McDermott said. “You know what I want, don’t You?”...so I'm sitting there in church and listening to the sermon. The text was from Lamentations; that's not terribly surprising given the date--but then the pastor added a discussion of the book of Job...and as he spoke about the story in that book suddenly I realized that was exactly the same thing I had said in my story.
He nodded. “Of course I do. You’ve gone to a great deal of trouble to arrange it; but to be honest I never seriously considered that someone might end up here by mistake. All you want is to pass beyond?”
“You will do that as a matter of course,” the old man said. “Now, or in a century, or a millennium—what does the time matter? Why be impatient? I went to a great deal of trouble to create the universe; why not explore some of it? Besides,” He pointed out, “you might die while doing so.”
“I’m tired of life,” McDermott said.
“No; you’re tired of feeling guilty for your sins,” He denied. “Those two things are not the same.”
“Those things are a millstone around my neck,” McDermott said to the old man.
“So? Others in history have done far worse, and attempted to atone for them. Why should you be any different?”
“You’re not going to let me die, are you?” McDermott demanded.
“If that’s what you want, I’ll grant it,” He replied. “But why should I? You haven’t given Me a good reason. I don’t see any reason for a healthy specimen such as yourself to seek—much less be granted!—death. A few pernicious acts committed six centuries ago—bah! You’ve already been forgiven for those, by Me, and by those you’ve wronged. The one you wronged the most, she forgave you and made you a rich man. Why not accept that you’re not the evil man you were the last time we spoke? Why not accept the gift of a new life and make it a shining example of philanthropy and charity?”
McDermott looked at his feet.
“Okay, then I’ll say it: because you’re scared,” the old man sneered. “You’re afraid that you’ll just do bad things, because you can’t help yourself. Right?”
“Well, guess what? None of you instinctively does the right thing. Every last one of you has venal impulses. I made you that way. I made you that way in order to give you a chance to choose what you would do: things that made you better, or things that made you worse.”
“But why?” McDermott asked, startled at the tears in his eyes. “Why did you make us like this?”
“Pick your theory, any one the human race has ever come up with. Go to the Prokes, or the Marethia, or the Po!narr, or the Gindi, or the K’r’r’r’r’r’eee’eee’r’rt.” At McDermott’s startled glance the old man said, “Of course I can pronounce their name for themselves. Anyway, examine all the philosophies of all the sentient races in the universe. ’Why’ doesn’t matter. I made you this way; deal with it. How you deal with it—that is what matters!”
I do not know the Bible well. I can quote a few passages, and I've read it as far as about halfway through the New Testament--skipping the "begats"--but I never really read it or studied it.
Yet, I--somehow--came up with that simple and profound message as part of the ending of a multi-novel story arc which explores some of these eternal questions.
No, I don't think it's coincidence.