Miles Kington: Immortality isn't all it's cracked up to be

Thor was not in favour of a quiet time. He was in favour of noise, war and lots of drunken singing
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The Independent Online

We paid a visit yesterday to the United Deities, the celestial version of the United Nations, and as the conversation among the gods was about to turn to a very interesting and topical subject, I think we should stick with them for another helping of wisdom.

1. The chairgod said that the next item on the agenda was New Year Resolutions. Even if it was not actually the new year for all religions...

2. The Jewish God asked him to hold on for a moment and clarify this. Was he suggesting a discussion of human resolutions? Or was he proposing that the gods themselves made New Year resolutions?

3. The chairgod said he was easy, either way.

4. The Jewish God asked him to hold on for another moment and clarify this again. Was he suggesting that deities could improve their behaviour? And that they were therefore not perfect?

5. The chairgod said that although some gods did have the gift of perfection, many deities were as fallible as their worshippers. Religion was charmingly varied. He had noticed that the more gods a religion claimed, the more vagaries of behaviour were permitted to the gods involved.

6. In his experience, the monotheistic religions, which had only the one deity, could not afford to have gods who were badly behaved, whereas religions with a cast of thousands were quite different.

7. One only had to think of the Greek and Roman gods, who were often swayed by jealousy, envy, anger and argumentativeness.

8. Zeus said that on behalf of all Greek gods he would like lust added to that list.

9. Thor, the Norse god of thunder, asked what was so wrong with argumentativeness.

10. The chairgod said that it led to arguments. If Thor had had to act as the chairgod as often as he had, he would be weary of disagreement and all in favour of a quiet time.

11. Thor said he would never be in favour of a quiet time. Noise, war and lots of drunken singing, that is what he was in favour of. And thunder, of course.

12. Zeus asked if the chairgod had added lust to the list.

13. The chairgod said he had.

14. In that case, said Zeus, could he also add love of gambling to the list.

15. The chairgod said he did not know that the Greek gods were fond of gambling.

16. It whiled away the time, said Zeus. Being immortal put great strains on the patience. At tense moments in history, the gods and goddesses had enjoyed placing great bets on the outcome. The Trojan War had seen unprecedented stakes being placed on one side or the other. That was why the gods were always trying to intervene in human affairs. It was to protect their wagers.

17. The chairgod said he did not understand what was in it for them. A god could not lose a fortune. They had no money. How could they lose?

18. Oh, in many different ways, said Zeus. By paying forfeits, for example. He himself, after losing one large wager, had been obliged to go down to Earth in the form of a swan. At another time as a bull. Being a bull was not so bad, but going out on the razzle in the form of a swan was the most embarrassing thing he had ever known.

19. The Jewish God asked if that was the origin of the phrase "Swan's Hellenic Cruises"? (Laughter)

20. The chairgod wondered if any god present was actually minded to make any resolutions.

21. An Indian god with four arms said that she had sometimes felt impelled to take up knitting, if only to occupy her hands.

22. Thor said that he would like to make a resolution not to sit around so much talking hot air, but getting out and doing more fighting.

23. The chairgod said he thought he knew when a discussion was flagging, and proposed moving on to the next item, which was the regular request from Satan to be allowed to attend these meetings.

24. All voting against this, except Loki, the chairgod suggested that they adjourn for an ambrosia and nectar break.

More of this soon, I hope.

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