jump to navigation

Lux Aeterna (or, Some Thoughts on Dawn-Watching) June 29, 2010

Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in Iranelection, Music, Nature, Saving the World.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

…The promised sequel to “Luminous Piano Music“, with a bonus: some reflections written last September and reposted here.

My cat Rumi woke me up at dawn this morning, as he generally does, demanding food in piercing tones and grabbing my ankle in his teeth upon my utterly inexcusable delay to wash a spoon (upon which I shrieked and flung a handful of water in his general direction). Either it was the ankle bite, or the early morning light and scent of the cool air drifting through my window, but I simply could not get back to sleep after having plopped the food in his dish and staggered back to bed.

Instead I began remembering last September, where I’d woken up before dawn each morning to eat a hurried meal before sunrise as part of the #iranelection Ramadan solidarity fast. This involved not eating (or, for the truly hardcore participants, which I was not, drinking) between the hours of sunrise and sunset. I was surprised at how much less difficult this was than I’d feared, though I won’t say it was exactly fun…

One of the truly wonderful aspects of the experience, though, was being able to watch the sun rise each day. Often I would put on my favorite piece of “luminous” music, Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, as the pure, translucent light of early morning streamed into my room.

*******

Lux Aeterna is one of my favorite pieces of “classical” music of all time. Though written fairly recently it recalls the intricate choral writing of the late Renaissance (particularly Palestrina) in its intricate use of counterpoint paired with a transparent, pure harmonic texture. (I happened to pick up the CD as a library discard one day; if it were not for this stroke of fortune, I would probably never have heard this beautiful but still little-known piece, and my musical life would be significantly poorer for it.) The work is in five movements, all of which I love. Though my all-time favorite is the fourth movement (which will get its own post later, I promise), the opening of the first is to me the most vivid depiction in sound of the gentle light just before sunrise. Here it is, together with some of the thoughts that came to me during that month of dawn-watching.


(Performed by Los Angeles Master Chorale and Sinfonia Orchestra with Paul Salamunovich, Conductor- thank you so much for releasing the first good public-domain performance of this piece I’ve been able to find! 🙂 )

*******

September 2009

One of the aspects of Ramadan I’ve truly enjoyed has been the opportunity to watch the sun rise each morning. When I was quite young I used to wake up automatically at sunrise each day, but over the years have gotten out of the habit. In some ways it’s my favorite time of day: the cool, fresh, calm air, the light breeze on my cheeks, the birds that wheel and soar in the pale light. I have an excellent view of the eastern sky from my sixth-floor apartment, and over the past few weeks have had a great deal of pleasure watching from my dining room table as I eat my morning meal.

A few times the show has been magnificent, a brilliant sunrise in the conventional sense: massed clouds glowing a sinister dark red, gradually changing to fluffy “cotton candy” tinted by pastels, light pink and orange against the pale blue sky. But the cloudless sunrise of most days is actually my favorite: simply a slow, calm, gradual illumination of the sky with light — blue, pale green, yellow, orange and finally the red of the sun’s rising disk.

The whole sky fills gradually up with this light. Against it, the buildings of the city seem to fade into irrelevance, faint silhouettes against a glow that is far more real and substantial than they are. My eye is drawn inexorably out, past the swoops of the wheeling birds, past the buildings, to the immense arc of the sky and down to the horizon.

The world suddenly seems like both a larger and a smaller place. Larger, because I realize anew how little my own corner of it is: such a tiny piece of the whole. Smaller, because at the same time I sense that I am connected to the world in its entirety, as immense as it might be. Somewhere far over that horizon where I am gazing, over the curve of the world, are my friends in Iran, and the same sun rose over them eight hours ago that is now rising over me. I feel that I could almost lean out and wave to them, if I tried hard enough.

At the same time I am struck by a sense of the beauty of the world – and of responsibility. I strongly believe that our world was made by a being (call him/her/it what you will) who loves it, and who loves us, and who has done us the immense honor of placing its future and well-being into our hands. And since my corner of the world is connected to every other part, my own responsibility extends far beyond my own city or country – rather, it encompasses the entire world.

In some ways it is an infinite challenge. There is nothing about which we can shrug and say “Not in my backyard”, no atrocity or conflict or violence against our own Earth which we can dismiss as being far-away and unimportant to us personally. Any John McCain or Ann Coulter who calls lightly for bombing Iran or another nation – who thinks that war is an acceptable solution for international relations and that violence against another people doesn’t matter if they live far enough away – should be forced to get up before dawn for a month and stare out at that sky.

