An Irreverent Look at the Fate of Humankind
Donald R. Burleson, Ph.D.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Donald R. Burleson. All rights reserved.
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Once on a small water-bearing planet
somewhere in an average star-system
at the edge of an average galaxy,
self-replicating hydrocarbon molecules knitted together
in the primordial soup, whereupon the chemistry of life
worked itself out over vast spans of time,
and, through a large number of stages of lower
life-forms arrayed in considerable variety,
a self-aware bipedal race of creatures evolved.
(To refer to those intermediate life-forms
as 'lower,' you understand, amounts to
a bit of a self-congratulating gesture
on the part of humankind,
but we'll let that pass for the moment.)
In time these creatures built a sophisticated
world for themselves, establishing settlements
over the whole planet.
At some point they started inventing imaginary beings.
(Maybe not quite the same thing as the imaginary friends
children make up, but then not so different from that either,
when you come to think of it.)
In some cases there were supposed to be whole families
of these beings, usually inhabiting such places as mountaintops.
Some of the beings were said to be husband and wife,
or brother or sister, or sometimes both at the same time.
They drank and partied and carried on very colorfully, and
they were called things like Hephaestus and Athena and Hermes.
All in all, these mythical beings were pretty entertaining.
But later on some people's imaginations ran more gravely amok,
and they decided to boil all these imaginary beings down
into one big imaginary being. At the same time they moved him
(yea verily, him, because this entity was always envisioned as male)
all the way up into the sky, no longer to be a dweller on mountaintops,
since there had always been the danger, with the earlier imaginary beings,
that some smart-ass might climb the mountain and find out
that there was really nobody there.
The newly imagined sky-creature had to have a name,
so someone came up with one for him,
and the name, to the best of my recollection, was Bumberbunky.
With a capital B. The earlier imaginary creatures could then be thought of
as little-b bumberbunkies. Some people had also referred to them as 'gods,'
though this term seems rather prosaic and uninspired.
I have to assume that after so many centuries
of having imaginary beings with names like Osiris and Thor and Zeus,
the inventors of Bumberbunky wanted to pick a name this time
that didn't sound quite so silly.
(When I say "to the best of my recollection" they called him Bumberbunky,
I have probably revealed the fact that I'm a somewhat unreliable narrator.
But come on, if you've grown up reading religious texts,
you really ought to be used to that by now.)
If this name were bandied about to people already having grown to adulthood
and already having developed critical reasoning skills of their own,
one might be confident in supposing that they would
react with puzzlement and annoyance.
Hearing someone say, "You really ought to be thinking about Bumberbunky,"
or "Bumberbunky is good," or "You may meet Bumberbunky someday,"
they would naturally have asked,
"Who the bloody hell is Bumberbunky?"
But they would of course get no adequate answers.
Not getting answers, they would forget about Bumberbunky
and get on with their lives like sensible people.
But the name and the idea did catch on with some folks,
who wanted to build a folklore, a lasting mystique
around their imaginary being, for whatever reasons.
(It turned out there was a lot of money
to be made, actually, in dealing in this particular kind of delusion,
and a lot of power to be wielded,
power wielded by some groups of people over other groups of people.
Always an attractive idea, at least to those doing the wielding.)
Pretty soon, when a child was born, everyone around him
(or her; let us hypothesize first a boy-child)
incessantly dinned rather frightful but compelling
remarks about Bumberbunky into his ears:
"You must believe in Bumberbunky." "Bumberbunky expects your obedience."
"It's wicked and blasphemous not to worship and cherish Bumberbunky."
"If you don't adore Bumberbunky, with all your heart,
you will be cast into a horrible pit of fire and monsters,
where your flesh will burn and bugs will eat your eyes
out of their sockets for eternity, because
Bumberbunky is compassionate and wise."
"You must tell others about Bumberbunky."
"If those you tell about Bumberbunky don't listen,
you must stone them to death."
"No goodness can exist without Bumberbunky."
