Lobster man to the rescue: How God toys with us

In the infamous words of Richard Nixon - aka “Tricky Dickie” - “Let me make one thing perfectly clear:” religion is a total, pluperfect, provable, utter pile of bunk...
20 May 2024


A lobster


In the infamous words of Richard Nixon—aka “Tricky Dickie”—“Let me make one thing perfectly clear:” religion is a total, pluperfect, provable, utter pile of bunk...

Let’s start with the fact that there are nearly 4,000—four thousand!!—recognised faiths around the globe. Next is the fact that religion has prompted many if not most of the hideous slaughters throughout human history—so much for that “God is love” crap. (E.g., Ireland and the Middle East.) And we must never forget the disaster known as “Prohibition,” which was brought on by religious fervour and gave organised crime an enormous boost that continues to plague America until this very day.

Finally consider this “moral comparison.” A survey by Larson and Witham (1998) showed that that 93% of members of the National Academy of Sciences, America's most elite body of scientists, are agnostics or atheists, with just 7% believing in a personal God. On the other hand, we must assume ALL the Catholic Priests and their superiors are devout believers, since the very nature of their “job” demands that commitment. Now the question: which of the two groups is notorious across the globe for containing numerous convicted child molesters?  Worse yet, some of the powers that be within the Catholic hierarchy—mostly the Bishops—tried to shield the offenders from prosecution, allowing them to continue their wicked ways.

That being said, I nevertheless insist there is indeed a God, but She reveals Herself only through what I consider Her “Wondrous Winks”—exceedingly improbable events in our personal or collective lives that result from Her subtle, playful “implantations.” More to the point I can prove it. So let’s start with Her simple Winks.

What is the name of the fastest man on the planet? Usain Bolt—as in “He ‘Bolted’ out the door.” I checked it out, and he acquired that last name the instant he was born, not after he had won his first footrace.
What is the name of the guy who “made off” with all the money—and I’m talking billions—by far the biggest fraud in history? Who else—Bernie Madoff!

In that vein, one evening I asked my wife if she knew whether the long-incarcerated Bernie was still alive. I always ask her for info, since she’s the family’s fount of knowledge, but she was unsure. Then the morning paper announced he had died within a few hours of my question.
What is the name of the prominent middle-aged married Irish politician who was caught in-flagrante with a nineteen-year-old boy with whom she had been fornicating and to whom she had been slipping illegal cash on the sly? Hint: “The Graduate,” or “Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson.”

Now on a personal level. Two decades ago my now ex-wife dispatched me to a Louisville Walgreens store for a jar of Noxzema. To save a few cents I had bought a Walgreens version of that compound, but upon opening the jar she found a gob of greasy muck. I put it in the glove compartment of our car, and a few weeks later, as we were driving back from a party, I returned to exchange it for the Real McCoy. It was one a. m., but that was an all-night Walgreens, and I had kept the receipt. Except for me, in the store there was only one other customer and a clerk.

Consider the fact that the enormous store contained on its shelves a zillion different items—but guess what single item the other customer held in his hand as he stood in front of me at the counter: a jar of Noxzema—the Real McCoy!!

Now lets’ talk about Audie Murphy—the most vicious hands-on killer in the history of the U. S. Army. In fact he was probably the most vicious hands-on killer anywhere, in any capacity, army or civilian—ever, on earth. He was wounded three times while fighting in nine major campaigns across Europe. A mere rifleman, he was credited with 240 kills, though on three occasions he had “borrowed” a machine gun—one from the Germans themselves. He won 33 awards, every decoration for valour his country could offer, and became the most decorated soldier in our history. In addition France and Belgium gave him five awards.

These brutal achievements bring to mind a fearsome mental image: tall and broad-shouldered, with a deep, hairy chest and a five-o’clock shadow on his prominent jaw. Not quite: how about a peachy-cheeked choir boy look-alike who weighed 112 pounds and stood five-foot five inches tall! The Navy and Marines had laughed him out the door, but back then the Army took almost any male who had all four extremities and could fog a mirror. (A rare exception: they rejected any man taller than six-foot-six-inches: too many problems with clothing, boots, bunks, etc.)

Murphy’s most famous quote: “Now I have shed my first blood. I feel no qualms, no pride, no remorse. There is only a weary indifference that will follow me throughout the war.”

During World War II the power that controls our universe could have chosen any one of the 16 million American soldiers to become the country’s—and for that matter the earth’s—ultimate, multi-honoured, fearless, incredible killing machine. So why did She pick one disguised as an undersized, harmless pipsqueak—so undersized and seemingly pathetic the Navy and Marines had laughed him off the premises? The answer is patently obvious: She has a fabulous sense of irony!