Many times this month as I’ve watched the sun rise, I’ve been reminded of a quote by the English mystic Julian of Norwich. She writes about a vision in which:

“[God] showed me something small, about the size of a hazelnut, that seemed to lie in the palm of my hand as round as a tiny ball. I tried to understand the sight of it, wondering what it could possibly mean. The answer came: ‘This is all that is made.’ I felt that it was so small that it could easily fade to nothing; but again I was told, ‘This lasts and will go on lasting forever because God loves it. And so it is with every being that God loves.’”

I couldn’t do better than end with that.

Two Odd Reversals June 27, 2010

Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in Creative Writing, Flights of Fancy, Nature, Poetry, Through the Looking Glass.
add a comment

From time to time I will write fantasy or sci-fi novels in my dreams (or to be more specific actually live the plots, usually as a participant in the story but simultaneously an outside observer) and occasionally even remember them when I wake up. Usually they contain some odd perspective or twist I would almost never think of in my waking hours…

I had one such dream a few nights ago. The story opened in what appeared to be a fantasy world inhabited by my people, a winged humanoid race rather like elves or fairies with some magical abilities. Halfway through the novel our pristine homeland was invaded by a strange new race of magicless but enormous and powerful giants that appeared to be intent on taking over the world and imposing their civilization. The two races began a inter-species war for control of the land which lasted most of the novel.

So far a fairly typical fantasy novel, perhaps…but a few chapters before the end of the book an extraordinary realization dawned on me (the “author” observing the plot and writing the novel…)

The “fantasy world” was our world set in a long-ago, prehistoric past. The “giants” taking over the world were the newly-arrived Homo sapiens and “my” people were an ancient fairy or elven race which had inhabited the world before human civilization appeared. When both races realized this in my dream and finally understood one another’s motives, they ended the war and negotiated a settlement to coexist in peace. They would divide the day between them: the humans would control the world while the sun was in the sky, but the night would belong to the elves alone.

I don’t think I’ll ever write that novel, but it’s fun to think about…

*******

In any case, this reminded me of a sonnet I wrote a few years back with a different, but similar (and equally “eerie”) “perspective reversal”.)

A race of conquerors with iron hands,
They came with fire, greed, and hungry knives,
And drove the native dwellers from their lands,
Slew most they found; as chattel kept some wives,
Leveled all homes, of fertile fields made sands,
And on the edges of their teeming hives
In shadowed night let lurk some furtive bands
To eat the refuse of their glutted lives.

Yet trembled at the fateful prophecy;
No Empire lasts forever, nor no might.
Rain will ruin road, wind wither wall to tree,
And city slide from fading human sight –
Then rat, hen, spider, bat, fearless and free,
Shall roam at ease through regained Eden’s light.

Luminous Piano Music June 27, 2010

Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in Music, Nature.
2 comments

After posting some sunlight-themed poetry yesterday I decided to find some “luminous” piano music for a companion post. I’ve collected some of my favorites here. All of these pieces immediately struck me with their sense of light embodied in sound: openness, freshness, clarity and pure, translucent color…

I’ll begin with the prelude and  fugue in A major by Shostakovich from his collection of 24 preludes and fugues. Listening to this fugue I imagine myself as a young child watching a mobile of crystal prisms spin around and round, throwing multicolored rainbows of light upon the walls with colours that merge and shift seamlessly to form new combinations…

The best recording I have heard of this piece is far and away the one by Keith Jarrett (rather surprisingly, primarily a jazz pianist); his tone colour is remarkable in its purity and sense of light. However, as Jarrett’s is not publicly available I figure Sviatoslav Richter always makes a pretty good fallback… 😀

Now for some early-morning Liszt…”Au Bord d’Une Source”, or “By the Side of a Spring.” Imagine a pure mountain spring as it bubbles in the delicate sunlight of a new day, each water droplet casting reflected gleams over the surrounding grass and stray drips landing on your outstretched hands… (Pianist: Lazar Berman)

Next: Debussy’s “Les Collines d’Anacapri”…not reflected or colored light this time, but the pure, brilliant blazing sunlight of a scorching Mediterranean afternoon, the brilliant blue of the arching sky almost painful to look at in its fierce luminosity. (The opening notes in my mind one of the most beautiful moments in all piano music :)) (Pianist: Michelangeli, breathtaking for his pure, crystalline tone color.)

