1. The chairgod hoped he would not be misconstrued if he wished the other gods a Happy New Year. He realised that not everyone used the same dating system, but . . .
2. Jove said that all dating systems were lousy. On the other hand, he had once gone on a blind date with a swan, and that had been a lot of fun.
3. The chairgod said that was not the kind of dating system he was talking about.
4. Jove said he fully realised that. It was a joke, dummkopf.
5. The Jewish God said he was amazed to hear Jove using Yiddish expressions. Had he been mixing with some other Jewish god he didn’t know about? If so, he would be glad to hear about it, as he was meant to be the only Jewish god, and he would be pleased to hear about the competition.
6. Jove said that he had picked up the expression from some early Germanic gods he had recently met.
7. Nevertheless, said the Jewish god, he was in complete agreement with Jove in that all systems of dating could be very confusing, especially the Christian one.
8. The Christian god asked what was so confusing about it.
9. Oh, for heaven’s sake, did he have to explain, wanted to know the Jewish God.
10. You had a situation in which, if something happened after Jesus’s birth, the years counted forwards, but if it happened before, the years counted backwards. Backwards! Was that stupid or was that stupid?
11. He challenged the Christian god to name any other system which counted backwards to get a result.
12. Willingly, said the Christian God. When you counted minus numbers, you had to count backwards from nought. When you calculated cold temperatures, you counted backwards from zero. When you . . .
13. Mars, the Roman god of war, said that things were much better in the old Roman days. The Romans counted history from the most important event in their history, the founding of Rome. AUC, that was what they called it. Ab Urbe Condita. From The Founding Of The City. So 400 AUC was the four hundredth year of history.
14. In that case, said the Christian God, how did they date things that had happened before the fund of Rome? Did they say AUC Minus One, AUC Minus Two, etc?
15. In the eyes of Rome, said Mars, nothing that happened in pre-Roman times was worth talking about.
16. An unidentified Chinese god said that a lot had been going on in China way before Romulus and Remus had got their act together.
17. Mars said he knew that. But the people in Rome did not know that. As a matter of interest, how did they count years in China?
18. The Chinese god said that the world would know soon enough how the Chinese numbered the years, when China took over from America as top nation. Meanwhile, he had no wish to talk about the new year, as the Chinese New year was not until February.
19. Jove inquired which amusing little animal was being celebrated this year by the Chinese.
20. The Chinese god said it would be the Year of the Rooster.
21. Jove said he could never understand what all these animals meant in the Chinese calendar. Rooster, snake, lizard, rat . . . He was not sure where Chinese astrology finished and Chinese cookery started.
22. The Chinese god said he had no wish to hear Chinese culture being insulted in this way.
23. The chairgod said that he should not mind what Jove said. If he had not been to these gods’ get–togethers before, he should understand that they took place in a healthy atmosphere of intolerance and rudeness.
More of this tomorrow, I hope.
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 had 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 only had one god, could not afford to have gods who were badly behaved, but 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 such wars. 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 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, and 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.