The God Complex

For two days the fish tank ran on auto pilot: lights and filter came on in the morning, the motor hummed quietly, oxygen bubbled, and then at 7:00 p.m. everything shut down for the night. Only I didn’t have to descend the flight of stairs to feed the fish several times a day, since, of course, there were no longer any fish in the tank.

The tank was my model, an ocean in miniature, ideal – an underwater Atlantis. Beige gravel with blue splashes flowed in contours around strata of rock while plants framed the outcropping and lined the tank back to hide the wall behind, leaving the front open for the fish to freely swim.

There must be some sort of God complex in people who keep aquariums or create miniatures such as scale railroads. Maybe it even applies to gardeners. What they all have in common is that they get to create. From nothing, hills and valleys  appear on the train layout, and the loco-driven freight train barrels past the sleeping village in the dark; the gardener plants a shade tree here and cuts the bed just so there, uprooting any weeds that would spoil the view.

Essentially, hobbyists create their own Edens, small worlds built for their pleasure, which they can control, not just from the aspect of play, but from the very act of creating them. Nothing happened in my small sea world that I didn’t make happen. At least until disease entered the tank.

Maybe that’s what annoyed God: he lost control of his perfect model. Disease in the form of the serpent entered his magnificent Garden of Eden and suddenly the creatures he had created and shaped neglected his will, disobeying him. “Eat from the tree of life,” he offered Adam and Eve, “But do not eat from the tree of knowledge,” but that is exactly what they did. And so God relocated Adam and Eve and locked the gates of Eden behind them. Genesis clearly shows God’s anger, but the focus shifts to Adam and Eve who now will suffer and, ultimately, die.

But what about God after his creations have let him down and are now wandering  elsewhere? Surely the Garden was desolate for Him, a bitter reminder of that searing event. Surely, the treachery of his small world must have caused Him a great deal of pain. Perhaps He could never again enjoy it in quite the same way.

My fish didn’t exactly disobey me, unless you want to consider their dying an act of civil disobedience. But after all those years, watching them grow, seeing their beauty as they flashed deep orange, mouths gaping at the surface when I came to feed them, suddenly not having them was desolation, and I too decided not to restock Eden.

But unlike a model railroad, or a garden, a fish tank can’t simply be abandoned to lie fallow, turning to dust and gradual decay. It has to be drained of water; gravel, plants and decorations rinsed and placed in buckets; canopy and filter cleaned and mothballed, and finally, the tank, that empty shell that had once contained a world, put into storage.

If God did in fact felt empty after undoing his creation, I can indeed, definitely relate.



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