And finally…a bit more Liszt for sunset: “Harmonies du Soir” (Evening Harmonies), one of my favorite piano pieces of all time, portraying the sunset sky flaming with color. One can almost hear trumpets and drums sounding in the radiance. (This, the longest of his Transcendental Etudes, is 9 minutes long; the whole thing makes wonderful listening but the true “sunset” section begins around 5:10.) (Pianist: Minoru Nojima – a truly amazing pianist who deserves to be much better known).

There’s one more “luminous” piece that I love but I’m saving it for an encore post tomorrow 🙂 ….

Whimsical Poetry for a Midsummer Afternoon June 25, 2010

Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in Creative Writing, Flights of Fancy, Nature, Poetry.
Tags: , , ,
2 comments

I started this poem a few years ago on one of those late, rich summer afternoons soaked with radiant sunlight so thick you can almost touch it. Then I left it for a few years and didn’t take it out again…until now.

*******

The sunshine burned so gold tonight
I stood and stared amazed;
It soaked the air with lustrous light
And pooled in streams that blazed.
I thought I’d set a bit aside
Just for a rainy day –
Alas, no matter what I tried,
It simply wouldn’t stay!

I thought to bottle it like honey,
Sweet and rich and thick –
Some winter night I’d open it,
Reach in and take a lick.
I grabbed my crystal honeypot
And scooped the liquid beams;
Clapped on the lid and cried, “You’re caught!” –
It trickled out in streams!

I thought to weave it at my loom
Into a tapestry,
And hang it in the shadowed gloom
To sparkle brilliantly.
I sat down at my spinning wheel,
I grasped one golden ray;
And spun like mad, then at my reel –
Still bare – gazed in dismay!

I thought to hammer it like gold
And mint some coins that shone,
To keep and in my hand to hold
When summertime was gone.
With skillful blows I shaped and beat
A bar of molten glow;
In water stooped to quench its heat –
They blurred in rippling flow!

I thought in it to dip my brush
And paint a dazzling scene:
Gold trees, streams, blooms, a gleaming thrush,
The garden of a queen.
I brought a canvas, white and pure,
Dabbed my palette with light;
Drew one smooth stroke, so true and sure –
It vanished from my sight!

At last I, helpless, watched the dark
Drift in, as from the sky
The sun slipped slowly down its arc
And its last light did die.
Another summer sun, to burn
So warm and rich and bright
I fear may nevermore return…
But then again, it might.

The Pentatonic Duet June 25, 2010

Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in Music, Truth is Stranger than Fiction.
Tags: , , , ,
1 comment so far

…This falls in the category of “Too Good to be True…but Is.”

*******

Over the past two months a construction team has been carrying out repairs – admittedly necessary ones – on our apartment balconies, and it’s a rare morning that I don’t wake up at 8 am to the incessant squeals and rumbles of their equipment.

So it was a rather pleasant surprise, about a week ago, to slide ever-so-gently out of sleep to the soothing strains of a gentle Asian-sounding duet. Half in slumber, I thought I could make out a Japanese wood flute playing a pure, continuous tone, with some instrument I didn’t recognize sounding a haunting pentatonic melody that wavered above, below and finally came to rest on the note the flute was holding. For several minutes I drifted on the edge of sleep, entranced, as the melody repeated and shifted ever-so-subtly.

Only then did I begin to wonder: where exactly was this music coming from? My apartment tended to be fairly soundproof…and what had happened to the dreaded construction noise, anyway? And how could that beautiful flute tone just go on continuously, never wavering or pausing for breath…

As I finally pulled myself out of sleep I realized the truth…

The pentatonic duet was the construction noise. The “flute note” was an electronic hum, while the instrument I couldn’t identify was the equipment starting up. Every other day the shrieks and groans had been more or less pitched randomly, but today…somehow…the temperature was just right to make the vibrations and squeals form the notes of a pentatonic scale. Now fully awake, I listened. Somehow the ugly construction noises had been transformed into a beautiful duet.

Of course I grabbed some music paper and wrote it down. 🙂 For any music lovers out there, this is how the two main melodies aI heard went…(approx. quarter note = 60)

Maybe I’ll compose a piece someday and call it “Construction Duet…” 😉

…John Cage would be proud.

In the Beginning III… June 25, 2010

Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in Iranelection, Poetry, Saving the World.
2 comments

…the beginning of #iranelection that is…

A lot of this blog is going to relate to online activism, most specifically the Twitter #iranelection hashtag, so here’s some quick background about how I got involved with these issues. I posted a few thoughts a week ago on the #iranelection hashtag and got a good response so…here it is again. Looking back from June 2010 to June 2009, when it all began…

*******

A year ago this evening, I read these words and my life changed forever.

