A heavily pregnant woman crawled out of a new born baby’s vagina, and discovered that she was in a stable. Around her, on all sides, were heavily pregnant donkeys, horses, sheep, oxen, and peacocks, all of whom were giving vigorous, unending birth, dribbling ceaseless torrents of babies from their bodies. There were also, she noticed, some lowly shepherds, crouching on all fours, pulling slimy yellow lambs out of themselves, and three magi, one of whom was giving birth to gold, another to frankincense, and another to myrrh. In the rafters were bright and immaculate angels, plopping doves out of their clean and shimmering birth-holes, and to the woman’s side was a man she recognised, somehow, as her husband, who was squeezing from his urethra the word ‘Father’, rendered in all the languages of humankind.
This confused newborn woman suddenly went into labour, and, in an infinity of pain and ecstasy, gave birth to a creature with a human head and a white elephant’s body, on the elephantine knees of which were four other half-human faces. However busy the other members of the stable were with giving continual birth, all their attentions were drawn to this new, monstrous arrival, whose presence seemed to be in need of decoding.
On the elephant’s right flank, tattooed in bold black, was written ‘השבח לאל’, which, the magi said, could be translated either as ‘chewing is good for health’ or ‘chewing is bad for health’, depending on how one was to interpret the meaningless word: ‘אדוני’. They built up this impression from the faces on the two right knees. The front knee was chewing a red sticky substance, while the back knee was yelling:
– Stop! Stop! It is bad for health! Chewing makes you ill!
– How can a creature so obviously divine, the gold-birthing wise man said, contain such contradiction? How are we, the wisest men in the world, to begin to reconcile these divine incongruities?
– Perhaps attributes in opposition are holy, the frankincense-birthing wise man said.
– You blaspheme! the myrrh-birthing wise man said, slapping the frankincense-birthing wise man’s head. Lo! On the creatures other flank are written other words.
The words on the left elephant-flank were ‘Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον’ which the travellers from the East believed – and given their wisdom, assumed they must be correct – could either be interpreted as ‘It is nice to spit’ or ‘spitting is rude’, depending on the interpretation of the meaningless word ‘Ἀγαπή’. The two left knees were engaged in similar contradictions as the front knees, the front one spitting vigorously, and the back knee yelling:
– Stop this spitting at once! Spitting is rude!
The mother looked up into the closed eyes of the creature she had just birthed as they opened, and were revealed not to be eyes, but mouths: two mouths in the eye-sockets. The left eyehole mouth opened and sang a beautiful wordless song, and the right eyehole mouth opened and said, in a loving voice:
– لا يوجد درجة عالية من الذكاء أو الخيال الذي هو روح العبقرية. الحب ، الحب ، الحب – هذه هي روح العبقرية.
Which the magi interpreted as either
– Running once a day is part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
– Recreational running is a bourgeois indulgence which stems from a menacing self-improvement culture.
All they could agree upon was that the words were the most important words utterable by mouth.
The creature opened what they thought was its mouth, only to find it contained a nostril. The wise men quickly placed some of the newborn myrrh underneath it. The mother, sensing this was wrong, picked up the newborn baby which had just given birth to her, and held it under the hole. The creature snorted the baby up through its mouth-hole nostril into its head. The head vibrated slightly and made the sound of tiny bells.
The creature then looked up and flared its nostrils, which they saw were actually ears.
– Perhaps I shall sing it a lovely song of my hometown, the husband said.
– Perhaps I shall soothe it with palatial ‘baahing’ the shepherd said.
– No, the mother said. It is asking for my love. I love you, the mother said into the creatures nose-ear.
The creature turned around and looked at the mother with its eyes, which were in the holes in the side of the head.
All the birth-giving, which up till then had been continuous, suddenly stopped. No more new beings entered the stable. The stable’s walls fell and flopped open to reveal that they were, all along, the petals of a flower.
The text on both the elephant’s flanks cleared and was replaced by an architectural plan, and detailed engineering instructions for Leeds General Infirmary, a building which was speedily built by anonymous masons and still survives from these ancient times.
When one walks into Leeds General Infirmary today, the first thing one invariably notices is how much it resembles Paradise.
Lions and bunnies frolic happily together, dogs, cats, and mice sit down to bark, meow, and squeak around ‘chums tables’. Giant, tropical trees, as large as Canadian redwoods, but with bulbous, floppy, strange and sinuous leaves glow, and swag with glamorous, colourful pulsations. Ambrosial perfume emanates from every surface. The birds sing music so well-orchestrated, and so inoffensive, one feels one is dying. The grass, the wood, the flowers, the streams, are all ingestible, and are more delicious than a very delicious meal.
This unfallen micro-creation, which stands on Great George Street in Leeds (LS1 3EX), is open to the public at all times, and often wins the ‘Harris Thorpeson Greatest Segment of Created Being’ award. The Devil has been overheard, saying of Leeds General Infirmary: ‘I missed a spot.’