This business of stoning unbelievers, by the way, got to be quite a sport.
You could stone your grandmother to death for washing out a pair of your socks
on a Bumberbunky 'holy' day. But not, of course,
if you still wanted your socks washed out the next time.
As I said, male children were told some pretty scary stuff,
but if you were a girl-child, it got even scarier for you.
From the beginning you were told: "Since you're a girl,
you were made to serve men, in Bumberbunky's holy name."
And: "You are a child of Bumberbunky, but an inferior one,
since you're not the boy we were hoping for. After all,
Bumberbunky is male."
Most people came to believe all this,
because by the time they began to have a chance
at developing any critical thinking skills at all,
the name Bumberbunky was so deeply ingrained in them
and so reverberant with a holy sound born of constant
solemn repetition, that very few people even thought to question what,
if anything, it meant. Indeed it was considered, by most, to be wicked
to ask such questions, and those who did so rather quickly found
themselves seriously at odds with their fellows.
Eventually very elaborate stories were woven around Bumberbunky,
holy texts were compiled that Bumberbunky himself was said to have written,
and people inadequately impressed with these texts were tortured
to death, to show how merciful and good Bumberbunky was. Rituals sprang up,
wherein pious hymns were sung and chantings from the
holy texts were intoned, and woe to those not sufficiently regular at attendance.
Bumberbunky was just, Bumberbunky was good, but
for an imaginary guy Bumberbunky craved appeasement in a big way.
(The truth to tell, he had the ego of his creators.)
Faith in Bumberbunky came to be considered the most important
of life's obligations, whether it made sense or not.
You usually at least had to pretend to go along with it all,
even when it made you want to puke.
People called missionaries went from land to land, trying to spread the faith.
(They were usually eaten, but the faith managed to spread anyhow.)
The advent of Bumberbunky on the scene, even though he didn't really exist,
affected the language in remarkable ways.
By means of the negative prefix a- ('without'),
people who didn't believe in Bumberbunky came to be called
'a-Bumberbunky-ists,' and were sometimes described by the adjective
'Bumberbunky-less,' which meant something like
'having essentially the moral qualities of pond scum.'
Human behavior was most definitely circumscribed by
the imagined ever-watching presence of Bumberbunky.
Even thinking impious thoughts was forbidden.
You had a well-developed brain, but you weren't
supposed to use it. Something, you know, like the way it was
with sex organs.
The fun was only beginning, though.
As part of the developing lore, the idea went around,
and around and around and around,
that Bumberbunky had created the universe.
Or, more precisely, since Bumberbunky's inventors
didn't know there was a universe,
the idea went around that he created the Earth, even though
this notion of 'creation' was utterly impossible,
since matter was always a form of energy,
and energy could neither be created
nor destroyed, indeed could only move around and change form.
But some people thought they needed
to think of the world as 'intelligently designed' by Bumberbunky,
and since Bumberbunky didn't exist, it was necessary, or so they felt,
to invent him. After all, things were supposed
to have a beginning, even when they didn't.
This notion of a creator Bumberbunky was pretty fetching,
and it began to spread from mind to mind, like a virus,
a particularly nasty and pernicious virus at that.
The whole body of lore actually spread from the Eastern
part of the world to the Western part, even across the Great Water.
In time, it was almost impossible for an a-Bumberbunky-ist
to be elected to public office or have any friends.
How, believers exclaimed, could anyone be so churlish as to deny
that the world had a creator, or that believers in this creator
were his closest of first-name buddies? Really, for shame!
To that effect, one might read in the holy Book of Bumberbunky
that smuggest and most mind-numbing of pious pronouncements:
"The fool has said in his heart there is no Bumberbunky."
And that was that; one didn't want to be thought a fool by one's neighbors,
one's family members, one's employer, one's friends,
or especially one's Holy Inquisitors.
Skeptics had always said the universe wasn't created or designed at all
because it had always been here, running all by itself.
But believers adamantly disagreed.