“I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow.  Maybe they will turn violent.  Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed.  I’m listening to all my favorite music.  I even want to dance to a few songs.  I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows.  Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see.  I should drop by the library, too.  It’s worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again.  All family pictures have to be reviewed, too.  I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye.  All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them.  I’m two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that.  My mind is very chaotic.  I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure.  So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them.  So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism.  This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children…” – an Iranian blogger, with more courage than most of us will ever know.

(http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/06/before-the-battle.html)

In the short time it took to read those words, so much changed in my own mind and heart. I saw in a single flash how utterly self-absorbed and detached my own life had been up until that point: focused on my own goals and wishes and assumed needs. How little I had cared for the suffering and struggle of others for the most basic human rights: liberty, peace, freedom of speech and religion, food, water. How much I could have done to help our world and had failed to do…

If I, not the nameless protester who wrote these immeasurably brave words, had died the next day, what could be said about my life? What had I done to truly help even one of the millions of people on our planet in need?

I had always thought I was a fairly good person. I didn’t exploit people or start wars. I wasn’t particularly greedy for wealth or power over others. I was a law-abiding citizen who bought fair-trade coffee and recycled most of the time, even donated to charities now and again when the urge struck me. I did my “fair share” and, I felt, a bit more. I was “nice”…

It was only when I read these words that I realized: being nice is not enough.

A few months later a close relative was to ask me, “Why have you become so driven to make a difference? Isn’t it enough to do one’s part and let others do theirs?” My answer was an absolute no: that there is no such thing as “good enough”. That if we truly care for our world, we must not act merely out of a sense of duty but out of love: love for our planet and for every being on it. Otherwise our own half-hearted, “nice” efforts will be overwhelmed by those who do not care: who actively exploit and prey upon other human beings and on our environment, or are simply apathetic. If we are not as passionate in our defense of freedom and peace and humanity as this young blogger was, then NOTHING will change in the long term. We cannot simply do “the minimum” out of a sense of duty, always holding ourselves aloof and untouched by the desperate need of others on this planet, people just like us but not lucky enough to be born into our affluent and secure Western society.

If we truly wish to fight the evil, indifference and greed that we see in the Iranian regime and everywhere else in our world – from famine to genocide to the BP oil spill – then we must be prepared to sacrifice whatever is necessary. Our money. Our time. Yes, even our lives if we find ourselves in a similar position to the blogger who wrote these words. But most of all we have to be willing to keep caring – not only to feel emotionally moved by others’ suffering but to act. To actively and consciously work, every day of our lives, to bring about positive change in our world. Or else it is simply not going to happen.

It was around the same time that I read the famous Saadi poem that has been so often quoted on #iranelection in response to the Iranian regime’s violent repression of those seeking freedom from tyranny. If I had read it even a few weeks before, I think it would have left me more or less untouched. But now I truly understood what it expressed:

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.

بنی آدم اعضای یک پیکرند
که در آفرينش ز یک گوهرند
چو عضوى به درد آورد روزگار
دگر عضوها را نماند قرار
تو کز محنت دیگران بی غمی
نشاید که نامت نهند آدمی

June 19, 2010

In the Beginning II June 25, 2010

Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in About Me.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

…Well, now that you’re probably convinced I’m nuts, click here for some backstory about who this crazy Platypus person is.

…In the beginning… June 23, 2010

Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in Creative Writing.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

I thought quite long and hard about what could be my first post on a new blog, and in the end decided to plunge right in and share some rather whimsical creative writing I did a year or two ago.

(Short background note: My sister and I were chatting online and somehow the Book of Genesis came up. I mentioned how interesting, but slightly odd, it was that the order of creation as listed in Genesis almost but not quite mirrors the most recent theories of origins that cosmology and evolutionary biology give us. My sister speculated that, if Moses was supposed to be the author of the Bible’s first five books, perhaps he was not entirely paying attention when God explained that bit? I decided that this was maybe as good an explanation as any…)

*******

Scene: A hilltop in the middle of the desert. MOSES and GOD are climbing up the hill. As they approach the top, MOSES stifles a yawn.

MOSES: Can’t this wait until tomorrow, God?

GOD: Don’t you want to hear about how I created the earth?

MOSES stifles another yawn. GOD looks a little hurt.

