There is a large building. It has many companions, but it never speaks to them. All of them do the same thing over and over again in silence.
Bridges lead to and from the large building, passing over streets too busy to accommodate pedestrians. The bridges are covered with steel and glass so that the weather will leave them alone. People rush back and forth across every bridge in and out of the building. Each of the people is very important, with essential tasks to be done. Few of them know one another. Each one of them is on a mission from God, but they never discuss their missions with one another, and each one of them assumes their mission is much more important than the missions other people have.
Inside of the building is an elevator that moves up and down through time. The elevator stops in different centuries on every floor. The passengers do not know this; they forget which century they are in from floor to floor and whatever floor they get out on, they assume it is the century they belong in. Everything in each century on each floor arranges itself to accommodate the visitors flawlessly. Because the passengers are forever forgetting where they came from, who they are, and where they are going to, they always feel they are in exactly the right place, doing exactly the right thing. Even when things feel wrong to them they assume this is normal.
There are two old men in the building, one in the basement and one on the top floor. Each one of them is in charge of a coterie of angels, who take care of changing the centuries. Each century is like a spark plug that triggers an avalanche of events the moment it is invoked. One angel is in charge of the Middle Ages; another one the 20th century; and so on. The angels in charge of centuries with pyramid builders, Jesus and Buddha, and so on are a bit full of themselves. So many other centuries depend on them, they think, not realizing that without the other centuries no one would care about their century at all.
Occasionally a fellow angel reminds them of this and they become depressed. This is problematic, because a depressed angel can ruin the mood of a whole century for as much as a century at a time. When this happens, the people moving in and out of the century through the elevator also come out depressed, and the depression can quickly spread through the whole building. For this reason the old men at the bottom and the top of the building have asked the angels not to speak to one another much, and frequently make them take their meals separately and sleep on different floors, even though angels naturally prefer to congregate together and suffer when they are separated in this way.
The old men on the bottom and top floors of the building sometimes wonder whether every building has a similar arrangement, but they are not allowed to travel to other buildings. Only the visitors are allowed to do this. For this reason they frequently eavesdrop on the conversations between visitors, even though this is strictly forbidden and a violation of the trust placed in them. It is furthermore a waste of time, because the visitor’s memories of other buildings— as with other centuries — is grotesquely inaccurate, and no one can possibly assemble a picture of anything that is actually going on using this hearsay.
The angels realize that the two old men have become weak custodians. They hold weekly therapy sessions together and try to boost the morale of their depressed brethren, even though they themselves are responsible for the problem in the first place. Angel therapy, it turns out, is a very complicated subject. They all do much better when they band together and sing hosannas, which they do frequently. When they get drunk they reminisce about the good old days when they were allowed to do annunciations, appear to people in dreams and wrestle them, and so on. This is forbidden now because angelic visitations had so many unpredictable results. Every once in a while an angel breaks the rules and sneaks a little bit of angel material into a human here and there. Because of the general confusion between the centuries, the self-important people, and the milling about in the building, it usually goes unnoticed, but if an angel is caught, they are sent to the basement for a month, during which their century is neglected. Centuries have been known to run down in a perfectly awful way during such periods, but rules are rules. There is nothing to be done about it. The angel that caused the second world war in this way was banished and sent to another building, presumably a much smaller one where he or she could do less harm. Again, no one knows because the buildings are not allowed to speak to one another.
It is said that there are buildings where all the centuries play out differently. It is probably true, because each building is part of a huge experiment attempting to make everything that can possibly happen all happen at once. God has been working on this for all of eternity, because it is theoretically possible given that He is God. Nonetheless, the fact that it is theoretically possible does not mean that it is easy to do, and the act of creation, along with its endless maintenance, has turned out to be a very time-consuming task. It has, in point of fact, used up 100% of all the time that it will ever be possible to create; and so while God tries to do everything all at once, He forever labors under a condition where there is no additional time to do it.
This is why everything always happens now.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.