wordsout by Godfrey Rust                                     BREAKING THE CHAINS 23 of 61  HOME 


Sun on Earth

Squiggles

Maybe God's at home in heaven today.
The sun seems to smile down,
doling out warmth and light
as if just for us. 

But we know better. 
The sun
is quite indifferent to our welfare
and wouldn't be the least concerned
if the world were under permafrost,
or reduced to a small glowing cinder
following a neutron attack
by nine-foot aliens from the planet Zog.

The sun has quite enough problems of its own,
such as dealing with spots
like any other adolescent star,
and wondering how to get itself a tan.

Yet long ago,
when the human race was in its early laps,
things seemed to be heaven sent.
Sun was a god
riding his chariot across the sky.
Thunder and lightning kept us on our toes. 
Stars knew their place.
The moon was lit conveniently most nights.

Then science got down to it—
a private eye digging for dirt
to prove that his client had been seriously deceived.

And now
after extensive research
in the features section of The Guardian
and the first eight pages of
A Brief History of Time
I can reveal the origins of life itself,
which is to do with
squiggles.

What happened was
13 billion years ago
something went bang
(or maybe more of a whump,
we're still working on that bit)

and the squiggles set off
across whatever was there at the time
to begin the becoming
or become the beginning.

The squiggles spread
and all things being equal would have turned
into a kind of cosmic goo
like Chinese restaurant chicken & sweetcorn soup
without the sweetcorn

but there were little ripples
like noodles in the soup
which pulled the squiggles
into lumps
then turned into bits
of things.

Waiter
there's a squiggle in my soup. 
Never mind sir
just leave it there long enough
it'll evolve into a fly— 
but only if conditions
are favourable.

The other planets didn't have what it takes. 
Mercury flew close to the sun
but forgot to revolve
and so it roasts itself on one side
like an abandoned beefburger on a barbeque.

Venus took the leisure centre approach
but someone left the sauna on for a few billennia

and conditions on Jupiter
have clearly depressed the market for timeshares,

but evolution,
like Goldilocks
trying out all the possibilities,
found one place that was just right—
it seems that
of all the planets
in all the solar systems
in all the universe
we had to squiggle into this one.

Of course
we may not be alone.
But if there is life elsewhere
it may not be as we know it. 

Perhaps elsewhere a squiggle
became a squoggle
and so people on another planet
have three heads and one foot
and Carry On films are there considered
the highest form of culture.

Meanwhile back on earth
the squiggles became hieroglyphics
then an alphabet
and finally a digital display
on the screen of the ultimate laptop,
working out its view of life
as a series of mathematical equations.

The gaps in which God might be found
are closed up daily.

The tabloids report he was last seen
clothed in a tatty sentimentality
skulking in the doorway of a West End church
cadging coppers from old ladies.

The laptop says
the board of superstition
has been swept clean— 
prayers are no more use than touching wood,
demons are now exorcised by drugs,
drought is caused not by divine judgement
but by bad management— 
cosmic blame can now be laid squarely at the door
of the Anglian Water Authority

and though horoscopes are still quite interesting
it seems that God didn't make
the little green apples,
rainbows are just a trick of the light,
the Man's no longer in the Moon,
our feelings are just nerves following the brain's agenda
and words are only noises that we make.

The program writes itself out
towards the Superlaw,
the single, ultimate equation
and as for other explanations
they are just stories,
and stories can't be true
because they can't be proved

and so our dream is that one day
Winnie-the-Pooh will stump off up the forest
to discover the defective gene
which will account for Eeyore,
the wolf will put Red Riding Hood away for ever
and Father Christmas, Jesus and the fairies
will go to Never-Never Land
where they will find security of tenure
in the Department of Psychology 

and we shall read our children bedtime algebra,
softly crooning quantum lullabies
as they drift off into the black hole of sleep. 

But in their dreams
the theories unravel—

Darwin had a good shot with evolution,
but if only the fittest survive
what can explain the continuing existence
of Spud-U-Like and Barry Manilow?

The hypothesis
that we live in just one
of an infinite number of universes
is surely nothing more than comfort
for Scottish football fans
that somewhere, sometime
they must have qualified for a semi-final,

and if this is the best
of all possible worlds,
then what is Milton Keynes? 

The results have come back from the lab
but they’re rather disappointing.
There’s been some kind of mix-up— 
is a photograph really no more than black dots?
Is music just a stream of data?
Is a diamond nothing more
than a seriously depressed piece of carbon,
or a kiss only a comprehensive exchange of germs?
Is metaphor coincidence
and art just fashion,
blood a useful carrier of nutrients,
sweat a consequence of overheating
tears an involuntary chemical reaction
caused frequently by death,
which itself is only the molecules
no longer vibrating?

The equations say
that these words here on this page
are nothing more than squiggles. 

It seems we have
some work still to do on all this.
Grant applications are pouring in
for more research into the structure
of truth goodness beauty love and evil,
why Keats didn’t just write
Ode On a Grecian Squiggle
or Shakespeare pen
All’s Well That Ends In Squiggles.

The mathematics strain to look
over their shoulder to see
who it might be
who turns the dots back into pictures
and noises into music. 

Where can we find him?
After we've taken the universe apart
and looked under every piece
of cold, dark matter
and pronounced him missing
(or at least that he's been in a meeting
for a very long time)

will we hear him
walking in the garden of genetics
in the cool of the universe's day?

Or see him
gazing out at us
from the cold, dark matter of the heart
which is not located by telescopes
or susceptible to chemotherapy?
 
We may well have been fooled,
like the deconstructionist English student
who took his word-processor to pieces
to find the meaning of the poem he'd just written,

and what then if
the point he's really making
as he writes out his universe in its endless
tantalising, well-designed equations
is just one simple, massive overstatement: 

Look at it—
and none of this is of as much value
as the soul that your technology will never find! 

Now will you believe me
when I tell you
just how much you are worth?
 

This boy curled up on his father's knee
draws squiggles with a felt-tip pen,
coaxing them into significance.
Upon the paper
they turn into a park, a car, a street 

and this girl on her garden swing
makes quantum jumps onto the lawn
grinning in a wholly uncalculated way 

and above
the sun seems to smile down,
doling out warmth and light
as if just for us.
Maybe God's at home in heaven today.


Written for The Word's Out, a show with John and Carina Persson and Mike Giddins at the Watermans Theatre, Brentford, May 1992.