MOSES (quickly, seeing GOD’s reaction): Oh, don’t think I don’t care. It’s just it’s been a long day…and the children of Israel were complaining again, something about having to eat the same old manna for (counts rapidly on his fingers) the three-thousandth-seven-hundred-and-thirty-ninth time…and we’ve all walked a long way. When are we going to get out of this wilderness, God?

GOD (sternly): When I say you can, and no sooner! Now, do you have your writing materials ready?

MOSES, trying hard not to yawn again, quickly pulls out a bulky clay tablet, a jar of water, and a sharpened stick. GOD raises his eyebrows.

MOSES (defensively): Well, it’s all we’ve got out here! Now, back in Egypt they had nice modern papyrus, but no, you had to lead us into this cursed desert. How are we supposed to write down anything out here? I had to chisel your commandments in rock, for crying out loud! (Grumbles inaudibly to self).

GOD says nothing in reply, though his expression speaks volumes. MOSES, seeing this, sighs.

MOSES (a little sulkily): All right. I apologize.

GOD: Apology accepted. Ready to begin?

MOSES nods with a resigned expression on his face, and sits on a nearby rock, lighting an oil lamp and picking up his writing utensils. GOD clears his throat.

GOD (in a deep, resonant tone): In the beginning, I created the heavens and the earth.

MOSES scribbles cuneiform letters rapidly with his stick, wetting the clay tablet from the jar of water periodically. He nods for GOD to continue.

GOD: And the earth was without form, and void: and pretty well all of it was one giant liquid blob, like water. But the rest of the universe was not nearly so disorganized. You see, Moses, your earth is only one of several planets that goes around your sun, which I also created; and the moon which goes around your earth was also made at this time. And your sun, though it looks bright to you, is just one of many stars in your galaxy – and that’s just one galaxy in the whole huge universe. For example, if you look up there, you can see a group of stars that looks like a big cup. Well, on one of the planets that goes around that star – right there – (points) I had created a very interesting race of creatures that –

GOD suddenly looks over at MOSES and realizes he is dozing.

GOD (sharply cutting off his speech): Moses! Moses! Wake up!

MOSES (shaking his head vaguely): What? What’s the matter?

GOD: Moses, did you get down what I’m saying?

MOSES (quickly looking over notes): Created heavens. And earth. Earth without form…void…water…Yep. Got it all. (Mutters to self) I think.

GOD looks a little suspicious. MOSES nods reassuringly. GOD clears his throat again and continues.

GOD: So as I was saying, your planet was rather disorganized. And the first thing I decided to do was make it a bit more organized – otherwise there was no chance life would survive. A lot of the water was in gaseous form, mixed with very nasty chemicals. So I let the earth cool down first – this took maybe a  billion years, but at the end Earth had something like an atmosphere and oceans. This meant…

At this point, GOD looks over at MOSES and realizes that, not only is he dozing again, but his oil lamp is about to go out.

GOD (loudly): Moses, don’t you need some light to write by?

MOSES: (Waking up): What? Huh? Light?

GOD: I said, let there be light! (He points at the nearly-extinguished lamp.)

MOSES: (Too panicked to see GOD’s gesture): Oh, is that what you said? (Scribbles madly on cuneiform tablet.)

GOD: No, no, I didn’t say it then, I’m saying it now! (Blows on oil lamp, causing the flame to spring back up.)

MOSES: Huh?

GOD (exasperated): What I meant was, we need light now!

MOSES (bewildered): But we have light now. (Points at the stars above.)

GOD: What I’m trying to say is…oh, never mind. Just carry on. (Mutters to self in annoyed tone, something about stiffnecked Israelites.)

MOSES (taking advantage of the break to read over what he’s written): “And God said, Let there be light.” Has a nice ring to it. (Smiles to self.)

GOD: (Sighing) And there was light. Now, you got down that I separated the water from the air, right?

MOSES: Yep, got it. (Scribbles madly).

GOD: Very well. Next I decided that it would be interesting to have some lifeforms that lived in water, like fish and whales and so forth, and some that didn’t, like you. (Watches MOSES carefully to make sure he doesn’t drift off again.) So I triggered some earthquakes and tectonic plate shifts and such, and after a few million more years, I had a bunch of nice continents to work with, with big oceans of water separated from them. Okay? (MOSES nods and scribbles dutifully on his tablet.)

