My God by Mel Calman
New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1971
English cartoonist Mel Calman’s “look at the day-to-day difficulties of being God” reminds me a great deal of the collected oeuvre of Roger Hargreaves, author of the Mr. Men and Little Miss series for children. I’ve tried to foist quite a few precious, sensitive books about religion and God and “spirituality” on my daughter and she has roundly rejected them all. But this book! She made off with it and has been heard repeatedly snort-laughing into its pages. The sight of God reading the Bible cracks her up every time. It’s a high honor, late Mel Calman: she put it in her own personal collection.
I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to suppose that Calman—author of such other out-of-print books as How About a Little Quarrel Before Bed?, But It’s My Turn to Leave You, It’s Only You That’s Incompatible!, and Sex?—fashioned the Big Guy in his image. God is seen here, bearded, nosey, a bit on the short-n-portly side; flip the book over and check out the author photo, is all I’m saying.
Calman’s God lives alone in the clouds, worrying about his own popularity. “I could use a few ‘Praise Hims’ just now,” he muses, in one scene, laying on a cloud. In another, he’s plucking petals off a daisy and saying “They love me, they love me not—they love me.” We also see God looking in a mirror and saying “I believe in you,” and wishing that he had someone to pray to in the midst of all the cries for help emanating from below. I’ve always wondered why God requires so much praising and glory-giving; wouldn’t being God be enough? If you created everything, would you really need everything to tell you how incredible you are all the time? Apparently, yes.
Calman’s God also shares the sighs of the middle-aged; “Occasionally I wish I hadn’t gone into the Diety,” he muses. “I don’t seem as omnipotent as I used to be,” he says in another cartoon, prone on a shrink-couch. God has some bad days, too; we see only the clouds in one scene and God says “I don’t feel like seeing anyone today.” In another, God’s perched on the edge of the frame saying “I’m lonely.” Poor little guy, you may be thinking, but watch out: God is soon looking cranky and saying, “I feel an apocalypse coming on.” That’s the not-so-cute side of Deus.
Could it be? That God is just as insecure, petty, and jealous (he wonders what people see in the Devil) as all of us? That’s not really reassuring. God’s last salvo is “Eternity is a long time to have to stay in one job.” I’ve often wondered if we humans are boring the hell out of God with our bad music and unenthusiastic prayers (OK, by “humans” I mean “Catholics”) but if God is bored with being God, there’s no hope for the rest of us. None whatsoever. But that couldn’t possibly be the case, could it? Mel was just bored with being Mel, right? Right?
Mary Valle lives in Baltimore and is the author of Cancer Doesn't Give a Shit About Your Stupid Attitude: Reflections on Cancer and Catholicism. She blogs on KtB as The Communicant. For more Mary, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter.