[Before Life had begun, 4,064 words, Genre: Mind Fudge]
* Image courtesy of Dirk de Bruyn
Before life had begun, everyone stood in line. They stood in line because a magical genie had promised to grant them all one wish. With this one wish they could choose to be whatever they liked in life. This wish would allow them to survive in the world. It would be their one skill that they could take with them throughout life in order to survive. This skill or vocation would be the one determining thing in their survival.
The genie opened up shop and declared, “We’re open for business. Whatever you want to be, you can be. Say it and I will make it. First in, first served.”
The genie had opened up and started his work of fulfilling wishes. People argued and pushed to the front of the line. They bickered amongst one another and to this the genie replied, “Patience, patience. You must have patience. Good things come to those who wait.”
And still everyone bickered amongst themselves on who was going to be first. And so the Genie declared, “Alright, we must have some order in this room. So I’m selecting the Jews.”
People complained and asked, “Why the Jews?”
The genie replied, “They’re the people I’ve chosen and my choice is absolute. That’s all there is to it.”
The arrogant Jews amongst their number laughed. And claimed, “By the time we’re done with our wishes there will be no vocations left for them to pick.” They laughed and laughed, “No, we should give them something.”
They deliberated amongst themselves, “Why would we give them anything?”
“Well, we have to give them something.”
“Alright, let’s give them music so that they can sing songs about how great we are.”
They laughed and laughed. And then the queue started being served.
The women amongst their number were smart and quickly decided, saying things like, “I want to be the smartest in the world.”
The next in line didn’t know what to say and so he said, “I want to marry her.” He pointed to the smartest woman in the world.
The genie asked, “What do you mean by marry?”
The man replied, “You know. Like own her.”
The smartest woman and also person in the world looked appalled at what the man had said. He had decisively come up with the concept of marriage and in a way the concept of ownership and slavery.
The next man in line was angry by this. A small dark fellow, he turned around to his people and broadly exclaimed, “People. I expected better of us than this. This idea of ownership is the worst we’ve had.”
Another man argued with him, “No, it’s the best idea.”
“The worst,” the small dark man argued.
Then it was the small dark man’s turn. The genie asked him, “So what do you want to be?”
The man replied, making up a word, “Death.”
“I see and what is death exactly?”
“It means that you can’t own anything.” The small dark man replied.
The genie replied, “I see.” The genie stopped the cue and led the small dark man by the hand to the front of the crowd where everyone could see him. “Here he is folks. Death himself.” Then whispered into the man’s ear, “A lot of people hate you. Not me though. I worship you. I think you’re the best.” Everyone in the crowd wondered who death was, or what death was.
And then the line continued. The next man said, when asked what he wanted to be, stated, “Inheritance.”
“I see and what does inheritance mean?”
“It means you can own things.”
Death, waiting with all the other people who had been served called out, “You bastard!”
The genie replied, “Okay, I mean you’re just an idea anyway. Whereas Mr. Death over there is eternal. He is absolute.”
Death whispered to himself, “Yes!”
“Hey!” Inheritance spoke, “What does that mean?”
“It means you don’t exist dummy!” Death called out.
“No, I’m asking the Genie. What does it mean?”
“Go over there and discuss it with Mr. Death. You two can continue on the debate for all of time for all I care.”
The line continued to be served. There was a lot of people who were in existence and helping create this world. The Genie hadn’t yet even finished serving the Jewish people.
The debate and the creation of death had caused some issue of controversy, not only throughout the Jewish people, but all people combined. And with this confusion.
Some people came through the line and said, “Can I have time to think about it.”
The Genie replied, “You sure can.” And the wish was fulfilled and then the next person in line was served.
Two Jewish friends were waiting in the line. Their names Arie and Theo. As others were having their wishes fulfilled in front of them they discussed their wishes and what they would be.
“So what are you going to be?” Asked Theo.
“I don’t know,” replied Arie, “Let me think about it.”
And so Arie thought and thought and then he came up with something. “I know what I’m going to be.”
“Okay, tell me.”
“Yes, simply the best.”
“No,” said Theo, “That’s a stupid idea. I mean you can’t just be the best. You have to be the best at something.”
“No, simply the best.” And then Arie started singing that song, “Simply the best. Better than all the rest.” And laughing.
By this time people in the line were listening to the conversation that the two were having. As other people had their wishes fulfilled at being doctors, businessmen, builders or even thieves. They never qualified how good they were. They simply stated their vocation and that was all there was to it.
Theo argued persistently and then Arie asked, “Oh, like you have a better idea. What are you going to be?”
“I don’t know, a thief?”
The woman in front of them listened intently as the two argued over whether it was a good idea or not. Then it was her turn to be served.
