The more time Dorsett spent in the Coach and Horses, the more he understood the pull of addiction and its artificial security.
To be in a quiet, half-empty pub, apart from the murmurings of peaceful groups, was like walking into a church. Polished, smoothly scarred brown-gold wood in the shape of a long curved bar with suitably spaced tables about a room on a swept boarded floor. Chairs and benches for pews, bread in the form of sandwich snacks, and wine as an alternative offering.
In place of incense the smell of hops, yeast, cellar barrels, and dregs. No priests, but a landlord, wishing for a full congregation day and night to help fill his tills. No one dying on crosses or suffering the lash. Instead, archaic images of Nottingham Castle and its environs to make a man feel at home, within a level of intoxication that situated him and never put him out of place.
Dorsett searched for Garbutt and found him standing alone by his private ledge with his back to the gambling machine, staring at a picture on the wall ahead of him which was just another place to anchor his eyes for the purpose of daydreaming. Dorsett ordered two pints and walked over to him, placing them down on the ledge.
There was no look of surprise.
‘And hello to you Dorsett.’
‘How are you?’
‘Alone. Or I was.’
‘And now you’re not.’
‘And now I’m not.’
Dorsett took a drink to fill the silence, giving him time to think of a suitable introduction to begin his inquiry, but Garbutt had already suspected the reason for his visit.
‘I looked up your miracles of life.’ he said. ‘There’s no escaping it. It’s pre-ordained. I can’t think of the word coincidence anymore because it feels like sense is being resisted.’
‘So then what’s the explanation.’ asked Dorsett, ‘A God?’
‘I didn’t say that. But definitely something.’
Garbutt looked at Dorsett quizzically.
’I’m not talking about a Christ or Allah figure. Once you mention ‘he’ then you’ve already sold yourself. I mean we’re talking about the whole universe, right? So when you mention he, you’re implying that the cosmos was created by a man-like being. That’s just arrogance. There’s just something, I don’t know, there. Look, all these conditions, they were discovered by science, right? The discovery that the earth revolved around the sun, telescopes to find the planets, and that scientist who found out the universe was expanding-’
’Right. Then all that stuff about proteins, amino acids, DNA, with all the odds against life ever beginning. The right temperature, the water necessary for it, the moon and the tides, and the one that really gets me, that asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. Christ, they survived on the planet for 180 million years. Try and imagine how long that is.
Do you think we would have been able to evolve if T-Rex was out looking for food? So now all of a sudden there’s a clear runway for our ancestors. They come out from their holes and start to get bigger and climb to the trees and then learn to walk upright on the ground and then take over the Earth. If the coming of man was a crime scene, the dumbest police detective in the world would find the clues. It’s too convenient, too unsubtle. That big rock might as well have been thrown by God himself.’
Garbutt nodded his monologue closed.
‘Seems like it’s been on your mind, then.’ said Dorsett.
‘How can it not be? It feels like a secret that’s shouting but no one’s listening.’
‘If it’s any comfort, I can hear it.’
‘That’s two of us, then.’
‘It’s a start.’
‘I’d say there are a lot more people who know of these so-called miracles if that’s what you want to call them.’
‘Sure,’ said Dorsett, ‘they know of them, but they wouldn’t call them miracles, they’d call them conditions. And I bet there’s not many who believe that they’re premeditated.’
‘Miracle is usually understood as an act of God.’ said Garbutt. ‘The same as the word condition relates to science. I reckon there’s a connection there.’
Dorsett was about to take a drink of beer but paused.
‘Do you want to elaborate on that?’
’Well, we always hear how science explains the world. The sound of thunder which people first thought was the sound of Gods. The properties of the sun, which was also thought to be a God. The mystery of the stars at night. The way life was born from life, where people went to after they died. All the questions, they were all examined and explained through science. So we said well, that’s what science is for, to lose us this belief that God and religion are responsible for all things. People started to believe that science was the replacement of God, not his tool.
But I think there’s a missing link, a word that would be hard to reject from either side: Nature. It’s a word that could fit easily into either science or religion. No physicist or priest would reject the term. I reckon whatever the hell it was that triggered those conditions for our arrival is the same that gave us science to deny angels, devils, arks, virgin births, and all the rest of it.
Science was the means to uncover this omniscient presence. It doesn’t give us commandments or condemn us to hell when we do something bad. It doesn’t tell us how to live morally, that’s a human search all by itself. But most of all, it doesn’t tell us to worship in congregations of millions. Whatever this force is can only be seen by each individual from their own point of view.’
Dorsett couldn’t resist it.
‘What’s yours then?’
‘Something not of us that no one can see but only sense. It has a pattern, a blueprint, the answer to questions never asked or wondered of and it’s the only truth that ever was. Hands can’t touch it, eyes see it or language describe it. It cannot be associated from one person to another and it cannot be praised. Ignorance is all it demands. But it has to be a conscious ignorance. Faith isn’t required to keep it alive only certain uncertainty. Bewilderment is necessary.’
He said the last words emphatically.
‘But isn’t the purpose of science not to be bewildered?’ asked Dorsett, ‘To be free of mystery?’
‘I think people were given science, or more accurately, given the intelligence that developed science, to use it the right way. But that doesn’t always happen. We built the biggest weapons with the help of it and became frightened at the consequences. Yet in those same technological advances, we found cures for diseases and discovered ways to feed millions. Sometimes you have to take responsibility. Personally, I think science, the so-called saviour from religious dogma, will kill us faster. It isn’t going to end well. The dinosaurs lasted a hundred and eighty million years. I can’t imagine us lasting that long, can you?’
‘Two hundred thousand years.’ pondered Dorsett.
‘That much? I think you’re being optimistic.’
‘No,’ Dorsett corrected him, ‘That’s how long homo sapiens have been around. And civilization didn’t start until six thousand years ago.’
Garbutt shook his head. ‘It doesn’t look promising, does it?’
‘No, it doesn’t.’ agreed Dorsett. ‘The dinosaurs were docile and they carried on for a hundred and eighty million years. Maybe we should be as compliant.’
‘Or clever enough to accept our ignorance.’
‘Looks like we missed the small print. It states that you can exist on the Earth for a hundred and eighty million years but you’ve got to play dumb and don’t ask questions.’
‘Otherwise, you’ll get no more than fifty thousand years,’ added Garbutt, ‘searching for something you’ll never find- even though you’ll have a wild time trying.’
‘Maybe that’s the catch.’ said Dorsett. ‘The closer you get to the answer, the shorter the time you have, an efficient way of keeping the secret. We’re just too curious. There’s not a thing around us that we can’t ask questions about.’
‘Any way you look at it, we’re fucked.’ concluded Garbutt, ‘And you wonder why I drink so much.’
After he took a quick sip of his new pint, he poured the rest of it over his head and shook himself like a dog from a river.