After all, how could anyone honestly doubt
that the universe was intelligently designed,
when it contained such things as
monarch butterflies, crimson sunsets, and bubonic plague?
Many worshippers of Bumberbunky rejected the fact
that humankind had evolved from 'lower' life forms
because this obviously contradicted the quaint but very popular notion
that Bumberbunky had whipped us up like a pudding, so
actually it's pretty ironic that the whole concept
of Bumberbunky himself had evolved, from all those other
supernatural entities invented earlier, entities
that bumberbunkiologists called little-b bumberbunkies,
like Zeus and Apollo and that whole illustrious crowd.
But of course all that was rank superstition; big-b Bumberbunky
was the one true little-b bumberbunky.
And he was damned convenient to have around.
Now you could not only avoid even having to think honestly about
how the universe came to be-- you could ask Bumberbunky
for rain, attributing it to him if it did rain
and blaming his arch-field polar opposite Anti-Bumberbunky
if it didn't rain. Something for everyone.
But despite the demise of the 'lower' (and again this is a doubtful point)
little-b bumberbunkies from which big-b Bumberbunky had evolved,
he didn't have the playing field all to himself.
In the Eastern part of the world, where Bumberbunky
had been born as a shudder in someone's brain,
people made up yet another 'evolved' little-b bumberbunky,
but they called theirs Blumberbumpy
to differentiate it from Bumberbunky, rightly perceiving
that in a world ruled by delusions involving
sky-dwelling supernatural creatures, it's immensely important
clearly to distinguish one delusion from another.
This of course made Bumberbunky a false idol if you were
a Blumberbumpy fan, and Blumberbumpy a false idol
if you were a Bumberbunky fan. It could get a bit confusing
if you weren't paying attention.
Blumberbumpy was even a more demanding little-b bumberbunky
than big-b Bumberbunky.
(So far as religious scholars know, there were never
any little-b blumberbumpies, for some reason.
If there had been, would Bumberbunky have been a little-b blumberbumpy?
And would this have precluded his also being a little-b bumberbunky?
Heaven only knows.)
In his own holy texts, written by other holy text writers
who would say Blumberbumpy wrote the stuff
on his day off, this rival creature exacted absolute piety,
absolute standards of low conduct,
and absolute obedience. The holy Book of Blumberbumpy
(not to be confused with the holy Book of Bumberbunky
or books about little-b bumberbunkies of yesteryear)
insisted that all unbelievers be murdered,
the method of choice being beheading; this kept whole generations
of professional knife-sharpeners gainfully employed.
Ah, and the women! Women in the mental wasteland ruled by belief
in Blumberbumpy had reason to wish they were somewhere else,
since in Blumberbumpy's society they enjoyed a social status
somewhere between that of steaming-fresh dog turds
and the vomitous slime found in kitchen sink drainpipes.
This sort of thing, of course, was known as 'the will of Blumberbumpy.'
(Some things were the 'will of Bumberbunky' too,
depending on where you lived.)
The two holy entities were of course in constant conflict,
or rather the societies that believed in them were.
At length the Eastern society attacked the Western society,
over bumberbunkiological differences, and it was war ever after that,
until finally the mushroom-shaped clouds rose over the world,
and it was all over.
It was sad that no one appreciative of irony was left to ponder
the circumstances, because irony abounded--
the irony that it had all happened
not over money or property or geological resources,
but over things completely imaginary.
The human species had had the folly, the incomparable group insanity,
to annihilate itself over nursery tales.
When humankind was no more, various life forms, rendered hardier
than humans by natural selection and proving
to be impervious to the worst conditions humans had been
able to offer them, came out to take possession of the planet--
rats, cockroaches, ants, ticks, spiders, and sundry other
deserving heirs to the Earth. The smoldering planet continued to
revolve around the sun, with ghost-cities but without humankind--
no more music, no more science, no more poetry. But at least
there was no more talk of Bumberbunky, or Blumberbumpy, or whatever.
Rats and cockroaches and ants and ticks and spiders have better things to do.