“Okay,” the genie asked, “And what do you do?”
“I’m the best at sex.”
“I see and what is sex?”
“Just the best thing in the world.”
“Hot damn! Now we’re talking!”
“Will you have sex with me?”
The woman slammed her fists on the table, “Anytime you want!”
“Oh baby! Hot stuff coming through!” And the woman was served and moved on to others that had been served.
Then it was Theo’s turn. When the genie asked him what did he want to be, he paused confused.
Arie called out to him, “Say it. You’re a thief.”
Then Theo said it, “The best.”
The genie asked, “The best? That’s it?”
“That’s right. Simply, ‘the best’. No one to envy. Just ‘the best’.”
Arie was pissed off. Because Theo had stolen his idea. Arie called out, “You motherfucker!”
But Theo had already been served and now it was Arie’s turn. The genie looked at Arie and understood his predicament. Arie didn’t have to say anything as he was paused with nothing to say since his idea had been taken away from him.
The genie somehow understood this and told him, “Go to the back of the line and think about it. Remember, good things come to those who wait and the Genie winked.
The next guy in the line came up and when the genie asked him what he wanted to be, he, the guy replied, “The worst.”
The genie thought about this and pondered, “Some say best, some say worst. I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective really. Some things that are bad turn out to be good and some things that are good turn out to be bad. Some people say worst, not me though, I say ‘best’.”
Arie was still standing by, he could have said that. But the loss of his idea had stumped him and so, he guessed, that was why the Genie had told him to go to the back of the line.
And that’s where Arie went. He went to the back of the line. And that’s where he waited.
More people came and were served and then a little girl came to be served. The Genie commented, “Oh, aren’t you adorable. Tell me, what do you want to be?”
“Love? What’s that?”
“Just the best part of sex.”
“Interesting. The best thing in the best thing in the world. That’s brilliant!”
“But what are you exactly?”
“I am everywhere. I am in everyone. I am love. I am part of sex, but I don’t have to be. I am love.”
“That’s adorable. Wish granted.”
And with that the Jews were finished. The next people were the Scots. When the Genie called out ‘next’ a man sauntered up.
“I see, and what do you want to be?”
“Well, that’s the thing sir. The Jews. They’re already the best at everything. What’s left for us?”
The Jews called out, “Music! Do something in music.”
“Yeah,” they whispered amongst themselves, “So they can sing songs about our skills and adventures.”
“Do you want to do something in music?”
“Not really Genie, sir.”
The genie thought about it and then came up with something, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll divide all of the people into their different races and what-not so that everyone can be the best. You can be the best amongst your own people. But that has to be your wish. Do you understand?”
“And you agree?”
“Alright then. Wish granted.”
The Jews were appalled by this. Thinking that everyone in the world should be one people. And they pointed out this guy and said, ‘He’s the one. He’s the guy who did it.’
So the Genie separated the people. And said, “Except for love and death, you are a separate people and you should work together as one people. You; love and death. You two need each other the most and should stand aside from everyone and with everyone because you apply to everyone.”
Death and love separated themselves and then inheritance asked, “Can I go with them?”
The Genie said, “Yeah, whatever, go with them and talk it out with death. But you don’t apply to all people like death and love.”
“Yes he does!” Love shouted out.
“Why is that?” The Genie asked.
“Because I’m a part of him. He’s an expression of me.”
“Oh, isn’t that adorable.” And so the Genie allowed it.
And then the Scots were served. As with other people. They just copied the Jews and became the best of their own people.
The Scots were served and then the English. Then came the Irish. Now they had an idea that was new.
The first one of the Irishmen came to the front of the line and said, “The Irish are the best people.”
To which the Genie replied, “You know what, they really are.”
The next guy in line was called to the front. The rest of the Irish urged the first guy in front of the line. This guy’s name was Tim. He tripped and stumbled. They were saying, “Go on. Say it.”
Tim didn’t know what to say. He was being pressured into it by all of his fellow countrymen. The Genie looked at him, Tim was confused. All he had to do was say one thing that everyone else was urging him to say.
“Say it!” They called out.
The Genie put his hand up and said, “Don’t worry about it. I know what you’re going to say.”
“Yeah, and it’s already true.”
“It’s already true?”
“Yeah, but people just don’t get it, go to the back of the line and keep the other guy company, he’ll lay it all out for you.”
The next guy in line, another Irishman, came to the front and said, “The Jews are the worst people.”
Tim walked away. Thinking to himself, that’s all he had to say. That’s what his fellow countrymen had asked him to say. So, why hadn’t he said it? Too late now. He walked to the back of the line. All of his countrymen disgusted with him and not wanting to have anything to do with him.
