Interviews in the Afterlife
Reporter - A reporter for the St. Paul Times. [Paul Knierim]
God - Omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent being.
Devil - Wants to be evil but is kinda pathetic. [John Gaunce]
Reporter: Quiet please... quiet, please!
SFX: opening theme
Reporter: QuietPlease.org presents Quiet Please, which is written by and features Paul Knierim. Quiet Please for today is called "Interviews in the Afterlife"
SFX: bar noise
Reporter: I'm a reporter. A newspaper man. St. Paul Times, been there twenty eight years. I know, you thought we're extinct. Nobody younger than 70 subscribes to a newspaper. But lemme tell ya, we still have our uses. We can still break stories your online blogs can't. We can still go places others can't.
Lemme tell you about the biggest story I ever wrote. I never published it, because nobody would believe it. You won't either. But listen anyway.
I'd just got off work and I came in here for some drinks with my pal Tommy Krieger, he was writing the editorials back then, little did he know he was about to lose his job in the next round of layoffs. Anyway, it was the middle of December and after I'd had a few I made a little joke. Tommy, I said, I wish I could score an interview with God. Be the perfect thing to run on Christmas day, wouldn't it? I leaned back on my stool for a good drunk laugh, a bit too far back I guess because I fell off. And then the world went dark. And then things got very bright, but different, and I realized my wish was being kindly fulfilled.
SFX: Heavenly-sounding music signifies the setting of heaven, and fades out as the reporter speaks.
SFX: Several footsteps, as though on marble, as reporter approaches God.
Reporter: Mister God... I mean, Sir... er, Lord... what should I call you?
God: No formalities here, son. Just 'God' will be fine.
Reporter: Well, God, I'm a reporter for the St. Paul Times.
God: Oh yes, I've read your stories.
Reporter: [proud] Really? Wow.
God: Actually I read everything anybody writes. Omniscience, you know.
SFX: shuffling papers.
Reporter: I was thinking I should ask you the questions I've prepared here, but I guess you already know what they are without my needing to read them off. Could we just start at the top then, please, if you will?
God: Very well. You seem to have a lot of questions, but I've got all the time in the world. I'll just move time back to where it was when we're done.
Reporter: [nervously] This isn't going to be one of those things where you give the interview and then make me forget it all by rolling back time, is it?
God: Oh, heavens no. I just mean that I'll make time move back for everybody else, not for us. Don't worry if it seems impossible or paradoxical, I do that sort of stuff all the time. Omnipotence, you know.
Reporter: Anyhow, my first question...
God: You want me to prove that I exist. Please, you can't really mean this question seriously now. Just look at me, listen to me, you know I'm here.
Reporter: The senses can't be trusted, I need something beyond that. How do I know I'm not dreaming?
God: Have you tried the pinching method?
Reporter: [pinching self] Ouch! Still, this may all seem perfectly real, but how do I know there's not an evil demon tricking me? I need something which can't be doubted. If I can think of a scenario in which this experience wouldn't be a real indication that you exist, like the demon's deception, then my belief that you exist is baseless. It rests on air, no foundation. I'll have to conclude that you don't exist unless you can give me some proof.
God: [frustrated] You've been reading that idiot Descartes, I can tell. Hell was too good a reward for that one.
Reporter: Should I take it you disagree with Descartes' proofs of your existence? What do you think of his ontological proof? Aren't you the greatest being imaginable, and doesn't existence have to be part of your greatness?
God: Being omnipotent allows me to imagine a being greater than me. The way in which the being I imagine is greater than me is that unlike me it's so great that it's impossible to imagine anything greater than it. Now, according to my omniscient observations of the universe, this being I imagine does not exist. Case closed.
Reporter: [slightly confused, but recovering] But surely, even if you don't like Descartes' proofs, you can show me that it's irrational to doubt your existence.
God: Oh yes, I can... I think we just saw an example of irrational doubt when you said our conversation isn't enough to convince you that I'm here. Do you regularly hallucinate?
Reporter: [sheepishly] Sometimes after I've had too much to drink... gee sir, I mean God, I hope that won't count against me in the final judgement.
God: [sigh] Think nothing of it.
Reporter: Thanks! Now, my next question is about...
God: ... evil. You want to know why there's evil in the world. I hate it when people ask that. May I ask you a question before I answer?
God: Excuse me?
Reporter: Sorry, Freudian slip.
God: Well. Tell me, what's the least violent and most peaceful and happy and friendly TV show you can think of?
Reporter: Erm... Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood? Barney? Teletubbies?
God: Tell me, how do those shows make you feel when you watch them?
