1. The Chairgod proposed a vote of thanks to Quetzalcoatl for his gift of chocolate to keep their spirits from flagging during the session. Whatever mankind had thought of the gift of chocolate, he, the Chairgod, said he had found it very refreshing.
2. A Hindu goddess with an unusual amount of limbs said that chocolate, like all gifts to humanity, had proved a double-edged sword. It might have been refreshing, cheering and nourishing, but it was also addictive, fattening and left horrible stains when it melted, which wasn't much fun when it went down all your six sleeves.
3. Like fire, said the Chairgod.
4. What did he mean, like fire? said the Hindu goddess, waving several of her arms impatiently.
5. The Chairgod said he meant that all gifts to humanity were a double-edged sword, and that whenever given half a chance humanity would muck up the gift. Like alcohol, for example. Or sex. But especially fire. When the human race had originally been given fire, many years ago, there had been a long and heated discussion at the United Deities as to whether it should in fact be made a gift at all.
6. An old Norse sea god said he had not been present at that debate, or if he had, he had no memory of it, which was quite possible as he had had quite a bad mead problem for a long time round about then. What had been the objection to humans being given fire? Surely it was just a harmless aid to cooking? His Viking worshippers has always enjoyed putting places to fire and sword. It wasn't quite the same just putting them to the sword.
7. The Chairgod said that before any decision about fire had been made, they had done some research into its uses, and it rapidly became obvious that, once given fire, humanity would use it for many things beside cooking. They would discover how to make things of metal, they would make metal weapons, they would discover gunpowder, they would make guns, then bombs, then nuclear arms ...
8. The Norse seagod asked if they had really deduced all that in advance?
9. Oh, yes, said the Chairgod. We may not be omniscient, but between us we know pretty well all there is to know. We knew perfectly well that if we gave man fire for cooking and drying, it would lead inevitably to international wars on a huge scale.
10. Then why the blazes did you decide to give it to him ? the Norse seagod wanted to know.
11. They had NOT decided to give it to him, said the Chairgod. They had decided against. But the Greek person Prometheus had come along and breached security, and fled with the secrets of fire, and given them to mankind - and well, it was a long story and he didn't want to go into it again.
12. Had a full inquiry and everything, had they? chortled the old Norse seagod. Had a lot of buck-passing and blame-shifting, and heads-must-roll stuff, had they? And at the end of the day, were there any gods for the chop? No, he didn't expect there was. Old gods' network at work again.
13. That was not the way they did things, said the Chairgod reprovingly. Blame culture was for humans. All that gods were interested in was divine justice and divine fairness.
14. The Norse seagod said they should tell that one to the mermaids. From his experience of seeing gods at work, they were just as cack-handed as humans, and made a lot more damage. He had known gods who were so inefficient that they couldn't organise piss-ups in an ambrosia factory.
15. The Chairgod ruled this out of order, and said that if the Norse seagod could not behave properly he should not say anything at all.
16. A minor Assyrian god said he had never spoken at one of these meetings before, but he was very much looking forward to the American war against Iraq, as it was being fought on his old home ground, where he had seen some great battles in the old days. He wondered if anyone knew the definite starting date for the War, as he didn't want to miss it.
17. The Chairgod said that the starting date for the War was known to the committee, but they were not circulating it, for fear that some unscrupulous gods should try to influence the outcome.
18. The old Norse seagod said a plague on the lot of them and stormed out of the meeting, which was then adjourned.
The Independent January 28th 2003