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Trapped Among Mortal Things

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Chiuso fra cose mortali
(Anche il cielo stellato finirà)
Perché bramo Dio?


Lack of knowledge leads to questions. Questions lead to answers. Answers lead to knowledge. Knowledge leads to trouble. Seems easy, doesn’t it? Seems logical.

It wasn’t always like this, not until Earth was created. In the beginning, the true Beginning, trouble didn’t exist. That’s due to the fact that knowledge didn’t exist either, at least not what people currently label as knowledge. Crowley, of course, remembers what it was like; They create you, They fill you with the bare minimum you’re required to know - your name, your identity, your purpose - and then you’re free to go. There was no such thing as lack of knowledge because no one was aware that maybe, just maybe, they didn’t have the keys to unlock all the secrets of the universe; no one was even aware that there were secrets of the universe in the first place. This means, obviously, that questions didn’t exist either and, by extension, nor did answers.

It is believed that questions were invented by Lucifer when he asked why angels should submit to human beings. That’s not quite true. What he really did was use free will to point out that there was no reason for humans to be put on a pedestal and venerated as the Almighty’s finest creations. The War in Heaven begun and ended, and questions still didn’t exist; without them, free will seemed rather pointless.

Actually, questions were invented by a pretty stubborn and curiously clueless Archangel. At first all he did was knock at the Lord’s door - despite everyone telling him it was a hopeless mission, that They weren’t there anymore - and requested, in utter reference, for permission to descend in Hell. It was an odd request, admittedly. He claimed that he couldn’t bear the thought of those poor souls suffering from the wounds inflicted to them during the War; no matter the horrors they had committed, no matter how awful their sins, they still were creatures of the Lord and, as such, deserved some kind of comfort. Of course, the permission wasn’t granted - nor denied, which seemed good enough for the Archangel.

So he crossed Hell’s entrance. His sincerity and good will meant nothing to the fallen angels, least of all to Lucifer, still too full of pride to admit his defeat, or even accept help of any kind. Raphael was thrown out without hesitation. It took him a while to realise the price that little visit had costed him; his innocence was forever lost, and, as a memento, his wings turned as black as the darkest night.

Being stubborn, the Archangel - not quite Fallen, nor quite full of Grace - knocked again at the Lord’s door, furiously, desperately. «Why? - he cried out - Why would You invent pain and suffering? Why would You cast them out instead of proving them the Holiness of Your Love?» He didn’t know it yet, but in that moment he invented questions, and all their dreadful consequences.

He also didn’t know that They were still there, contrary to the popular belief. The door slammed open, shockingly. Raphael felt a tingly warmth in the middle of his chest as a hand pushed him, and then there was coldness, as he fell for miles and miles. He had understood the theory behind pain, but feeling it? Feeling pain is a whole other matter than understanding it.

He landed in a pool of boiling sulphur, horribly disfigured and deeply broken. Raphael was no more, and the Almighty disappeared for good. It truly was the end of the War in Heaven.

~~~

Lack of knowledge leads to questions. Questions lead to answers. Answers lead to knowledge. Knowledge leads to trouble. Easy as that.

Crowley never regretted inventing questions, not once. He’s always thought it was quite a clever move of his. The real problem was that nobody had bothered inventing answers yet, so at first one couldn’t see the brilliance of being able to ask questions; they seemed rather pointless.

Despite not existing yet, Crawly had a vague idea of what an answer should look like; it has to make sense and be satisfying, even when you don’t like it, no, especially when you don’t like it. But he couldn’t invent answers himself, having invented questions already, so all he could do was wait for someone to do the job.

Crawly was quite sure that knowledge was somehow linked to answers. At that time, knowledge did exist - as established previously - but it wasn’t part of this particular equation yet. The chain was more like: free will leads to questions, questions lead to trouble. Crawly was aware of the missing link, having thought about the issue for a long time. He was therefore delighted upon discovering that there was a tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden that could grant mortals knowledge. He was even more so upon discovering that Lucifer - no, not Lucifer, not anymore, Satan now - was looking for somebody to go up there and make some trouble. Obviously, he volunteered.

He didn’t really need to make trouble; he just had to lead the humans to ask questions, that was all. He crawled to Eve, mostly because she seemed more interesting than Adam. She also seemed to have a better understanding of her own free will.

«You see that tree? It’s called the Tree of Life and its fruits grant you the ability to tell the difference between good and evil. Such a pity God forbid you to eat them.»

«Why?»

Technically, you can’t see a snake smiling, but in that particular case one could feel the serpent’s cheeky grin. «Indeed. Why?»

He slithered away, hiding himself between the bushes to watch the Fall of Man from a safe spot. If he was lucky, soon enough humans would’ve invented answers. But that’s not what happened.

It is believed that answers were invented by the Almighty in response to a stubborn Archangel’s question, when he explained to him that, hadn’t They invented pain, there would have been no balance in the universe, things could’ve never worked in the long run; it was ineffable. That’s not quite true. They tend to ignore questions, so it wouldn’t have made any sense for Them to come up with answers.

Actually, answers were invented by a pretty clueless and curiously atypical angel. He was supposed to smite demons on sight and yet, once Crawly started talking to him, he was too polite to even ignore him. Yes, as soon as he heard the snake’s doubts, he had started babbling about the ineffability of the Great Plan, which was such a tedious subject; but at least he wasn’t rude, nor entitled. And then…

«Didn’t you have a flaming sword?»

«Er.»

«You did, didn’t you? It flamed like anything. It looked very impressive, I thought.»

«Er, well…»

«Lost it, have you?»

«Oh no! Not exactly lost, more…»

«Well?»

«If you must know, I gave it away.»

Two things crossed Crawly’s mind. First of all, this was no common angel. What kind of angel gives away his God-given weapon to mortals who, on top of it, had just been punished? It was a miracle he hadn’t fallen. But, to be fair, those days God was nowhere to be found; probably They weren’t paying too much attention.

Second, he had answered his question. “Have you lost your flaming sword?” “No, I gave it away.” Simple as that. He hadn’t batted an eye, as if answers had always existed. In the end, there was no need to wait for humanity to sort it out.

He couldn’t help but smile. Things were about to get really interesting. And this angel, this Aziraphale, seemed really worth to be liking.