Reporter: First bored, then sickened. If I'm subjected to the suffocating cheerfulness for too long sometimes I start to feel suicidal.
God: Exactly. That's why evil and suffering exist.
Reporter: I see. You give us evil so that we aren't all driven to suicide by the dullness, by the disgusting perfection and happiness.
God: No no, you misunderstand. I put evil in the world so that I don't end up driven to suicide. It's hard enough to find diversions to make all eternity interesting as it is without making Earth into a dull paradise.
Reporter: So, do you like it when we kill each other? Does watching genocide give you pleasure?
SFX: loud crack of thunder.
Reporter: I'm sorry, that may have been a sensitive topic... um, moving on to other matters now. How are things in heaven? Have you ever had any problems, discontent people? Post-Lucifer, I mean.
God: Labor issues are omnipresent. There was that strike by the saints a while back. They said I wasn't treating them any better than the billions of regular residents of heaven, and insisted that their position demanded better compensation. Worse yet, most of the angels took their side insisting that there should be a hierarchy of happiness with saints and angels kept substantially happier than the common residents of heaven.
Reporter: Were things shut down for a while, or did you hire scabs [cough] I mean, replacement workers?
God: The devil lent me some of his staff. For two months I had them answering prayers. As you might expect, it didn't go too well. Our complaints department was really getting stressed out from all the negative feedback it generated.
Reporter: Sounds like a difficult situation. How did you resolve it?
God: Finally I had to make an example out of their main organizer by sending him to hell. That put them all back to work quickly enough.
Reporter: I'm sure our readers would like to know who's been relocated.
God: Section C paragraph 12 of this year's God-Devil labor agreement specifies that I'm not allowed to release the names of his customers without his permission. If you're curious, just remember to ask him when you meet him.
Reporter: I'm going to meet him? You mean you've arranged an interview for me with him?
God: [laughing softly] Oh yes. An eternal interview, even worse than this one.
Reporter: [nervously] Well... let's see, I have just a few more questions left. Are you satisfied with how the faithful worship you? How can they please you better?
God: Every time I've tried to explain, it seems to lead to the likes of plagues and wars and getting nailed to a cross. Even when I write it down in a book nobody can agree on what it means. I will say only that nobody has come close to understanding what I wanted, so I suggest you all forget it and go on about your own business. I'll be fine, I can take care of myself.
Reporter: Down on Earth, as I'm sure you know, people often ponder the problem of whether you can create a rock so heavy that you can't lift it. What light can you shed on this issue for our readers?
God: Rest assured I can create such a rock, and then lift it too. See, your many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is basically correct, if rudimentary. I use quantum indeterminacy to shift between the universe where I can't lift the rock and the one where I can, and then fuse the two universes so that both are true.
Reporter: I'll take your word for that. Now, what do you feel is your greatest accomplishment? Perhaps the big bang, Earth, human life... what is it?
God: [thoughtfully] Nitrogen.
Reporter: [confused] I don't understand.
God: I wouldn't expect you to.
Reporter: What are your goals for the future?
God: I'll let this universe run its course for a few trillion more years, then I'll make a bigger one. I feel so confined here. My next universe will have twice as much spacetime, but using only half the materials.
Reporter: How would that work? Will it be spread out and mostly empty?
God: No, no. It'll be three times as dense. By switching to a 12 dimension model of superstring I can create a new type of virtual particle which will elongate bosons and allow Bose-Einstein condensates to form at a higher temperature, making the universe much more efficient than this one. I'm really looking forward to it, sometimes I think about doing away with this universe early in order to get on with it.
Reporter: I see.
God: I rather doubt that, but your time is up.
Reporter: [startled] It is? I'm only 32. [pause, then relief] Oh, you mean the interview. Thank you for your time.
God: Don't mention it.
Reporter: May I come again with follow up questions in a few weeks?
God: Don't even think about it.
Reporter: Would you mind if I stay here a while and find some famous dead people to interview?
God: Yes, I'd mind. Heaven wouldn't be heaven if people were bothered by reporters in it. You suggested you'd like to interview the devil though, and I can help you there. Here, I'll get you started with a little kick.
SFX: screaming while falling through air, then a thud.
SFX: crackling fire and occasional distant screams... continues in background.
Reporter: Ouch. Nasty looking place. Well, as long as I'm here I may as well get the interview done.
SFX: footsteps on crunchy material, then they stop.
Reporter: Mr. Devil... I mean, Satan... er, Lucifer... what should I call you?
Devil: Just 'Devil' will be fine.
Reporter: Well, Devil, I'm a reporter for the St. Paul Times.