Tim went to the back of the line. There he met Arie. Tim explained what had happened and how the people had urged Tim to say that the Jewish people were the worst people.
Arie, being Jewish himself, exclaimed, “What! Jewish people are the best people!”
“That’s not what he said and the Genie fulfils all wishes. He said that Jewish people were the worst people.”
“I don’t get it. We have the smartest people in the world. The Jewish people are the best in the world.”
“No, Irish people are the best in the world. The guy before me said that. All of us Irish people came up with it together. We thought about it together and we planned on saying that we were the best people and the Jews were the worst people. Because that’s something that hasn’t been done before.”
“And why didn’t you say it then?”
“I don’t know. I am the worst Irishman in the world.”
“Some say worst, I say best Irishman in the world. Let’s think about it and how it works shall we?”
“So,” Arie reasoned out, “Jewish people are the best in the world. They are the smartest and most capable people. But together, as a people, they are the worst people. They are the worst people because they are the best. Because individually, they’re great. But when you get them together they come up with ideas like ‘let’s make everyone sing songs about us.’ By God they really are the worst people in the world! But only when you get them together. And they’re worse together because they’re so smart. And because they’re so smart and the best people in the world they always end up fighting amongst each other and acting like morons.”
“What does that say about the Irish then?”
“Well, if you apply the same logic, then Irish people are stupid and the worst as individuals. But the best as a collective people.”
“What does that make me as the worst Irishman?”
“Well, that makes you the best of them. The worst of the worst is a double negative, so that makes you the best of the best.”
“That genie also told me that it was already true, before I said anything.”
“That’s interesting,” Arie said.
“So what do you think that means?”
Then it clicked for Arie, “That motherfucking genie is a genius! These things are already true and the world exists as it currently exists. We are simply telling him the truth about the world and our own place in the world and that genie is taking all the credit for it.”
“Then what about love and death?”
“What about it?”
“Well, they’re eternal values.” And the conversation continued.
Meanwhile, the Genie continued serving people, dealing out their wishes. Some people said they were the best at something and other people were saying the worst. Because, as the Genie had stipulated. Some people say worst and some people say best. Some bad things turn out to be good things later on and some good things turn out to be bad things. It’s all a matter of perspective really.
Death, love and inheritance were describing to each other what they were. Death was arguing with inheritance on why he didn’t exist. And love was defending inheritance, saying that inheritance was an expression of love. Death was asking love why she wouldn’t see his side of the argument. To which love expressed, “Because I am not with you. I am absent of you. You could say I hate you, but really hate is just the absence of love.”
“And what exactly is love? You know you never really did explain yourself properly.”
“Love is what makes people great and glorious. Love is what makes everyone so great. Love is everything.”
“I see. But what exactly are you?” Death asked.
“I am love. What exactly is death?”
“Death is the end.”
Everyone heard the argument between love and death and the people who were being served said they had to do something about it. It so happened that the Indian people were currently being served. Then one of them came up and said, “I am reincarnation.”
“I see,” The Genie said, “And what is reincarnation?”
“It means that death isn’t final and we get to live again.”
“Oh, you’re the best yet! Stand with death, love and inheritance and join the debate.”
So reincarnation joined the debate. Inheritance, who, upon reincarnation’s explanation of what he was, said this, “I don’t believe in you. You’re just a belief and that means you don’t exist!” Perhaps he was sore that as soon as reincarnation showed up, love had loved him. Now, love was beginning to love reincarnation more.
And then death and reincarnation started fighting each other. “I am the end!” Called out death.
“And every end is another beginning!” Shouted reincarnation.
And at the back of the line Tim and Arie continued their conversation. They were talking about these eternal figures. “Now, there’s another one of them!” Said Tim.
“I like this guy! Reincarnation’s great!”
“I like this other guy. This inheritance guy.”
“Ewww… You have the worst taste. What about love?”
“Well, everyone likes her.”
“But this inheritance guy? You like him? Why?”
“Because he’s an expression of love.”
“No, he’s not.”
“What do you mean?”
“Inheritance was created in spite of death. Because people wanted to own things. Ownership has nothing to do with love. This whole idea of marriage is archaic in that sense that it was an earlier form of slavery for the females. That’s why I like death so much, because he really spits in the eyes of people who think they own things. In that, he’s the best lover of all time.”
“What do you mean? He’s a monster! Love isn’t with him at all. I mean, love and death are fighting all the time.”
“Yeah, well, that’s love for you. Death is fighting for love, because he hates the idea of ownership and love is fighting with death because she wants to make him a little bit less extreme and more like her. That’s why I like reincarnation. Because he’s the mediator between death and love. He’ll make sure everything works out the way it should.”