GOD: Around the same time I decided to create some real life. That took a billion years or two. It was nothing complicated at first – just a few little microscopic creatures, things you can’t see with your naked eye. These were really simple organisms – about all they could do was eat and reproduce. But those led to more complicated things, like amoebas and algae and…

GOD looks over at MOSES and sees his eyes glazing over again.

GOD (raising his voice slightly) And those, Moses, (MOSES jerks awake at the sound of GOD’s voice and scribbles quickly again) led to plants. You know, like grass and flowers and fruit trees and those sort of things. Green stuff. Stuff that reproduces by seeds and pollen. Life that gets its energy from photosynthesis – that means it gets its food from the sun.

MOSES (looking confused): Sun? You made the sun next? Did I miss something here? (Grabs for his tablet.)

GOD : Um, Moses…you did write down that I made the sun, moon, and stars, right?

MOSES: Uh, ok, of course. (Scribbles on tablet, murmuring under his breath, “Made the sun, moon, and stars.”)

GOD still looks a little suspicious, but continues.

GOD: So aside from the plants, I decided we needed some more interesting organisms. After all, plants can’t move around, or talk, or do much at all. So I started by putting together some more life forms in the sea, based on the microscopic ones I told you about earlier. New things like squids. And starfish. And anemones. And then more complicated ones like fish (MOSES looks relieved upon hearing something familiar), and some really big ones that you’d probably just call “sea monsters.” Then we got snakes, and reptiles, and so forth, and somewhere along there I made some birds. Of course it took several hundred million years, but in the end, you could say that the earth swarmed with living creatures!

MOSES is scribbling madly. GOD looks relieved that he’s paying attention at last.

GOD: Then I decided to try something a bit different: warm-blooded creatures with hair, called mammals – like cattle, and wild animals like bears, and of course humans. Yes, I created you people, last of all. (Mutters to self:) Big mistake.

MOSES: What did you say? “Let us make…”

GOD: (glancing quickly over at MOSES) Umm, yes. “Let us make…humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” (MOSES, satisfied, copies down GOD’s words.)

MOSES: (suddenly frowning and looking up at GOD): Wait. Were you talking to yourself?

GOD (a little nervously): No! No! All I said was, “Let us make –“

MOSES: No, I’ve got that, but why the plural?

GOD (Relieved): Oh, just using the “royal we.” (MOSES looks puzzled.) Never mind.

MOSES: So what next?

GOD (takes a moment to think): Oh. Well, that was just about the end. I took a look at everything I’d made on Earth, and decided it was pretty good. Not quite as good as the Vega star system, but still not bad considering how late I’d left it. So I told all of you to be fruitful and multiply – which is pretty well the one commandment I’ve ever given you that you obeyed. Obeyed it a little too well, if you ask me. (Mutters:) Note to self: next time, introduce automatic system of birth control.

MOSES is yawning again.

GOD (suddenly exasperated): Moses, haven’t you rested enough?

MOSES (eager): Rested? You rested? Sounds like a good idea! (Scribbles down something on his tablet, then picks up the lamp and stands up.) We’re done for the night, then? (He stretches.)

GOD (looking resigned) Yes, I guess you could say we’re done. Go get some sleep. We’ll talk about the Fall tomorrow.

MOSES is looking over his notes. Suddenly he frowns.

MOSES: God, I don’t think you told me. Exactly how long did it take you to do all of this?

GOD: (Surprised) I thought you’d gotten it down. Like I said, cooling the earth took a billion years or so, then a couple billion of working on the first unicellular creatures and…

GOD looks over at MOSES. He is staring puzzled at his writing tablet.

MOSES (looking completely bewildered as he peers at his tablet): Uh, God? What exactly is a “billion?” And how do I write it down?

GOD appears lost for words.

MOSES: Like, all I wanted to know is, did you create the earth in a second? A minute? An hour? It wouldn’t have taken you any longer than that, would it?

GOD starts to open his mouth, then shuts it. For a moment he does nothing, then, looking totally resigned: Let’s just say…a day.

MOSES (grasping at something he can finally understand): A day?

GOD: Well, a whole week, actually. It takes longer to create a world than you might think.

MOSES: Amazing! A whole week! I never would have guessed! (Scribbles eagerly on his tablet.) Boy, our world must really be a complicated place, huh, God?

GOD suddenly smiles.

GOD (putting his hand on MOSES’ shoulder): You don’t know the half of it, Moses.

MOSES and GOD walk slowly down the mountain. As the light of the lamp disappears behind the hill, the curtain falls.