Devil: Why oh why do they name cities after saints? My emissaries have so much more to do with what goes on there.
Reporter: That brings me to my first question. Could you give our readers some idea of what you've been doing lately and what your plans are for the near future?
Devil: I'm afraid that's classified information. All I can say is that you should expect a number of murders this week and a new war starting within the year. Perhaps you'll also be interested to know that I'm responsible for all the disasters your planet has been experiencing... I chalk up the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Haiti earthquake as some of my finest work.
Reporter: [cautiously] Actually, science has explained those incidents as the result of shifting tectonic plates. Science also tells us that shoddy human construction was responsible for many of the deaths, and poor political planning and slow response cost more lives. I don't see where you come into the picture.
Devil: You believe it? You believe this primitive so-called science of yours over my word?
Reporter: [nervously] Well... yes.
Devil: I hate science. Oh, what's the use anymore? I admit it. I haven't been doing anything up there lately, I've grown too fat and old and lazy. When I look up at the Earth and see what you people do to it I can't think up any more evil things than you already have, so I no longer bother trying.
Reporter: Thank you for your honesty, it's quite commendable.
Devil: Not so loud, please. The last thing I need is a reputation for morality.
Reporter: Sorry, I didn't mean it that way, I'm sure you had ulterior motives for your honesty. Now, my next question for you goes back to when I interviewed your partner in the business of post-life human soul housing, Mr. God. He indicated that the two of you have a labor agreement. Would you mind telling our readers if the number of souls you can capture is specified in such an agreement?
Devil: I used to get a guaranteed minimum, so that if there weren't enough immoral souls in a given year I could take in some virtuous ones to do some of the milder jobs. These days the tables have turned a bit, I've been getting more than I can process and the agreement forces God to take in some people of rather questionable virtue who he assigns to some of heaven's more menial tasks.
Reporter: And what are the sorts of tasks you put people to here in hell?
Devil: There's quite a variety, much like on your Earth. We have janitors, plumbers, telephone sanitizers, sewage inspectors, inventory specialists, leaf-blower operators and so on. We also have lawyers to handle disputes and contractual issues, and lots of advertising specialists to sell our image to the world. For law and advertising we use people who excelled in the fields during life... fortunately we get quite a lot of them. The rest of the jobs are assigned according to how evil the person was in their life.
Reporter: Could you tell me what the worst, most tortuous job is? What do the very worst people have to do?
Devil: You can actually see them from here. Look, over in that corner.
Reporter: No... it can't be... you wouldn't...
Devil: It is. That lot of murderers spends all day taking tech support calls from abusive customers who comment on their computer's convenient slide-out cup holder while writing 'click' on their screen and complaining that they can't locate the 'any' key. We require our help desk staff to be friendly and cheerful while they run through the troubleshooting procedure to fix the problems of our valued customers.
Reporter: Please, say no more... I'm really going to clean up my life when I get back to Earth. Getting back to my questions, I asked God what his greatest accomplishment was and I'd be interested to know yours for comparison. What's been your greatest accomplishment to date?
Devil: Fire. Figuring out how to create a fire really brightened things up down here.
Reporter: But wasn't fire harnessed by people in the Paleolithic period, about a half million years ago?
Devil: Who told you that?
Reporter: Archaeological records.
Devil: I faked those. Haven't you heard?
Reporter: Sorry sir, I don't believe you.
Devil: Oh, hell. I don't seem to be any good at lying anymore. Rub it in, why don't you? Yes, hell was originally just a pile of wood. Yes, it was an early human arsonist who after his death showed me that by rubbing sticks together he could set off an eternal blaze. You'd have it that I've never accomplished anything, but that's where you're wrong. It's not the method for making fire that matters, it's all in how you market it. The idea to make fire the main symbol of hell and to highlight it in all our brochures... that was my very own special directive.
Reporter: If you say so. I must get going now so I can write up the story for tomorrow's paper. Thank you for your time and your frank answers to my questions.
Devil: You're going to print this? Damnation. People won't be afraid of me anymore. Perhaps I should kill you, or at least wipe your memory.
Reporter: Uh, please, let's not be rash here. Your reputation precedes you. Everyone knows the devil is a fearsome power to be reckoned with. I have nothing to prove my visit, so if I write something making you look weak no one will believe it anyway.
Devil: True enough I suppose.
Devil: Until we meet again.
SFX: footsteps on crunchy material fading away into distance.
SFX: bar noise fades in
Reporter: Well, there it is. I woke up with Tommy standing over me splashing water on my face. Told you ya wouldn't believe me.
SFX: closing theme