Long ago, in the very beginning, the entire universe was compressed into a small ball that could fit into a person’s palm, but no one existed to hold it. It was heavy and dark, alone in the vastness of emptiness, in the silence of loneliness.
Then, it exploded in a fiery burst that still echoes in the far corners of the universe. Its great eruption of life and death began the process that brought us to this day, this time.
In that explosive moment, time began. It was not measurable, as we measure it now. It was endless, but there was beginning. So shall there be an end.
The bits of matter once compressed into a ball flew out in arcs. There was nothing to stop it, except other pieces generated by that massive explosion. The force spewed rocks across the expanse of space. It forced tiny atoms to merge, creating gases. It launched other particles that still rove the galaxies in search of a resting space.
Where did the ball come from? God created it. Where did God come from? Man created Him in his own image.
Man came late to this explosive universe. First came the Sun to send life-giving forces to the cooling rocks and swirls of gasses. The Moon was plucked from its eternal journey, possibly wrenched from Earth, and made to circle this planet as a silent witness to the miracle of life.
Who did life come from? God created it. Where did God come from? Man created Him in his own image.
Life began slowly. Water derived from the gasses gathered in oceans upon the earth. In time, for all things need time, life started in the depth of water where darkness reigned. It began only because the Sun was far enough away to heat the water a little and yet not so close as to sear the fledgling cells as they emerged.
The creatures that arose were small and could not think. And, yet, they lived and died in increasing abundance. Several merged together to create larger beings. Soon, in timelessness that is still time, many creatures of all sizes filled the waters.
They were creative in their forms. Some grew roots, some had fins, and they changed to meet the dangers of their days, finding ways to reproduce rapidly. Their bodies decayed slowly on the ocean floor. Plants flourished. Their breaths changed the atmosphere of the surrounding world.
The most creative beings poked their heads from the water and saw dry land. They tested it slowly, hesitantly. They left the water briefly, but some grew roots and stayed. They found nourishment in the virgin soil. They grew tall and high. They arched toward the sky. The Sun greeted them; the Moon flew by and surveyed them.
Where did the animals and plants come from? God created them. Where did God come from? Man created Him in his own image.
As in the water, land creatures were creative. They developed into huge sizes, although smaller than those in the water. They explored the waters; some even returned to its safe embrace. They journeyed through the air. They burrowed below the ground, scampered through rising trees, trotted across its un-muddied surface. They ate as they could find food. Some needed meat; others could eat plants. All lived together without asking questions of themselves, their planet or their God. They communicated through noises and cries, and each found a niche in which survival was possible.
Time had not vanished. Time became change, so that sometimes plants disappeared, or animals lost their special place and could not endure, or floods, famines or cooling temperatures meant some could survive; some could not. The most creative altered their lifestyles to meet the new demands of time.
Who decided which creatures lived or died? God did. Who decided if God lived or died? Man did.
In the midst of this ever changing life, man arrived. He was born in what is now Africa. The first human was not a human, but a kind of animal that was born creative. It was different from its parents in ways that made it stronger and smarter. It survived; so did its children. It inherited skills such as grooming; climbing and thinking from its simian ancestors. It also developed its hands better for grasping weapons. It traded claws and talons, eagle eyes and an ability to scent the faintest odor for the skill to communicate and to think. It had no special talents that differentiated it from other creatures. It was not faster, bigger, stronger or more combative than its neighbors, but it was more creative. So it survived.
The creature that became man began to acknowledge time. It recognized a beginning and an end. It buried its dead with artifacts from life. It painted walls with memories and hopes. It created an explanation for life, a view of the world beyond death.
It created a God to oversee life and death.
Who created man? God created man. Who created God? Man created Him in his own image.
In the fullness of time, modern man and woman came into being. They bore within them the smallest creature, the first creation. And they carried within them the next creation, the one that would follow them; the one that would be more creative.
They looked up at the unknown and asked questions. Their small portion of earth flooded and they wanted to know why. The sky was blue, and they wanted to know why. Children died, and they wanted to know why. All that was good and bad surrounded them in a sea of confusion, and they wanted to know why. The skies thundered in loud voices that spoke of unseen residents in the rolling clouds. They gave the noises names. They saw the miracles of birth, the wonder of death, the marvels of growth and decay. They assigned deities to each aspect of life and identified a ruler of pantheon.
