“ It’s not God…”
I had been in the wilds of Cyprus’s divided reality for far too long. The division, the misconceptions, the stubbornness, the ignorance, the false idol ‘money’ had all become too overwhelming. One bigoted ignorant view against another bigoted ignorant view, who could win such an argument. I decided to go back to my Village with No Name and detox my soul.
Once there, amongst like minded Hoomans, I felt better but it still wasn’t enough. A deep cleanse, a Niagara Falls of a shower, a Phoenix of spirit was required, only one place for that, Assop’s Stables. First I visited the Hidden Silent Monks who lived under St. Hilarion and got three bottles of aged St. Hilariass Assinthe, Assop’s favourite tipple. A delicious drink, no one knew the ingredients because, well, the monks were silent.
Second, I stopped off at the Pomegranate Café in Kaplica village and bought a whole stack of lahmacuns, ordered them veggie but spicy, that’s Assop’s favourite food when imbibing. Thus laden I set off into the hills and followed the Donkey Pattie markers which only an Assluminatum could decipher, no matter how many times I went to visit Assop his stable was always in a different location so they were essential. Today was so hot that I had to rest in the shade of a carob tree and even then I felt like I was sitting between the buttocks of a volcano which had explosive diarrhoea.
Plucking a carob I continued and eventually saw the distinctive triangle of olive trees which marked the location of the stable, fantastic, it was next to a pristine Karpasian beach. As I approached Assop came out of the stable, “Heehaw, I’ve been expecting you” and gave me a huge smile revealing his enplaquened teeth. He was old beyond knowing, wizened and fragile, the whiskers out of control on his face and ears. The only youthful thing about him were his eyes, bright and inquisitive, they lit up even more when he saw what was in my hands. “Oh yummy, munchies. How are you, Breehawhaw, the hooman that is an ass?” That was my Assluminati name, shhh, don’t tell anyone. “Troubled, sensei, in need of your wisdom.”
He looked at me with concern in his eyes, “Come let’s go sit on the beach and talk’’. With that we hoofed it down the beach, cracked open the first bottle of assinthe and started chomping loudly on the lahmacuns. Assop is a sloppy eater so I tried to avoid looking at him whilst he was chewing open mouthed. We talked about my travels, what I’d seen, the state of the beaches poisoned by hoomanity’s plastic rubbish and cigarette butts. The non-stop building, clouds of cement in the air, stampeding cars, accidents caused by careless frenzied driving, I could go on but you’ve all seen it with your own eyes.
The warm sand and the hypnotic sound of the sea lapping against the shore was starting to soothe me. Assop listened and chomped silently, he tapped his hoof on the empty bottle, I took the hint and opened the second. We then talked about hoomans and relationships, the need to be liked, loved, respected. How pride and money had replaced kindness and empathy, how possessions and vanity had replaced intelligence and integrity. How the idea of peace and unity had evaporated in the Cypriot sun.
Assop tapped his hoof on the second empty bottle, good grief we’d got through that quickly. I opened the third bottle as Assop looked me in the eyes , “Are you a religious person Breehawhaw?”
Out of the blue like that it took me by surprise, “Err, no, I’m not.” “Why?” he asked, pushing half a lahmacun into his mouth. “Because of my mom.”
He nearly choked and spluttered out most of the lahmacun onto my face, “Your mom! Tell me!” “No, I don’t like talking about it” I glugged another shot. “Oh but you have to, I’m intrigued” he threw down another glass.
“Oufff, Assop, I really don’t wanna.”
“I’ll make you a deal, you tell me why and I’ll tell you which came first, the chicken or the egg!” Now I was intrigued, Assop, having been tutor to the likes of Einstein and Hawking, was bound to know. “Okay, deal”.
He slurped down another glass, “I’m listening.”
Where to start, where to start, I gathered my thoughts and dove in.
“My mom is not an overly religious person but she does follow the principles and holidays without insisting the we follow it strictly. Now when I was younger I used to eat anything she’d put in front of me with a few exceptions, like bamya or kolokass, ewww, eewww, eeewww! Being a stubborn kind of fellow mom would bring out her secret weapon, she would look at me very seriously and say “If you don’t finish what’s on your plate it will chase you in Heaven”. I was still young enough to believe every word she said and in terror would force the offensive food down my throat even if I was gagging at the effort. Seeing that this worked she used it at every opportunity so no matter what was left on my plate it would end up chasing me. I’ve always had a fertile imagination which worked against me, I imagined Heaven to be a giant cafeteria and me being chased by food leftovers as I ran between the tables nervously looking behind me at the encroaching food. There was something not quite right with this picture. The straw that broke the camel’s back came one Sunday…”
Assop chuckled delightedly “Heehaw, stoopid feeble camels, straw would never break a donkey’s back.” I laughed at his delight and carried on.
