Joseph looked at the whiteboard and then looked at the computer model again. He just had to double, no quadruple check, what he was seeing. It was THE end. He'd done it; The God Proof. His eyes welled up with emotion, he wanted to shout, but his own internal embarrassment kept him from doing so. Instead he just sat quietly thinking "YES! YES! YES!"
It was then that he looked around and took in what a state his little apartment was in. He'd been so focused day in and day out around his theorems and postulations that he hadn't really thought about his surroundings. It looked like a crack den crashed into a hoarder's house. Trash that he'd neglected to take out stood bagged in layers, with intermittent strata of papers and books, left in the moment when inspiration struck. The only path through the house was from the computer to the whiteboard past the couch to the bathroom. He was vaguely aware that he'd lost access to his bedroom somewhere about the third year that he'd been working on his project and the couch had become his bed for what little amount of time he slept each day.
A knock at the door startled him from those thoughts. He looked at the computer screen and saw the time, 4:24 a.m. 'Who could it be at this hour?' He thought back to whether he'd paid his rent, but surely they wouldn't show up at 4 in the morning if he'd missed his rent. No he'd paid his rent.
Nervously he looked through the peephole and saw a police officer standing outside. 'The police?' He'd had so little contact with people over the past few years he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen an officer. The thought of one showing up now sent him spiraling into each interaction he'd had lately to think if any interaction he'd had with a delivery person that brought him food and toiletries could have sparked a call.
The officer knocked again.
Joseph unlocked the chain and the three deadbolts and removed the bar from the door. He opened the door just wide enough to show his face, 'Yes officer? How can I help you?' was what he thought to say, all that came out was a terse "What?"
The officer smiled an easy smile, "May I come in Mister Smithson?"
"Uh, oh, yes," Joseph said nervously before opening the door fully and allowing the officer to pass. The officer removed his hat, brushed off a spot on the couch and sat down casually, crossing his legs and hanging his hat off of his knee.
"So, you've finally done it." The officer said with a smile.
Joseph was taken aback. "Done it?" 'The Proof? How could he know? He must be talking about something else, he must have me confused for someone else.' His thoughts ran wild.
"Yes the Proof of course." The officer said pointing at the board.
"I don't understand... how... um... how did you... why are you here?" Paranoia started racing through his brain. Things he'd read on the internet about scientists disappearing or being found dead on the cusp of some big revelation. Years of research data being buried by the government. Men being institutionalized for their discoveries and labeled as insane. He looked around his apartment and realized how easy that would be.
"Oh pish posh" the office said and lazily waved his hand as if he were swatting Joseph's thoughts away.
"You proved God exists and as a result I felt it worth showing up. To congratulate you." He smiled and seeing that Joseph still didn't get it, he added "It's me, I'm God."
Joseph stood stunned, unsure as to how to react to that statement. "Um, you're a police officer..."
"Well sure, yeah. I'm a police officer, and a farmer and a Congress woman, and a twelve year old boy. I'm lots of people. But that doesn't matter right now, we need to talk about your Proof."
"I don't feel comfortable..." Joseph started. The paranoia still kicking up conspiracies and breeding new ones over and over in his head.
"Look, you're Joseph Anthony Smithson, 52 years old former high school physics teacher. You had a hobby trying to solve unsolvable mathematical formulas that turned into an obsession after your wife died, when you turned to proving God existed or prove that he didn't. You've always been prone to obsessive behavior and at one time when you were 13 worried that you might be schizophrenic because you'd constantly hear your name being whispered and you regularly have conversations with yourself about music or poetry."
Joseph sat stunned. He'd never told anyone about the voices when he was a child or the worry about schizophrenia. He started to think if the officer might not be a part of that schizophrenia, maybe he'd developed a break and the proof wasn't real and he'd finally lost his mind. That's when the officers hat hit him full in the chest.
"Pick it up, does that feel like a hallucination?" The officer asked.
Joseph felt the hat, looked at it, wondered if schizophrenics had...
"No schizophrenics don't have hallucinations about tangible objects. They might feel like someone is touching them or might get a bugs crawling on or under their skin, but no physical object hallucinations, at least not at the level of detail of that hat." The officer interjected.
"So... the proof... It's really great work and I applaud you for it, but I have to ask that you don't publish it." The officer smile dimmed and he appeared more serious.
"What? But..." Joseph started.
