Here’s the draft prologue for A Comedy for the End of Time:
Please permit me to introduce myself; I am the Lord of Chaos, at your service.
You think you don’t know me but, actually, we’ve met on many occasions and I’m usually just behind you. Mostly, you never notice me. Of course, I don’t announce myself or flaunt my power, unlike certain deities I could mention, although I should really use the past tense there. No purple trumpets announce my arrival, oh, no. No flocks of bloody angels, dropping shit on your head. Still, they say it’s lucky and we all need a bit of luck.
I honestly think that demanding worship is the beginning of the end. Such arrogance! You see, I always like to think that reticence is like virginity; you can only lose it once and I’ve managed to keep my purity for…well, let’s just say a long time. Of course, I’ve had to learn how to keep myself in the shadows because modesty is a jewel to be kept under the cloak, a gem that I alone can see, a possession that only I can take pleasure from. It’s like a cat taking a soft delight from the name that only he knows and cats know a thing or two. Creatures of the night. Feral, but deigning to accept kindness thanklessly, like royalty. How I like cats. You think that you take pleasure from your possessions but, actually, you only get satisfaction from showing them to others. Otherwise, why have them? Keep them to yourself, that’s the secret. What does a cat own? His dignity. His name. Nothing more. My name? Oh, come now. Do you ask a cat its real name? Of course not. He’d never tell you anyway. It’s a secret, you see.
I miss the old man, really I do. Oh, yes, we had fun together but I have to say that he was the creator of his own undoing. You’d think he’d have been smarter. I told him so many times but, you know what he was like; never listened to anyone. Like talking to a brick wall. In the end, I gave up. He thought he knew it all but there’s a salutary lesson for you: you create something and it turns round and pisses on you. I’ve seen it so many times with big corporations. To be honest, I’ve been there to nudge the odd elbow but that’s all part of the fun. Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Education, you see? You allow education and people suddenly start to think and then they think they’re in control. Replace the irrational with the rational and there’s no need for gods. I, on the other hand, prevail because I am not sustained by adoration or fuelled by the irrational. Rather the opposite.
You’ll think I’m a sentimental old fool but I still mourn the old bugger. You see, if there was a void before he started the avalanche of events that would eventually lead to his own demise, then he probably created me as well. Frankly I can’t remember that far back. I mean, who remembers their own birth? Anyway, he’s gone now but I’m still here. Who would have thought it?
Now you’re beginning to ask yourself about my motivation. Why do I do it? Well, it’s based on thermodynamics. Let me explain. In the beginning was the word and from that came the universe, born in chaos. Enter, yours truly. The chaos diminished and congealed into the starry, starry night. Not my doing – blame the old man. But every time you light a match or burn some fuel, you’re helping to bring chaos back because those processes only go in one direction; they are irreversible. So, from chaos came order and from order comes chaos. It’s a natural cycle, so I’m not doing anything unnatural, despite what you hear. But the one thing has always troubled me is that knowledge is a paradox. Eve, lovely girl, took an apple from the tree of knowledge and the industrial revolution was its ultimate expression. How quickly you’ve progressed from cow shit to cyberspace, to a world that’s starting to glow, where half die of obesity while the rest starve. You see, knowledge itself will lead to chaos without any help from me.
So much for the science but I’m not much for academic matters and prefer to concentrate on you because you are far more interesting. Of course, I do what I can to bring chaos from order but, frankly, I don’t need to do much because you mostly do it yourselves; I simply allow human nature to do what it does best. Sometimes you need a helping hand to speed matters along but mostly I can rely on – pardon my frankness – your greed and stupidity. Please don’t take offence; I just say it like it is. Take capitalism, for example. What a fabulous creation that was. All my own work, even if I say so myself. People get rich, people get poor, economies have to grow and grow, everyone wants more and more yet needs less and less. The entire edifice is madness. I can sit back and enjoy a whisky, watching events unfold before my eyes. You could as well. Human nature at its best. A little madness is necessary in all things.
Do you like the theatre? Me too. Well, this is like the stage but it’s far more entertaining because it’s real. The actors are flesh-and-blood. They’re you. And, before you start jabbing your finger at me, I should point out that I am the director, not an actor. Like all good directors, I set the scene, make a few suggestions and let you improvise. I need only get involved if things seem to be going off the rails. The actors are the important players.
What of wars? Wars are not started by governments, they are started by people. Great decisions that affect the whole of mankind are made by people – like you – and me – but it was Plato who said that you are puppets in the hands of ideas. But whose ideas? Pardon me if I allow myself a little smile. You see, conflict will always exist where people have different ideas. There is only one society where everyone has the same idea and that it totalitarianism. That is order. Democracy is chaos. I like democracy. Democracies do not attack other democracies, they are attacked by the others. So, do I get involved in wars? Absolutely not. Conflict may be chaos but the outcome is order. In any case, wars proceed under their own momentum whilst I sun myself and have a cocktail. I read about them and shake my head sadly. A million die here, another million there. What does it matter? I’m really not in the numbers game. You’ll think me heartless but, in a world of limited resources, the true irony is that there is only one thing on the earth that is unlimited and that is human beings. You will continue to make more of them. That gladdens my heart.
And please don’t blame me for great disasters. Frankly, when I see one of those, and I’ve seen plenty, I take a holiday because they have an uncanny ability to bring out the best in people which makes me sick because subverting genuine goodness is difficult and simply becomes frustrating.
So, there you have it. My role is to bring us all back to natural chaos and, in the process, I can entertain myself. Do I want you to suffer? No. Not unless it’s absolutely necessary. We can work together and I am reasonable. Think of me as the joker in a pack of cards. We all need some entertainment because existence would be dreadfully dull without it. You, like all animals, have a limited time span. I, on the other hand, have eternity and, believe me, an eternity without a few laughs is not worth thinking about. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. There is no heaven or hell. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones…to quote the Bard. He was usually right, but then he had a helping hand.
I would like you to be happy, but what is happiness? You can’t define happiness any more than you can define darkness. Darkness is the absence of light. Happiness is the absence of things that make you unhappy. That’s it. You can’t define something that exists by virtue of other things not being there. Therefore happiness is an abstract concept that defies any objective description. Still, you should be happy but remember that really high-minded people are indifferent to happiness, especially other people’s. I should, however, also state that, in my experience, pure evil is rare and normally couched in madness. It is far more the case that good intentions so often have unexpected results. In fact, it is only me that truly expects them and therein lies the true path to chaos.
So, am I selfish? I confess that I am. Do I have enemies? Yes, of course. Things do not always go my way but therein lies the challenge. However, remember that my enemy’s enemy is my friend. Am I paranoid? Possibly, but even paranoids have enemies. I am even-handed, though; I neither love nor hate. I have no principles and that is my greatest virtue. Can I be tragic? Yes. My tragedy is that, in the end, I will succeed and be the only one left standing. Of course, we’re talking about a long time from now, when time itself will cease to exist, and where will the fun be then? I’d rather not think about it, so let’s not go there. Sometimes, when I’m nursing my drink and get melancholy, I wonder whether it’s the entertainment that sustains me, just as it was the blind adoration of the ignorant that kept the old man going. But, when the fun dries up and chaos is all about me again, will I also cease to exist?
Ah! Enough of this maudlin’ stuff. Philosophy was never my strong point either. I, like you, exist for now. What the future holds, I have no idea…I’m not a fortune teller, although I can clearly see the consequences of actions. I do my best under difficult circumstances.
Damn…my glass is empty. Just wait there while I get a refill. I’ll be back in the twinkling of an eye. I may even be standing behind you.