It is sustained by a group of naked gardeners who, being completely free of sin, cannot procreate in the Classical Manner, and grow the majority of their young in the ground or on trees. The children grown in the ground are female and the children grown on trees are male. Children are also grown by the cunning use of wordplay. For example ‘I will have my beverage in a child glass’, ‘the weather is very child today’, ‘the soul I child, the body I praise’. Sometimes, also, mass-murder (perfectly sinless mass-murder I should clarify) is committed so the universe, in compensation, creates new life out of nothing, a phenomenon recorded, amongst other places, in Georgio Boncilli’s Encylopedius Pghantasgamoricus, a landmark work of Renaissance Natural Philosophy, the section on birth I will here translate in full, endeavouring, wherever possible, to reproduce the sprightly flavour of Boncilli’s Latin:
It is a false supposition to suppose (falsely, I might add!) that birth is to be defined as a new creature’s entry into creation. It would be more accurate to say it is a new creation’s entry into an a pre-existent creature.
God, in an interview in 1414, explained that birth, in the sense that it constitutes the entrance of a not yet existence creature into an already existent creation, does not exist. All human personalities, He said, exist in eternity, perpetual and indestructible, both before and after these arbitrary events labelled birth and death. It is the universe, or more strictly speaking, the universes, which exist only temporality, unlike human beings, all of whom live forever.
When a human being does this thing we call ‘birth’, they are not being born at all. An eternal being cannot in any meaningful sense be born. What happens is that God, in his omnipotence, creates an entirely original material universe for each specific person, complete with unique sense perceptions, animal longings, trees, dolphins, dandelions, the song ‘Egyptian Shumba’ by the Tammys [a song which Boncilli, in a typical moment of genius, predicted], and places their eternal soul into it for a brief span of time. The idea that there is but one, unified universe created by God which has the same laws governing its every movement, is false. Universes and natural laws are cheap.
God creates roughly 360,000 universes a day [Boncilli, perhaps confused, recites the 2018 birth rate, rather than that of the time in which he wrote] each of them complete with slightly different natural laws, each of them designed with the eternal soul of a single person in mind. When people notice similarities between their universe and the universes of others, they are merely projecting their own personal eternity onto their mortal surroundings. The average age of a universe in the UK is around 80 years [It is unknown where Boncilli got these statistics]. Although God does not give humans power over the age of their own souls, he gives them power over the age of their own universe. Activities such as smoking and suicide have been known to destroy universes, as have sitting still and not doing much.
The other day [here Boncilli goes on one of his trademark digressions] I and my good friend Brunelleschi were sitting with our noble friends the Medici’s, drinking wine, laughing, and playing the noble Tuscan game of Biblibibibi [a game mentioned nowhere else in the history of human literature] in the studio of our good friend Fra Angelico, who was standing with his back to us, working studiously with Fra Filippo Lippi on a depiction of the Adoration of the Magi. Brunelleschi would occasionally shout architectural advice at the two great painters, and the Medici’s would shout:
– Draw another picture of me.
– But sire, we have already painted you as all three Magi.
– Well paint another one.
– But there are no other Magi.
– Well just paint me in the crown then, and make sure I look good.
Only I, of the revellers, watched the painting process without offering comment on it. I have no instinctual piety for the work of painters, but it became obvious to me, after the first few hours, that I was watching the composition of most beautiful work of art in the history of civilisation. Every touch Fra Angelico made to the unpainted surface stirred my soul. Every choice of colour, every largely improvised form, every deep, reverenced human expression, both frightened and delighted me. The changes he made, in their proud, eccentric idiosyncrasy, seemed apt to ruin the wholeness of the piece. It seemed to me that the painter was taking huge and unnecessary risks, and it was exclusively with awe that I witness the miraculous flourishes of mathematical and spiritual precision which would reconcile the fresh patches of strangeness into the cosmic unity of the whole. I refer only to Fra Angelico, for he was the real master behind this work. Fra Filippo Lippi’s contribution consisted mostly in drawing endless peacocks, which Fra Angelico was repeatedly forced to erase.
Each new figure that entered the frame – a frame which, like our world, was circular – seemed to create and redeem the souls of those it depicted. Seeing these figures enter this circle as it from nowhere, trusting in their own worth and beauty, was like witnessing the birth of stars in the darkness of the sky.
The final touch to the painting, for which I briefly forewent Biblibibibi, was the depiction of a small rattle in the left hand of the newborn Christ child [in my own digression, I will note that this rattle was Shigeru Miyamoto’s influence for the ‘Chain-chomp’ character in Super Mario Bros. 3 ®, which has been ranked alongside Biblibibibi as the greatest game of all time.]. This last change, though small in itself, made such a profound change to the work as a whole, gave it such a stamp of completion, of peace, of reconciliation and balance that I was, in that instant, reborn, so to speak.
Only of course I was not reborn. The whole of creation was reborn. God, in his mercy, placed the whole of creation back into the womb of the void, and rebirthed it into my senses. Like a baby, I wept.