“Mom and dad were very excited about what they were cooking that day, me and sis kept asking what was for dinner and were repeatedly told to wait and see as they excitedly went in and out of the kitchen. It took hours to cook but finally we were seated at the table and mom proudly brought out a large covered dish and placed it on the table. With a flourish she took the lid off and dad’s eye gleamed with delight, I barely suppressed a scream of horror and my sister’s face turned green. There, in the middle of the table, was a sheep’s head, charred, its tongue lolling out of one side in submission from between lipless teeth, lidless eyes staring at me asking for help, sorry my friend but you have been well and truly cooked. Dad gleefully opened its mouth and cut off a bit of tongue, mom plucked out an eye and popped it into her mouth, I heard it squish and pop and a bit of inside eye juice flew through the air and hit me on the nose. Well that was it, no fricking way was I eating that, and no fricking way was I going to believe that that poor broiled sheep’s head was going to be flying after me in my cafeteria heaven. I can still see the disappointed look on my parents face as I steadfastly refused to touch a morsel, could I really be their son? My Muslim faith died that day, no more canteen heaven, no more food i didn’t like would enter my mouth again, and in light of how fanatics and terrorists have corrupted that faith it’s not a decision I have ever regretted since.
Christianity I encountered at school where every Wednesday we were trouped over to the church across the road where middle aged balding men with dandruff splattered shoulders and white collars would leer at us in a most unnerving way. It was all God this, leery look, God that, lick of the lips, hymns. In the end I had enough and got together all the four foreigners in the school, it was the late 1960s, that’s all there was, and approached the head teacher, Mr. Debenham, a slight blonde man with a very deep voice and animated moustache that was half blonde half nicotine brown.
“Sir, Sir, we feel it’s unfair for us to go to church, it’s not my religion!” “Nor mine” said the Indian. “Or mine’ said the African. “Mine neither” said the Jew. The moustache twitched up and down,”Well you have to, every boy does.” “But, Sir, I’ll be chased by food in Heaven” I pleaded. “I’ll come back as a bug” wailed the Indian. “I’ll be sent to the valley of no return” moaned the African. “I’ll never see the promised land” despaired the Jew.
The moustache went into overdrive and he promised to look into it, which to his credit he did and we were allowed to sit at the back of the church and not have to sing the hymns, but a teacher was posted next to us to make sure the heathens didn’t disrupt the service.
Later in life I discovered the present day Bible was written by a panel of self important clerics three hundred and fifty years after the death of Jesus and they placed all the important Pagan holidays to coincide with the new ones in the Bible. Go figure.
The decider for me was the ancient Russian warlord who was famous for drinking vodka and fighting, he managed to conquer most of what is now modern day Russia. The trouble was he now had a population to control and he had to choose a religion for them. On one side he had Christianity, on the other Muslimism. He chose Christianity because it allowed him his beloved vodka, so religion could be decided by something as arbitrary as alcohol, again, go figure. So it’s not God I don’t believe in, it’s man.”
I downed another glass of delectable assinthe. “So what do you believe in?” asked Assop. “I believe in E=mc2, the laws of Physics and chance”.
A wry smile crossed his weathered face. “Don’t get me wrong, Assop, I won’t deny anyone their belief system, if it gives them solace and peace then go for it. So, your turn, chicken or egg?”
He scrabbled around the sand with his hoof, “Now where is it, ouff, hang on, I know it’s here, gamoto, ahhh, here it is.” He dug out a photograph and flicked it over to me. I looked at it, uncertain of what it was.
“To all physicists in the world that is the most beautiful image ever! It is approximately three seconds after the Big Bang, as far back as our technology will allow us to see. All that existed at that time was the law of gravity and hydrogen. The blobs of colour are essential, they are clumps of hydrogen which because of the law of gravity attracted more and more hydrogen to gather around them and eventually to become STARS. If it had been one uniform colour we would not exist. Stars are the nursery for all the elements that make our universe, including us. Without the clumps none of the breathtaking beauty and majesty we behold around and above us would have been created.”
He hoofed about again in the sand and plucked out another picture. “This, my hooman that is an ass, is the egg of a speckled hen. Heeheehaw notice the similarity, the egg came first my friend, the egg came first. Likewise an idea is born as an egg, the idea of unity is an egg. It has just hatched and broken out of its shell, you have to give it time to grow and mature. Most animals are born fully formed and capable, hoomans need time to grow, develop, and mature, just as the idea of peace and unity on this blessed little island.”
We sat in silence as the waves caressed the shore and the distant stars shone brightly in the heavens above, the creators of us all. Thank you, God. We consumed the last glass of assinthe and that’s all I remember. The next day I woke up, dazed and confused, the bedroom’s contents were in the bathroom and the bathroom was in the bedroom, I was somewhere in between, an epic struggle had happened but what I couldn’t tell you.
I learned later that Assop had called my sister to take my inebriated ass home. She recounted a harrowing drive home with me, her older brother, jibbering and jabbering and giggling and laughing and continually asking “Where’s Assop, he was just here! Where’s Assop I was just talking to him, where’s Assop, he spat lahmacun in my face. Where’s Assop?” Not her favourite drive home, but bless her she’d do it again, and we laugh about it to this day.
See you somewhere in Cyprus soon.
The Village Idiot.
PS. Mom, I love your cooking, it’s the best in Cyprus!