In Memory of Neil Cole

Neil's book, God For A Day: The Further Adventures of Adam and Eve, launched the publishing house of Inglewood Press. On this, the fourth anniversary of his death, it seems fitting to read again from the beginning of the novel:


If at First You Don’t Succeed


“However problematical for all concerned,” God sighed, “I’m beginning to suspect I may just be getting a little too old for this line of work.” 

“Holy shit!”This clearly wasn’t the sort of judicious reply expected from a senior archangel, but it came (albeit sotto voce) as an understandably stunned response to a divine revelation unlike any other.

As this sudden spiritual thunderbolt sizzled across Heaven, angels of every size, shape and technical specialty braked in mid-flight, haloes spinning wildly. God gazed at them all sadly.

“Be honest. Do I really look as tired, bored and frustrated as I feel?”

For the Archangel of All Archangels, best and literally brightest of a host of celestial advisors, it was rapidly becoming the most unsettling moment of a uniquely challenging career. 

While Heaven’s chief operating officer might have a multitude of sterling qualifications for the job, the greatest was his ability to discern God’s ever-changing presence revealed in the ceaseless mirror of Creation. Nevertheless, there were still moments when even he was left speechless by the Boss’s uncanny knack of asking the most disturbingly unexpected questions. Undoubtedly it had something to do with God being not only omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, but also, of course, having an unparalleled advantage as the original and seemingly permanent occupant of the archetypal executive suite.

Glancing carefully around, the senior angel nodded warily. 

“And in your well-considered professional opinion….” There was a thoughtful pause, held just long enough to set even the most seasoned seraphim on edge. “How’s My one and only Universe making out?”

Chaotic though the cosmos might often seem, the Archangel-in-Chief reflected, it remained for him the most fascinating imaginable, if also the most demanding. 

For starters, it was difficult to get the attention of all those residents of the now countless galaxies. They went merrily about their lives, their current mood reflecting a mixture of local weather conditions, the daily horoscope, ready cash and their own fluctuating level of insight. Given the universe’s size, creatures on billions of planets had little or no communication with their closest neighbouring constellations.

Most days the majority of cosmic residents were content to struggle, as best they could, with pressing everyday problems in their own small self-preoccupied corners of Time and Space. Heaven (if and when most thought about it at all) was widely believed to exist somewhere ‘out there’.

In God’s understandably biased opinion, however, the celestial realm was as much metaphorical as real, both inward gift and outward goal. For those with eyes to see beyond the seen, Heaven was always and everywhere at hand – journey and destination paradoxically one. Enjoyed in the afterlife, to be sure, but just as secretly present in every atom and encounter of this one. In the words of one ancient, still admirably epicurean sage, “Why wait for eternity when you can enjoy it fresh today!”

Regrettably, however, this limitless, luminous achievement – the capacity to live simultaneously in heaven and earth, to find heaven within oneself – proved throughout the cosmos to be a frustratingly slow and problematic work-in-progress.

Accordingly (and as an interim measure only) an all-purpose, three-dimensional prototype of Heaven had been specially constructed in a strategically undisclosed location at the exact centre of the universe. Complete with the requisite shimmering towers, incomparable celestial vistas and delightfully numinous staff, this 'still point of the turning cosmos’ served as both a tangible incentive to those who preferred their ultimate spiritual destination be concrete, and also the much-needed administrative headquarters for an ever-evolving cosmic enterprise with a correspondingly huge workload.

If God needed to build a new prototype for Heaven,another new prototype at the opposite end of the continuum was also needed. As the universe expanded, the range of intergalactic  misdemeanours grew steadily greater, their perpetrators all the more numerous and cunning. It had become clear to the hot-tempered twin horned beings (who just happened to be the angels' karmic cousins) that, as a matter of satanic necessity and professional pride, the introduction of entirely new, technologically advanced techniques of temptation and retribution was already long overdue.

It was not surprising therefore that, at their most recent general meeting, the august and totally scary members of the Intergalactic Senior Devils’ Association (their motto – Speak softly, but carry a really big pitchfork) should unanimously have chosen an impressively debonair rogue by the name of Big D to lead them. His deceptive powers refined on a series of progressively more disorderly planets, he was someone clearly destined for greater things. With him in charge, his associates agreed, a turn for the worse could only be for the better.

Lost in contemplation of his ancient twin brother’s very different temperament and talents, the Archangel of All Archangels suppressed a fleeting, almost envious smile. Angels should never be underestimated, especially the supposedly fallen ones.