In them, they were able to find all answers.
Their answer was a pantheon of Gods.
The Gods were good to those who believed. They came down to earth to wander among their subjects. They answered prayers, they sustained life, they healed and they made the barren be the mothers of children. They were seen; they saw. They fathered their own children on the women of the earth. They placed the stars in the heaven, named the days of the week. They rewarded believers and lifted the lowly to the thrones of the world.
There were many Gods by many names. They were borne, like clothes, on the backs of wanderers. Those men who lived along the Nile willingly lent their Gods to visitors. Those men who lived in the Middle East carried their Gods with them to foreign lands. Names changed as languages bubbled up, so that a God from Egypt might become a God in Greece without anyone realizing the same God thrived in two places.
In time, men grew tired of their homes and longed for the riches imagined in far off places by those who wandered. They formed armies and appeared one day at the homes of the neighbors. Land became a parade ground, and, soon, men were fighting and dying for dirt, as though it were really theirs. All they possessed in the end was enough to cover their dead bodies, and even then, the land was just loaned until the lowly creatures could finish turning man into more dirt.
One people ruled the land, then another, then many others, until the land was divided into bristling, unclear borders. A king would call on Gods to support him in a fight with another king, who also called upon the same Gods disguised by different names.
The people of each kingdom identified themselves in the search for distinction: Egypt, Babylon, Minoa, Lebanon, Hittite, Edom, Elam, Assyria, Persia, Greece and Rome. Some of these lands faded as time scrubbed at their memories. Some survived the washing under different names. Some people lost their lands completely, but retained a sense of unity through their religion or their culture.
Many wrote great books of their accomplishments. Most were lost as time continued to smooth the features of human life. Some were carved into stone or written on leather parchment, papyrus or vellum and survived. A few were collected in an Assyrian library that was destroyed. But, stone does not burn. Some were stored in the searing heat of Egypt and endured centuries. Others were sealed in jars, portrayed in vivid color on temple walls or on tombs of once mighty kings otherwise forgotten.
The scribes and sculptures wrote about their Gods and their wondrous deeds. They talked of the miracles that accompanied their arrivals and departures. Some of these Gods died and were reborn. Some shared limbs with animals. All were very human.
And the people were happy because they saw that all the Gods were good.
Who created the great empires, the books to record their deeds, the talents of artists who memorialized their activities in monuments and statues? God did. Who created God? Man did.
In the western portion of the world, the empires finally coalesced into once called Rome. Ruled by a single individual in a single city, it was big enough to touch many countries and powerful enough to hold them enthralled by its greatness.
People brought together in Rome’s embrace began to see how many of the Gods were the same, but with different names. They began to worship them under combined names. There were fewer Gods in the Pantheon that governed the world, but each was just as strong and important. Some now spoke of morality and piety, such as Dionysus. Some demanded strong allegiance and secrecy. When all their followers finally died, the secret of their cults died, too. Death came to Gods and man alike.
Some saw the sadness of the world and envisioned a path to serenity. They said less was more, and that the reward would be the nothingness of peace eternal. Others foresaw a heaven where true believers could rejoice because they were right, while nonbelievers would gnash their teeth in the darkness outside.
All were right. All were wrong. No one knew what happened after death, so they answered the question before it was asked. There were great trials to be faced, said the Egyptians. There was nothing but a massive field with gray shades of the dead, said the Greeks. There was nothing at all, said the Jews. There was new life, said the Hindus and the Buddhists. There were angels and plenty, said the Persians.
Who ruled life after death? God did. Who created God? Man did.
There were gods of afterlife like Hades and Osiris. Living Men could enter and leave. Perseus did. Hercules did. Persephone stayed part of her year.
The answers made people feel good. They now know everything.