* * *

Now what I consider God’s Tour De Force Wink at me:

Lobster Man

I never knew his real name. Soon after my wife Ann and I boarded our cruise ship in Miami, as we strode along the promenade deck, there he lay on a canvas recliner. We stopped to stare. There was so much to see. Well over six feet tall with jet black hair, he had huge arms, a rotund belly, tree-trunk thighs, every square inch white as a lily. His broad shoulders and deep chest promised large muscles, but no doubt about it—he was overweight.

Poor man, I thought. He doesn’t take proper care of himself. At the midnight buffet I watched him scarf down two heaping plates of Fettuccine Alfredo, while I had lettuce with a spoonful of salmon pâté. A month before my body fat had been measured at a mere twelve percent—a hard-won triumph for a proud man in his forties, and I vowed to resist the temptations of a luxury cruise.

During my jog the next morning I saw him lying on the same recliner. Now the sun had given his rounded contours a soft pink glow. Thereafter, in my mind he became Lobster Man.

On the third day of our cruise the ship docked at Ocho Rios, Jamaica, where Ann and I had scheduled a tour of Dunn’s Falls. As the town’s major attraction, the Falls gave an idiot an excellent opportunity to break his neck. Upon arrival we found a long line of tourists inching their way up one side of the gently sloping waterfall. Holding hands to form a daisy chain with the help of a half dosen guides, they carefully placed their feet in niches carved along one edge of the falls.

While an undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh, my wife had led the women’s team to victory at the Scottish National Judo Competition. I jogged twenty miles a week and chinned myself ten times before breakfast. Forget that daisy chain. We ignored warnings from the guides as we scampered up the center of the stream, climbing over rocks splashed with cool, crystal-clear water. Struggling to keep up with my wife, exhilarated by the water and bright Caribbean sun, I failed to notice a subtle, inexorable rise in the slope of the stream.

All went well until I stood below the final ledge, where Dunn’s Falls began its descent. My wife had vanished, leaving no clue of her escape route. Almost home, almost safe and sound, yet the fingertips of my upraised hands could scarcely reach that ledge. As I stepped to the right, then to the left, my foot found no purchase, only treacherous, slime-covered stones. For the first time I looked down.

Holy Mother of God! Below lay a sheer, steep, terrifying cascade of rocks. If—or, more likely, when—my foot slipped, a backward tumble would crush my skull, while a face-down bounce from rock to rock would pulverise my genitals. (A word of caution for would-be rock climbers: climbing down is ten times more treacherous than climbing up.) I froze. Death awaited. My head spun. My legs trembled. I squeezed my eyes shut, stood rigid, paralysed by waves of gut-churning terror.

“Hey, buddy! Need a hand?”

It sounded—honest to God—like the Voice of God. I opened my eyes to discover, hovering above my head, an enormous human hand. I blinked, rubbed my eyes, looked again. Yes! It was real!

Let me make one more thing perfectly clear: he did not “help” me off that fatal perch. No, he squatted on those massive thighs and lifted me like a child’s toy, my helpless legs dangling in the air as he swung me onto safe ground. To this day I feel the strength of the huge paw that grasped my wrist while I wrapped both desperate hands around his sinewy wrist—so thick and solid it felt more like the limb of a tree than human flesh.

I stood face-to-face with Lobster Man. He towered head and shoulders above me, a dazzling sunburned giant naked to the waist—and, without a doubt, the most beautiful creature ever beheld by a mortal man on planet earth. His extra mass had proved a godsend: without that counterweight my weight could have pulled both of us onto those cruel rocks. I remember nothing I said, only sounds choking in my throat, tears streaming down my cheeks, his broad pink back as he strode away.

Onboard the next day I tried to thank him in a proper fashion, but again he turned and fled without a word—no doubt fearing another hysterical scene. A mathematician and physician, a graduate of Harvard and Stanford, a tenured Professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, yet atop those falls I had made a total, utter, pluperfect fool of myself. Saved by a miracle from certain death I had sobbed, spluttered, hiccupped, babbled like an infant. Only his height had spared him a wet and desperately unwanted kiss on the lips.

Forty years later, after a scientific career that includes a dozen articles based on probability theory, a question still haunts me: of the thousand passengers onboard our ship, what were the odds that the only one with the mass and muscle essential for the job would appear at precisely the right time and place to save my life? And thank Heaven he was a nice guy, a Good Samaritan—not an arrogant, judgmental, self-absorbed jerk with twelve percent body fat.