The Little Stickman
On a white sheet of paper and in black ink, I drew a little stickman. Since his existence was not his fault, and since he was my creation, I decided that he should not resent me.
“What would you like, little stickman?” I asked.
“Things to excite me,” said he.
“Things?” I asked. “What things would you like?”
He paused only a moment, “Cars, women and wealth!”
“Cars and women I can grant you,” and I drew them, “but what will wealth do for you in no society but that of you and your harlot?” But the little stickman persisted, and so I granted his wish; he was now the wealthiest stickman on the paper. For a time my creation was happy and entertained by his possessions, but the sheen, as it does, began to wear off, and the little stickman grew bored and contemplative.
“Perhaps,” he said to me after a time, “I should like to seek the knowledge of how to be fulfilled in this life.”
“The best I can give you are the books and writings of my own kind, dear creation, for your world has a very empty past.” So I drew for him a library, filled with all of the knowledge of the modern world, and all the fiction of the modern world, and set him to reading. I did not know what of this he believed, or particularly how he felt about any of it, or even which avenue he would first choose, but I did know that he read it all, scrutinizing every detail of every size.
“I would like a society of equals, my creator; people who are both equals and individuals.”
“I cannot grant you true equals, for you are, and will remain, the only recipient of my attention. These people will be my creation, but they will be your responsibility. In this society, you, alone, will possess an intrinsic advantage and so you must be its leader.” I said all of this fearing that it would sadden and disappoint him. “Do you understand?”
“Yes, my creator.” Worse than my fears, the little stickman seemed excited by the news. I wished then that I had begun my work in pencil, so that I could erase the knowledge I had given him. My error would simply have to be worked into my craft.
“Well then, you shall have a society.” And I drew it. For a time, my creation ruled his people, but, he, being a well-read though unaccomplished leader, began to see upstarts roar into motion.
“I would like a means to control my people.”
“You cannot divine some method yourself?” I asked him.
“Don’t insult me, creator, I won’t have it. Give me an army!” So I drew it, and, after a time of slaughter and example-setting, and through the resulting peace, my creation grew bored once again. “Why have I not found fulfillment, my creator?”
“Perhaps you chose the wrong path with which to seek it.”
“Power seemed the most logical,” said he. “But my subjects loathed me, I was hugely stressed, and sleeping at night became difficult. Perhaps I need something quite the opposite.”
“Perhaps,” said I.
“Then I should like a love.”
“Well is your harlot not enough?”
“No,” he said, “For she is a creature of carnal motivations, alone.”
I understood. “Would you have no love from your society?”
“No,” said he. “For, they would false themselves for position, and I do not fancy them. Nor they me.” So I set out to draw, for the little stickman, a love, which would excite the passions of his heart. Since the inner thoughts of my creation were his own, I did not know specifically how to do that, so I made his love very charming. For a time, the little stickman wrapped himself in a haze of euphoria, neglecting his society and all else but his love.
“Would you abandon your people?”
He looked as if he was shocked I had even considered asking. “I will let them rule themselves as they wish. I, like you, creator, have given my charges exactly what they desire. I’m sure they will figure it out. In the meantime, I will work on my own happiness. Am I wrong?”
“It is your choice,” I said.
He carried out his wish, and it had its consequences: “My love has left me out of resentment born of a fear, that, since I can have anything at any time, I might grow bored with our partnership. Creator, I cannot endure that criticism forever; you have given me time, would you now give me a clock, and limit my years?”
“Are you sure you want this, little stickman?”
“Yes,” he replied. “If this limit will not offset my advantage in the eyes of my love, then it will at least offer me some reprieve.” I drew him the clock he required. My creation’s excitement was apparent, until his love counted his mortality another example of his advantage, not as a great sacrifice, and criticized the little stickman further. “I can find no happiness in this world, creator.” His resentment for me had become clear.
“I am sorry,” I said then, and remained. “We are both making mistakes, little stickman. We will learn what we can from them.”