"But... people need to know, people deserve to know, people will turn around their lives, people will aspire to more, people will be filled with hope? Am I right? You lost hope and lost your faith in God when you lost your wife... Does having this formula and seeing me in the flesh change that loss?"
Joseph's thoughts suddenly turned toward Maryanne. "Is she... is she in heaven?"
"I can't tell you that Joe, it won't do any good for you to know. If I said there was a heaven would it hasten you to get there. If I told you it didn't exist would you feel the world was futile and hasten your death anyway. Just like I can't come out and tell everyone I exist and expect things to be better. You're still going to have people pick apart what I say or what the rules are and try to find their own meaning."
Joseph cheeks were wet with tears and he tried to compose himself.
"That makes no sense!" He yelled at God. "The Proof of you is right here. You're right here! You can show up and tell everyone, you can restore people's faith in you. You can tell them what's right and what's wrong!"
"That's not how it works Joe and you know it. Does a smoker stop smoking when they have proof that it will kill them, even when the cancer is growing and they have pictures of it? Does a doctor in Oregon give a hospiced cancer patient a life-ending medication even though they believe murder is wrong? Will a company stop producing a product even though they know they're contributing to pollution that is harming everyone including their workers? None of that changes just because people have proof there's a God either." The officer said in rapid fire.
In a more calm manner he continued, "What will likely happen is that as soon as you publish your Proof it will be poured over by the skeptics. The media will then start picking apart your life, not only your history and the details about Maryanne, but also your current living situation. They'll brand you as crazy, even if they do end up agreeing with your proof. Someone else will eventually attempt to take credit for your work and publish a better paper on it than you can. You'll then be shut out of your own work because you are too eccentric." He paused for a moment.
"Then the charlatans will crawl out of every corner of the globe with the 'I told you so's' claiming that their version of God and their communications with God are the legitimate truths of the world. Cults will gain members, religious wars will crank up to new heights, and people will get abused by their religious leaders, politicians and even scientists alike. The religious right will be vindicated, the atheists will be persecuted, and the whole world will start sliding into an absolutist dark ages."
"I um... can't we..." Joseph was at a lack for words. Everything the officer, God, was saying made sense.
"The only solution after publishing the proof is for me to come out. But even that won't help. People will feel disillusioned when they find out that none of their religions are exactly getting it right. Worse will be the people who don't get any of it right. Mass suicides and violence will ensue no matter what I say to people. The fundamental structure of the church-state would crumble. I could force them to do something different, but what's the point in treating you all like puppets. It doesn't serve me in the least to have automatons do everything mechanically. I have always relied on your free will and your creativity."
That word, 'relied', struck Joseph as important. "What do you mean 'relied' on our free will?"
God smiled. "Have you ever thought in this whole time you were trying to prove my existence whether there was a proof for your own existence?"
Joseph let that sink in 'Is there proof that I exist?' It was the classic question about reality, the 'I think, therefore I am' postulation. 'What is the formula that proves I exist?' And then another thought struck him 'Does God question his own existence?'
God smiled a wide smile. "Do you get it now?"
"But why? Did you only create us to prove that you exist?" Joseph asked.
"Yes and no. I created this whole universe and a the conditions for life to answer a multitude of questions that we had. Including questions about our own existence and how best to live our own lives. But this universe is also a beacon, my own little prayer, I'm offering up to whatever higher power created my universe, in the hopes they'll hear it and come down and talk to us like I'm talking to you right now. It's an arrogant hope that I will have created something so novel and pleasing to a god above, right? But that's my hope."
Joseph just sat. The implications were astounding even if the concept was cliche 'Who created God?' "So what do I do then? This has been my life's work."
"This has been ONE of your life's works Joe. Just one. And you can have others, you can inspire others, you have years and years left to live and work and be creative." With that the officer stood and moved to retrieve the hat Joseph still held tightly in his hands. Joseph relinquished the hat to him.
"What do I do now?" Joseph asked sadly.
God looked around, "Clean up your house, Joe." He looked Joseph in the eyes and cupped one hand on Joseph's cheek, "Clean yourself up. Then invite your daughter and your grandchildren over and start living your life again." Then he moved toward the door before saying, "I'm very proud of what you've done. It's amazing work. I look forward to seeing what you do next." He opened the door and then offered, "Should I grab a bag and get you started?" Nodding toward several bags of trash near the door.
Joseph felt a little guilty asking God to take his trash out for him and declined. "No, thank you. I can take it from here."
"Good man. I'll see you around." And with that he put on his police hat and closed the door behind himself.