Turning Turtle

I was having problems because I was seeing God everywhere I looked so I eventually went – after suffering silently from this condition for a while – to see a psychiatrist. To my dismay, the psychiatrist also turned out to be God! ‘What can I do for you?’ God / the Psychiatrist asked me, in a kindly (but nevertheless professional) tone – ‘what seems to be the problem, Nick?’ As you may imagine I just sat there dumbstruck, unable (as Rumi says somewhere) to say either yes or no. ‘I want to know,’ I replied after I had got my wits back, ‘where I would have to go where I would not have to encounter God.’ God considered this for a while (or rather the psychiatrist – who was God – considered this for a while). ‘Interesting question,’ he responded warmly, ‘it’s not often that I get to hear someone asking me an interesting question like that.’


He paused for a while, leaning back in his chair, sucking on a biro, obviously thinking the matter over. Then all of a sudden he winked at me, ‘How can a fish escape water?’ he asked me, in what I felt to be a somewhat smug tone. I didn’t like this answer at all – it was too glib, too formulaic, in my view. I was determined to pay the psychiatrist back for this facile answer of his. ‘Well,’ I said stubbornly, ‘it could evolve stubby little prototype legs from its fins and take to the land, in addition it could give up using its gills and take up air-gulping instead.’ I glared at him defiantly. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, I was thinking.


A delighted smile spread over my opponent’s face – he was obviously enjoying this game. ‘I see, I see, I see,’ he replied, ‘so you would eventually become an amphibian, I take it? But even an amphibian can’t stray too far from the water, as no doubt you are well aware.’ This riposte of his irritated me no end, as I’m sure you can imagine. I found myself blustering and losing my cool, ‘Well of course that would only be an intermediate stage,’ I told him, ‘the fish would then go on (which is to say, I would then go on to) evolve into a fully-fledged reptile – I would become a turtle, I think. “See the turtle of enormous girth / On his back he carries the earth” I declaimed, quoting from the scriptures. Even the devil may quote from the scriptures, after all, I said to myself. If it suited his purposes to do so, that is.


My antagonist observed me expressionlessly. I had the strong feeling that I had just walked into some kind of trap. ‘Very interesting, very interesting, very interesting,’ he observed, furrowing his brow in an impressive fashion. ‘So, if I understand you correctly, in an attempt to avoid God you will become the turtle that supports the entire cosmos on his back? What does that tell us – that in order to escape God you would have to become God?’ He looked at me meaningfully at this point, raising his eyebrows in a somewhat theatrical fashion.


He had me there and no mistake – I had walked right into that one. ‘Okay okay okay,’ I replied with irritation, adopting his mannerisms without even realising, ‘Scratch that. I don’t even know why I said that. I won’t become a turtle at all but rather I will evolve all the way up to the proto-hominid level, and from there I will take one more short jump to evolve into a typical narcissistic Westerner living in the Twenty-first Century, a fully-fledged passive consumer of toxic generic products and – as such – hopelessly addicted to Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Snapchat and all the rest of it.’ I looked up at him. I had him now, I said to myself. Get out of that if you can…


The psychiatrist observed me with just the faintest suggestion of a smile about his lips. ‘Well, I guess you’ve got me there, Nick. Touché, as they say. I think you’ve just answered your own question…’ Needless to say he managed to say this in such a way that he never had to give up his superior position. He still had the upper hand and I had been beaten once again. ‘Don’t you guys ever write prescriptions for medications any more, sedatives or antipsychotics or something like that?’ I complained. He looked back at me – ‘That’s a little old-fashioned, you see. One has to move with the times and keep up with the latest research!’ He gestured at a pad of prescription sheets on his desk, ‘I could of course provide you with a prescription for ten hits of laboratory-grade mescaline, if you like?’ There was a mischievous little smile on his face as he said this. I looked at him, thoroughly disgusted at this stage, and left his office without saying another word…








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