“You cannot be forgiven for this so easily! I did not ask you to draw me, but now that you have, I am only miserable. Here is what I want….” He asked me to draw him in a place far from his love and his society, and gave me a list of things that he needed to distract himself from life until his years ended. My little stickman watched that his requests were filled, and then turned away, to never speak a word to me again.
Though I was a novice, I knew right then that I had failed; my creation had to be abandoned.
You, my reader, being, I assume, unfamiliar with my realm of existence, should be wondering what constitutes a failure in creation. The greatest act accomplishable by one of my kind is the construction of a happy realm. But, at the time I created my little stickman, I was early in my apprenticeship. In the beginning, we are all given simple tasks such as this in order to open our eyes to the random possibilities within existence, and to let us learn strategies of correction. From my simple task, I had created a being devoid of hope, wishing more for the end of his days than anything else; I had created a society of equals destined to struggle for dominance over one another, eternally; I had created a realm almost unknowing of happiness and goodness and it was, as such, a failure.
I hope that you do not hold the misery I created against me, my reader. It is a lesson my kind must all learn, and few create free-will for the first time unscathed and unapologetic. I have seen the profundity of its effects on each of my pupils to date, for I am a master now. One day, after they see that the surest happiness one can spread is the happiness of spreading happiness, and after they have become practiced and successful in such creations, they, too, will be masters. Though we have never spoken directly to our own creator, which is not surprising since we often do not speak to our own creations, we believe our realm is a success, because that belief makes us happy. We hope that our cultivation of self-perpetuating happiness will suffice to absolve us of shame for our tragedies and failures. But that does not mean that we do not attempt to fix our mistakes ourselves:
After some time, I returned to visit my little stick man and his realm. His people were still struggling, and he was still in his faraway place. Nearing the end of his days, my creation was no longer inclined to merely turn away from me. It appeared as if he’d been pensive for years. “I wondered if you would return before my time ended, my creator,” he said.
“Do you still want to die, little stickman?”
“Yes. I do not envy those immortals, with their greed; not one of them would give a day of their eternity for the life of another. That might be different if they suspected their withholding could be a favor. They don’t risk losing themselves, creator, and so they take themselves for granted. Even my love, creator; my love who scorned me with ultimate hypocrisy; my love who, with the charm you granted, abuses the only advantage amongst those equals for the sake of rule; my love who I now detest, as I detest power, wealth and the raw knowledge that brought me to those things. Now I must watch my people struggle with them until I die.”
“I am sorry for your misery,” I said.
“I am sorry for theirs.”
“Perhaps they will live long enough to learn better,” I said.
“I think they will tear one another apart before that time comes. I ask myself: what if I had not abandoned my advantage and ruled them? What if I had brought peace and happiness to them all? But how could I have known?”
“It is as I said before, we both learn from our mistakes.”
He was silent for a moment. “Is there a Heaven, creator? As I read in those books?”
“Would you like one, little stickman?”
And he said:
And he also said:
“But I would like one for them,” and so, I set about the task.
When I had finished, my little stickman said, “Creator, please tell me, what makes you happy?” I drew for him a sheet of blank paper and a pen. He looked at my gift as though it was an abomination, yet he took it and turned away for a time. He presented to me a drawing of a wadded-up ball of paper, all crumpled and set alight with flame. “Do not tease me, creator.”
“I find happiness in creating happiness.”
“Look at me, creator, do you call this happiness? Or am I really nothing more than a mistake?”
“It is as I said before. Do you now understand? I am so sorry, little stickman; I wanted nothing more than your happiness.”
“I cannot accept that. All of the misery in this world cannot be for naught. Draw me more paper, I will set about it and create something beautiful!” Those were the last words of my poor, miserable little stickman, for, as he turned to put pen on paper, his years ended and oblivion took him.
I failed my creation, though he had not failed me. Nor had he failed his people. The heaven he’d had me craft them was modeled after my own realm. Should death ever find those immortals they would have the great joy of propagating happiness. My old creation is now a success, and the credit is all to my dear, little stickman.