Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Negotiating with God (Humor)

~John Philipp~

It is a new year and time to get down to business. Normally at the beginning of each year I review the previous 12 months to see what I might improve upon. This year, I decided to review my entire life and I discovered a disquieting fact.

Looking back, I’m sure I made more than one deal with God, especially during my hypochondriac phase that lasted several decades and, while not cured, is currently in semi-retirement. Generally the deal took the form of “I’ll do X if You’ll let me live to be this old.”

Now I am this old and I find I'm not ready to go. Not quite yet. I still have things to do. The leaves need to be raked, I promised I’d fix the leaky faucet and I still haven’t learned conversational Lithuanian.

My last serious negotiation with God was conducted either at my confirmation or perhaps in my name by my parents when I was baptized — also known as contracting by proxy. But those negotiations were made in the context of how I understood God and the world. Things are different now, the world is different now and it’s time to update those contracts.

My first questions were: Do I need an agent to negotiate with God? Will my literary agent take this on? Could it be a whole new “genre” for him? I mentioned this to my agent. He told me that unless God has his own section at Borders, he doesn’t have the time.

Making a contract with God isn’t the same as making a contract with the devil. When you contract with the devil you are contracting for your afterlife. When you contract with God, you are contracting for this life — how long it lasts and the quality thereof.

Contracts with the devil are always suspect. The devil appears to you as a nice, regular guy with a hell of a deal (pardon the play on words) like “sign here and you will become a best-selling author” or “you will become rich” or “you will never suffer the heartbreak of psoriasis.”

There is always a catch when you deal with the devil. Once you have achieved your dream, he takes your immortal soul and, in hindsight, ten years on the New York Times best-seller list seems a high price to pay for an eternity of hellfire, which I have on good authority is a lot worse than psoriasis.

With God, you ask for a favor. In exchange, you promise to do something such as go to church every Sunday — even if the playoffs are on, always take out the garbage or stop hitting your sister on the head. If you renege on your promise to God, you won’t burn for eternity but you might get a “time out” in purgatory. At minimum, you will not get a cloud in heaven with a great view.

The contracts I made with God were specific: let me live until this age, or make sure this pain in my stomach isn’t cancer or tell Mary Sue to like me and I’ll never swear again, or I will always do my homework before turning on the television or I will stop doing that thing my mother says will cost me my eyesight.

Most of those promises had a life expectancy of a New Year’s resolution made with a lampshade on my head.

Given my checkered performance, it seems logical that when God has a chance to catch up on his paperwork, he might simply lift my life-extension guarantee and tell Saint Peter to expect a new guest.

So I prayed that God would give me a list to remind me of what I had promised to do and what we might work out as a settlement — one that requires I hang around here for a while to fulfill. I’m waiting for an answer.

If you break a contract with God, you’ll get no sympathy from your friends and relatives. Whereas, if you can figure out a way to break a contract with the devil, everyone is impressed with how clever you were to outwit Satan on his own court.

Your choice.

However you decide, good luck and have a Happy and Prosperous New Year.


John Philipp is a weekly humor columnist for four Marin County, California newspapers and has won numerous humor and memoir writing awards.

His humor columns are posted at