~~~

Lack of knowledge leads to questions. Questions lead to answers. Answers lead to knowledge. Knowledge leads to trouble. But it’s not so easy.

It’s not so easy, because sometimes lack of knowledge leads to blissful ignorance, which may lead to either happiness or violence; sometimes knowledge leads to satisfaction or peace; sometimes questions lead to more questions, or answers lead to even more questions, in a vicious circle that can’t be broken because sometimes, sometimes, there are no answers, no matter what.

Crowley shouldn’t keep asking questions - one thinks he should know better. And yet… And yet he still does. He never stopped. His curiosity, his need for answers, turns always out to be stronger than any fear of consequences, however big or frightening they might be.

But they’re drowning everybody else?
What did he say that made everybody so upset?
What the deuce are you doing locked up in the Bastille?
Should I say thank you?

He likes asking questions to Aziraphale. He knows that, no matter what, he’ll always get an answer back. It’s comforting. It almost makes him forget how bad questions can be, it makes him feel like it’s not wrong to pursuit knowledge, like he himself - his own strange existence - is not wrong for being curious.

However, thing is, sometimes Aziraphale is not enough. He doesn’t understand the Ineffable Plan no more than Crowley does, and that’s frustrating. So, he plays with fire; he talks to the Almighty Themselves. He’s aware of the dangers but he’s not afraid. After all, what’s the worst that could happen to him? He’s already fallen.

God, You listenin’?

He’s not sure why he still bothers. There’s nobody up there, there hasn’t been for such a long time that one might even question the existence of a Creator in the first place. And Crowley probably will, one day, given his nature. But not quite yet. For now, he just looks at the starry sky and wonders where in the damn universe are They hiding.

For now, he just looks at the starry sky. He thinks about how long it would take to travel to the end of the universe, how long would it take to search it all, every planet, every nebula, every galaxy. He decides an eternity is not enough.
(He think about mountains and brave little birds and spaceships travelling at the speed of light)

What he does know for certain is that the universe itself won’t last that long. Protostars become red giants, which become white dwarfs; supergiants become nebulae or supernovae, neutron stars and black holes. He knows, for he had built them, a very long time ago; he created those intricate patterns, those complex chemical reactions that lead one way or another depending on as little as a the presence or absence of a single atom, those delicate physical laws that maintain everything in balance, a graceful dance across the light-years. There’s so much beauty out there, but it won’t last; the universe runs towards entropy and there’s no stopping it. Even if there’s no Apocalypse to destroy the Earth, life is ultimately doomed in such a cold and hostile environment. What’s the point of it if… there’s no point at all?

Hey, God, can You show me the Ineffable Plan? Not all of it, You can just spoil me the ending, will You?

Crowley feels lost, without references, without meaning. He tries not to think about it. He tries to keep himself busy - some little temptations, lunch at the Ritz, a bottle of wine - but ultimately he feels like a tightrope walker, torn between cheap materialism, existential dread and hopeless cynicism.

And so he asks, question after question. And so he longs for all the things he’s lost and all the things he’ll never reach.

Trapped among mortal things (even the starry sky will end) why do I yearn for God?