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Al Martinez

God Doesn't Sweat the Small Stuff

July 08, 2002|Al Martinez

I was talking to God the other day on the shores of Lake Okanagan. Actually, we were having a martini together just as the sun was setting behind the mountains, splashing the sky with pastel shades of red and gold. His kind of sunset.

He appeared out of nowhere. A flash of light, a twang of a harp and there he was, in jeans and a T-shirt that said "Don't Blame Me." The last time I saw him, he was wearing a long white robe and walking barefoot along the beach at Malibu. I thought he was just another transcendental meditationist in touch with the inner him, but turned out it was The Man. When you're God, you can be anything you want.

He comes down in a lot of different configurations. Sometimes he's a fireman rushing into the flames to save a life. Sometimes he's a woman going through hell to raise a family. Sometimes he's the perfect innocence of a small child. Sometimes he's just a quiet day.

A die-hard movie buff I know is convinced he's like Marlon Brando in "Apocalypse Now," kind of fat and mumbly and Hollywood holy, but I don't think so.

What he isn't most of the time is a phony. Not that he doesn't like the poor fools who hustle him for self-gain. When you're God you've got to like everyone. But he's tired of being used by every Tom, Dick and George W. with a political agenda.

Anti-abortionists parade him through town like a circus elephant, televangelists shout his praise to extort money from old ladies, evil people kill babies in his name, and now we're tearing the country apart over the inclusion of two words in a pledge of allegiance that probably isn't necessary to begin with. God Almighty, what a mess.

Lake Okanagan, in case you're wondering, is in Canada, about four hours east of Vancouver, B.C. We sneaked up there for a few days to avoid the madding crowds. Legend says it's where the creature Ogopogo lives. He's a sort of Loch Ness monster with a horse's head and a serpent's body.

Oggie has been around since the 1800s and gives the lake the kind of mystic quality that God likes. I'd have named the beast something other than Ogopogo, but I wasn't in charge. The lake is huge, 80 miles long and 800 feet deep at one point, which provides plenty of space for a figment of anyone's imagination.

"Stay out of the water when you're drinking!"

That was my wife, Cinelli, calling from the veranda that overlooks the beach. She's certain that after a drink or so I'm going to think I'm a fish and dive into the lake, wiggling my little fish tail and disappearing into the deep. A fish I'm not. A bird maybe, yes. I've always felt that if you flapped your arms hard enough ....

Anyhow, God was holding a martini when he settled down next to me on the lake shore. I noticed right away he was special because his martini glowed. Only God could order up a dry martini, hold the olive, add the aura.

"I'm glad you're here," I said.

"I know you are," he said, somewhat whimsically. "I'm God."

"Right. Anyhow, I was wondering ...."

"I know what you're wondering, and if I were reciting the American Pledge of Allegiance, I would not say 'one nation, under me, with liberty and justice for all.' "

"I didn't really think so."

God was in Canada for a rest, he said, because Canadians don't get all that worked up about little things. Like the "under God" business.

"Who cares what you say," he said. "It's what you believe and what you do that counts." He gestured so hard that a little of the martini sprinkled into the air and instantly turned into tiny angels.

He saw me stare and said, "You like that? A minor miracle."

"Er, speaking of miracles ...."

"No," he said, reading my mind again, "I won't. Peace and love and a chicken in every pot are things you've got to work out. Mankind is my miracle. Use the miraculous insights I've given you. Judgment and sensitivity are not gifts to be squandered."

"They're not working," I said. "We're still killing each other while quarreling about whether we're under ... er ... you."

"Give it time," he said. "It's still Monday morning."

I figured out that he meant it in cosmic time, that it's still early in our existence. Maybe later on we'll decide that killing and praying aren't what God had in mind when he slapped us together.

"I'm just saying it's up to you," he said. "I gave humanity the power of decision. Tuesday could be sweet."

He stood, preparing to leave.

"Wait," I said. "One more question. Are there ...."

"Virgins in heaven?"

"Martinis. You missed on that one."

"I was shutting down. Heaven is what you make it. Look around. You'll find it."

A twilight sheen had settled on the lake. There was a silence so deep that one could almost hear the heart of the Earth beating. And when I looked down, miracle of miracles, my martini glass was full again.

I usually only have one, but what could I do? The second was God's will.

"Here's to you," I said, holding the glass high. A soft breeze rustled the treetops in response.

*

Al Martinez's column appears Mondays and Thursdays. He's at al.martinez@latimes.com.

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