, association learning compels us to seek patterns where they exist and create patterns where they do not. Patternicity, the ability to find patterns and agenticity were evolutionarily advantageous to the early hominid who quickly learned that punching a lion on the nose invariably resulted in the cessation of life or that the rustling of the wind in the bushes could not always be dismissed as simply the rustling of the wind in the bushes.
The trouble begins when agenticity is granted governance over areas it is ill equipped to govern. The result is all manner of interventionist goddesses, prophets, sun gods, cosmic teapots, New Age spiritualisms, angels, shamans, influencing constellations, dragons, demi-gods, Mystic Megs and falcon headed deities. (I have excluded the bean sìth and Loch Ness monster from this list as they obviously do exist).
It is for this reason that I conclude that to the religiously minded, the idea of the agent is more pertinent than the personality of the God they claim to serve. An idea better communicated by something I have felt to be true my entire life. That…
Belief in God is not necessary to be a Christian. Belief in Hell will suffice.
What befell me last weekend was nothing more than an opportunistic smash and grab. It was wholly unpleasant and more than a little unfair. But of course, life is not fair. I do not expect life to be fair. Indeed, the only time I expect life to be fair is when it proves just how unfair it is to me personally.
More often than not, life is unflinchingly unfair. But it is worth remembering that life is equitably unfair to each and every one of us and that makes it kind of fair after all. Albeit, a fair we don’t feel too madly about when we find ourselves on the receiving end of it’s fairness.