Unbeknownst to the vast majority of humans, the underworld constantly communicates with their reality. People run to God for consolation at their worst times, but it’s the Devil who invariably leads them to their best times. Conventional wisdom tells us little about the nature of existence, and it may help suppress the truth, as it turns out.
Paul Blight, a name taken decades ago when his journey through the underworld began, can give anyone what they need or want if only they know how to ask. He started his work as a mechanic, and now he puts his mind and money to help the world with problems that require particular measures.
Today, he wants to know about a project being spoken about in the dark, and the Devil can clear up the rumours intriguing him.
“The cock crows in the morning to tell us to rise, and he that lies late will never be wise.” He says to me, quoting the popular 19th-century rhyme. That usual spunk and lustre for life are contagious to anyone who meets him. Like the nursery rhyme he uses today, his quirky openings tend to trigger enjoyable conversations about the banality of conventional wisdom. However, today we intend to forgo wasting too much time mocking the failures of human reasoning and focus on work – we don’t.
The seemingly countless empty platitudes that humans pass around as valuable are just that: empty. But illogical nonsense has power to an irrational species, and let’s face it, we don’t consider ourselves part of that precious collective humanity we love to mock. Perhaps, and only subjectively, that dissociation allows us to believe we have the right to judge the unchecked and uncritical thinking that defines modern human societies.
“Yes, that is partly true.” “But did you know,” I ask, hoping to spark one of those exciting conversations, “that early to rise and early to bed, makes a male healthy, wealthy and dead?”
“Oh, Shit!” He exclaims, laughing and clapping in celebration of my perspicacity and impeccable comedic timing.
He is charming and beautiful. Sometimes it isn’t easy to see the hardened criminal behind those friendly eyes. Even for me, someone whose existence is predicated on a radical understanding of the criminal mind often wants to believe that he is harmless. He is not.
“I didn’t come up with it,” I say in response to his delightful reaction to the aphorism. “I wish I had, but I stole it from James Thurber.”
“Who?!” He asks, continuing to laugh and slowing down our pace towards that place we misleadingly call the agency.
“The guy who wrote The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” I respond. His inevitably contagious laughter now impedes my speech. I try to tell him what the book is about before being interrupted.
“I read it,” he says, clearing his throat, which is likely tired from his deep and sustained laughter. “They made me read it on the farm. Lady George handed it to me and said we’d have a conversation about it, but never got around to it. I read it for her. I didn’t like the book.”
“Oh, Lady George,” I say, now lamenting the memory of a lost friend. “What didn’t you like about the book?”
He shakes his head at the question and points out that aside from being apropos of the mockery we afford conventional wisdom, it illustrates our shared objection to social expectations.
“Think about Walter, a man so lost in the pits of expectations, so sadly deprived of any actual choice that he had to escape into his head to feel alive. He is so trapped that he dreams about dying to feel free.”
“Early to rise and early to bed, makes a male healthy, wealthy and dead?”
I have no objection to his interpretation of Walter.
“This is what the world does,” he continues, “the world is perfect for making people like Walter. “You and I are contemporaries, and we both grew up thinking that slow and steady wins the race. I mean, what bullshit is that to tell a child?”
“Yeah,” I say, wanting to hear more.
“You know because fast and steady is a losing strategy,” he submits with evident sarcasm. “Weren’t you metaphorically kicked out of heaven for refusing to follow bad ideas?”
“Metaphorically,” I say in agreement.
“No!” He exclaims, returning to his contagious laughter. “We’re not doing this today. You have to tell me about the woman in the blue blouse. We can talk shit about humankind over beers when we leave the agency.”
And we did.
— The Devil Unbound