Some people did not agree with the many answers. They started with many Gods, but finally settled on One. They said He was given them as his portion, and He would be their guide forever. Jews, the remnants of the ancient country of Judea, held onto this one God despite His failures to rescue them. They lost their king and their country, but not their God. Instead, they combined many of the stories of their neighbors into a single book, and changed the stories to meet their God’s and their own needs. Weak and insignificant as a people, they envisioned their God as all powerful. Someday this god, Yahweh, would lift them above the haughty men who defeated and oppressed them. They thought of the magnificent leader who would accomplish that great feat on behalf of their God, and they knew they would be rewarded for their steadfast faith. They would conquer all.
Who would send the great leader? God would. Who sent God? Man did.
The great leader did not come. Instead, some people decided they could wait no longer. They concluded God would not send a mighty warrior to defeat the Romans. Instead, he would send a poor, unrecognized man would lead his followers to victory through piety on the only battlefield the Romans could not contest. This leader would be meaningless on Earth and great in heaven.
They accepted the glorious heaven imagined by some, and put their new leader in a throne room there. They created a pantheon of humans to serve him and decreed that all mankind would be judged for failing to recognize their great leader. Those who believed would be allowed to enjoy the good life of this envisioned heaven; those who declined would be tormented until they repented their obstinacy.
They built a hell with endless arrays of torturous instruments for nonbelievers. Death was not enough for those who denied their special vision.
They did not hesitate to borrow ideas from other beliefs. Their views spread rapidly with such vigor until almost everyone accepted this amalgamated religion. Heaven was built, hell erected; believers became saints; nonbelievers were transformed into sinners. As before, the writers described great deeds when God walked on earth. They spoke of miracles and wonders, signs and portents.
Nothing had changed, but names. In the fullness of time, names always change, but not reality.
Who created the names? God did. Who created God? Man did.
What did man want of his god? Justice for those who believed but were downtrodden; reward for those who believed but were not acknowledged; peace so that believers may enjoy their rewards; love so that believers may be acknowledged for their steadfast behavior; eternity so that believers could bask in their reward for recognizing the truth while those who scorned them could suffer for an equal amount of time.
Yet, in the beginnings, the real truths were evident. They are not justice, because time knows how to smooth away defects, not dispense virtue. They are not reward, because time eclipses all prizes and enlightens even Ozymandias. Nor are they peace, because time knows not peace or war. All are the same moments on an eternal clock. Nor are they eternity, because the greatest among us becomes nothing as time soldiers on.
If there are great truths, they are these:
Be creative. Life was born in creativity. It continues only through the creative efforts of a few. Creativity made small creatures poke their heads from warm waters and wonder about the lure of dry land. It makes an artist envision a different reality, a dreamer gaze upon the stars and see a future.
Be patient. Time moves on at a steady pace. It cares not for pleas nor prayers, gifts nor incense. There is no fate, no destiny, but for each life there is opportunity for creativity. It is that opportunity, however brief, to be more that makes life the wonder of the mind and not just a mere moment in history.
Be accepting. Of the ideas of mankind, there are some that may be right; others may be wrong. Time awards wisdom to many and accords glimpses of a larger reality to only a few. Those who determine right or wrong and so live their lives shunt aside their opportunity for creativity. Do not judge. Knowledge and understanding open creative doors. Certainty is a doorstop and a rock to pain blind feet.
Be studious. Time provides opportunity for creativity. Knowledge is owned by none and available to all. The more knowledge is accumulated, the more creativity abounds.
Be forgiving. Time erases. Time forgets. Time has no interest in non-creative ventures nor misdirected thoughts. Instead, it moves on creative paths which spread in all directions. Some lead to new doors; other to walls. Without trying, no one would know which path to follow.
Be helpful. Creativity may come in the smallest child or the oldest adult. It may creep into a nursery or a hospital bed. It may be a part of the inner being of the meanest creature. Those who help keep the creative spark alive and give it a chance to flare. Do not smother; do not preach. Simply encourage creativity.
Be giving. Time provides more opportunities to some and few to others. There is no equality. Time knows nothing of fair play. Those that have more need to aid those with less, so that creativity may flourish even in the worst of circumstances.
Creativity conceived of the reality of time and measured it. It recognized the amazement of distance between here and anywhere. It understood the depths of despair and the heights of love. Creativity wrote the great philosophies that underpin our lives. It envisioned the future towards which we trudge.
Who gave mankind creativity? God did. Who created God? Creativity did