“As I remember, I had just woken up from a nap when I decided to create the universe.”
So begins Alan Lightman’s playful and profound new novel, Mr g, the story of Creation as told by God. Barraged by the constant advisements and bickerings of Aunt Penelope and Uncle Deva, who live with their nephew in the shimmering Void, Mr g proceeds to create time, space, and matter. Then come stars, planets, animate matter, consciousness, and, finally, intelligent beings with moral dilemmas. Mr g is all powerful but not all knowing and does much of his invention by trial and error.
Even the best-laid plans can go awry, and Mr g discovers that with his creation of space and time come some unforeseen consequences—especially in the form of the mysterious Belhor, a clever and devious rival. An intellectual equal to Mr g, Belhor delights in provoking him: Belhor demands an explanation for the inexplicable, requests that the newly created intelligent creatures not be subject to rational laws, and maintains the necessity of evil. As Mr g watches his favorite universe grow into maturity, he begins to understand how the act of creation can change himself, the Creator.
Oftentimes you come across works of literature that give you pause and make you question not just your life and the role you are playing but also the consequence and meaning of humanity as a species. A work that makes you think about your existence in the grand scheme of things. Of the size and space you occupy in the universe. About God and His/Her existence. A book that drives home the limits of your understanding and intelligence. Mr. g is that kind of book. It’s a slim book, just about 224 pages but within these pages it holds one of the biggest questions of humanity: our origin, our world and our meaning. The novel itself, as the synopsis will tell you, is the creation of the universe from the perspective of God, Mr. g himself. Heavy stuff? Most certainly. I enjoyed the personification of God and his uncle and aunt who squabble like those couples who have been together. There are also three other characters who are negative, perhaps Satan or whatever name you want to call him. Lightman names him Belfor.
The novel makes physics understandable to the layman. It makes the processes that may have contributed to the synthesizing of the universe accessible to the common person. The whole creation story becomes very fascinating when viewed from the perspective of God who, believe it or not, is playing around with universes because he has been bored. The majority of the novel is a description of the physical, the atoms, ions, the evolution of animate matter, the coalescing of a soul. The latter bit deals with the heavier themes as the necessity of evil for good to exist, whether good and bad exist on their own or was it an unintentional creation of God, about freewill, etc.
I really liked this. It wasn’t the light hearted reading I was expecting it to be but it was all the more satisfying for its rather somber, exploratory feel of the universe and the people living in it. It makes you question whether ours is the only universe there is, if we really are the only people there are and if not, what else exists out there. Are we really an experiment? And what about God and our souls? What lies in the beyond?
The book doesn’t give you any answers but it provides you with many questions to ponder. I recommend it.