"...very complicated Solitaire."
Good Omens, in addition to be hysterically funny and a great deal of fun to read, also contains quite a bit of Deep Thinking about human nature, good, evil, and all that fun stuff. Granted, some of the philosophical passages are more half-baked than others, but almost all of the philosophy in the book derives from the words or thoughts of the character Crowley. Aziraphale is an important theological counter-balance to Crowley's opinions, but unfortunately, Aziraphale rarely speaks his mind, whether directly in his own voice or in the limited third-person perspective that's often applied to Crowley. Thus, Crowley is left to be the philosophical voice of the book, and presumably of the authors themselves.
Crowley's exposition on good and evil starts right away on page 26, just after he delivers the Antichrist to a certain group of Satanic nuns.
Oh, he did his best to make their [human] short lives miserable, because that was his job, but nothing he could think up was half as bad as the stuff they thought up for themselves. They seemed to have a talent for it. It was built into the design, somehow. They were born into a world that was against them in a thousand little ways, and then devoted most of their energies to making it worse. Over the years Crowley had found it increasingly difficult to find anything demonic to do which showed up against the natural background of generalized nastiness. There had been times, over the past millenium, when he'd felt like sending a message back Below saying, Look, we may as well give up right now, we might as well shut down Dis and Pandemonium and everywhere and move up here, there's nothing we can do to them that they don't do to themselves and they do things we've never even thought of, often involving electrodes. They've got what we lack. They've got imagination. And electricity, of course...
Crowley had got a commendation for the Spanish Inquisition. He had been in Spain then, mainly hanging around cantinas in the nicer parts, and hadn't even known about it until the commendation arrived. He'd gone to have a look, and had come back and got drunk for a week...
And just when you'd think they were more malignant than Hell could ever be, they could occassionally show more grace than Heaven ever dreamed of. Often the same individual was involved. It was this free-will thing, of course. It was a bugger.
~ page 26
Later, when talking to Aziraphale, Crowley commits further blasphemy.
"Anyway, why're we talking about this good and evil? They're just names for sides. We know that."
~ page 46
Crowley's opinions are most often stated as part of a sort of third-person limited narrative, instead of quoted directly in his own voice.
The Devil hardly ever made anyone do anything. He didn't have to. That was what some humans found hard to understand. Hell wasn't a major resevoir of evil, any more than Heaven, in Crowley's opinion, was a fountain of goodness; they were just sides in the great cosmic chess game. Where you found the real McCoy, the real grace and the real heart-stopping evil, was right inside the human mind.
~ page 71
Now, as Crowley would be the first to protest, most demons weren't deep down evil. In the great cosmic game they felt they occupied the same position as tax inspectors - doing an unpopular job, maybe, but essential to the overall operation of the whole thing. If it came to that, some angels weren't paragons of virtue; Crowley had met one or two who, when it came to righteously smiting the ungodly, smote a good deal harder than was strictly necessary. On the whole, everyone had a job to do, and just did it.
And on the other hand, you got people like Ligur and Hastur, who took such dark delight in unpleasantness you might even have mistaken them for humans.
~ page 229
It's almost not until the world is about to end that Crowley verbally expresses his views. When it looks as though Adam has averted the Apocalypse by defeating the Four Horsemen, Crowley still isn't convinced, because he knows that all the hosts of Heaven and Hell are gathered in the skies above them and just *itching* to destroy each other. This is Crowley's one true moment of broody pessimism in the entire book.
"You see," said Crowley, his voice leaden with fatalistic gloom, "it doesn't really work that simply. You think wars get started because some old duke gets shot, or someone cuts off someone's ear, or someone's sited their missles in the wrong place. It's not like that. That's just, well, just reasons, which haven't got anything to do with it. What really causes wars is two sides that can't stand the sight of one another and the pressure builds up and up and then anything will cause it. Anything at all."
~ page 330
The book finally comes to a conclusion, both with its plot and with its philosophical exposition, in the final conversation between Crowley and Aziraphale.
"For my money, the real big one will be all of Us against all of Them."
"What? You mean Heaven and Hell against humanity?"
"...Well," said Crowley, who'd been thinking about this until his head ached, "haven't you ever wondered about it all? You know - your people and my people. Heaven and Hell, good and evil, all that sort of thing? I mean, why?"
"As I recall," said the angel stiffly, "there was the rebellion and--"
"Ah, yes. And why did it happen, eh? I mean, it didn't have to, did it?" said Crowley, a manic look in his eye. "Anyone who can build a universe in six days isn't going to let a little thing like that happen. Unless they want it to, of course."
"Oh, come on. Be sensible," said Aziraphale, doubtfully.
"That's not good advice," said Crowley. "That's not good advice at all. If you sit down and think about it sensibly, you come up with some very funny ideas. Like: why make people inquisitive, and then put some forbidden fruit where they can see it with a big neon finger flashing on and off saying 'THIS IS IT!'?"
"I don't remember any neon."
"Metaphorically, I mean. I mean, why do that if you really don't want them to eat it, eh? I mean, maybe you just want to see how it all turns out. Maybe it's all part of a great big ineffable plan. All of it. You, me, him, everything. Some great big test to see if what you've built all works properly, eh? You start thinking: it can't be a great cosmic game of chess, it has to be just very complicated Solitaire. And don't bother to answer. If we could understand, we wouldn't be us..."
~ page 357-358
So there you have it, Crowley's penultimate theory about Life, the Universe, and Everything: It's all a really complicated game of Solitaire. Which makes absolute perfect sense, if you think about it too much.
<--- Forbidden Fruit // Slither Home --->
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