“No, he won’t! He’ll just make everything worse. With inheritance, it means that one people will continue owning everything for all time.”
“Oh, they’ll work it out. They’ll all work it out. I mean you may be an Irishman in this life, but who’s to say in the next life you won’t be a Jew.”
“I don’t know…”
“These eternal figures, these forces that be, they’re not stupid. They’ll work out people’s differences and teach us all a lesson or two. You’ll see.”
And the line continued on. The Genie continued to serve different people and hand out their vocation. One guy, Abram he was called, thought he was hot stuff. He came sauntering to the table and the Genie asked him, “So what do you want to be?”
Abram, who recognised a good idea when he saw one, said, “I want to be the best at recognition.”
“I see and what’s recognition?”
“Why it’s just the best part of love.”
“You bastard! You’re just copying what love did.”
“Hey, I recognise a good idea when I see one.”
“Yeah, that’s about all you do.”
“Hey, don’t I recognise you…” Abram looked at the Genie more closely and there was some hint of recognition within Abram.
“Ahh… No, enjoy your life and have fun.”
Abram shrugged and then moved on.
Then Kees came to the table and said, “I don’t know.” He was quite confused, “I guess I’ll be the best brother.”
“That’s right!” The Genie said, “You are absolutely the best brother!”
When Kees went to join the others, Abram was there who immediately recognised him as his brother.
Then came a guy called Levente. He thought about it and said, “I want to be the worst at being taken for granted.”
“I see and what’s being taken for granted?”
“Being taken for granted is the worst part of love.”
The Genie looked at him and said, “You see, now that’s actually smart.”
The next guy came up. A guy named Grant at which point the Genie said, “Hey! I recognise this guy!” And gave him a high five. “So what do you want to be?”
“I want to be the best at being taken for granted.”
“Really?” The Genie asked. “Why?”
“Because even the worst part of love still has to be pretty good right?”
“Absolutely! I salute you sir, and the favour you’re all doing us! That other guy wanted to ruin love for everyone, but you go to prove the contrary.”
The line continued and Tim and Arie were at the end of the line, still discussing what was happening with love, death, reincarnation and the whole motif of life.
Meanwhile, in the backrooms. Abram was going around telling everyone how he recognised the genie who was granting everyone wishes. He was the best at recognition after all. And so everyone celebrated Abram, thinking he was the magical genie. Because recognition is a two-way street. He recognised Kees and Kees being the best brother recognised him, as did many others.
For Tim and Arie. Eventually, it was their turn. But when it came to their turn they were busy in conversation discussing the truth between being the best and worst of something and hadn’t thought about what they would say.
Arie was first and when the Genie asked him what do you want to be, Arie replied, “The best at everything they said.”
And Tim was next and said, “Well, if he’s the best at everything then I’m the worst at everything they said.”
They hadn’t even realised what they had said and looked up from their conversation and there was someone else standing behind them who, when asked what he wanted to be said, “I want to own everything.”
Arie asked, “Hey! Where did this person come from?”
Tim turned and said, “Don’t know. It’s a mystery to me.”
They were sent to the backrooms and Arie was arguing with the newcomer on how he couldn’t own everything because owning things is not an act of love.
They joined the other people at the back rooms and there was much debate. Abram came up and said, “I recognise this guy. I’m interested, what exactly did you say?”
“I said I was the best at everything everybody else said.”
Levente came up and said, “That was one of the worst things you could have done. Don’t you see. I mean, think about it. The best at being taken for granted. Who wants to be that guy?”
“Well, Grant does…”
“Idiot!” Exclaimed Levente. “You’re the best at all the bad things as well.”
Arie turned around to Tim and said, “See, I told you. Being the worst at something doesn’t necessarily make you the worst. You just have to think about all the double negatives involved.”
“I see.” Tim said contemplatively.
Then the guy who said he was the worst came along and rubbed his hands together and said, “He he he. I’m the worst. I’m the worst.”
Levente looked at the guy who said he was the worst and said, “Hey, I like this guy.”
“He he he. I’m the worst. I’m the worst.”
Levente took ‘the worst’ by the shoulder and walked away,”Yes, my friend. You’re the worst. But what are you the worst at? You have to be the worst at something for it to mean anything.”
Arie looked on as Levente walked away, “I guess he really is the worst at being taken for granted if he appreciates this guy.” Like with everything people said. Things are a two way street and work both ways.
Then Theo came along and asked Arie, “Then what am I?”
Arie responded and said, “The best. Simply, the best.” And flags came up and there were fireworks and all sorts of other crazy shit.