A scientist, a scholar, a researcher and an Engineer ..

A scientist, a scholar, a researcher and an Engineer appeared at the Pearly Gates simultaneously. (Well not quite simultaneously but sufficiently after the previous batch of applicants for entry had been dealt with and close enough in time to be taken as the next batch for consideration of their entry applications).

Saint Peter (who was the Lean Gatekeeper with the task of ensuring that Heaven’s Quality Standards were not only maintained but were subject to Continuous Improvement) looked them over dubiously.

“We don’t have many of your kind here”, he said. “Your lot are all atheists or unbelievers or skeptics. And those few of you who do believe are never satisfied; always looking for something new, always climbing on the shoulders of people who have been here for eternity, always turning the heat up or down and generally making trouble in one way or another. Are you sure you wouldn’t be better off at the Other Place? They have Special Offers for New Entrants you know”.

But the scientist, the scholar, the researcher and the Engineer were quite sure and absolutely adamant. “Now see here”, said the Engineer, “it’s Heaven we chose on the After Life web-site and it’s Heaven which confirmed that space was available. Don’t you try and fob us off! We’re here to do the Entry Test, so get on with it. We may have Eternity but time is still of the essence. Your Process Cycle Time has considerable room for improvement. We can just as easily do the test for Paradise, you know.”

(For those who may be uninitiated, He had decided that some competition was needed to maintain Standards and Performance. Paradise and Heaven were therefore set up as competitors and every aeon or so Audited Performance Reports were filed. The better performer of the two received additional benefits in the form of an increased dosage of Ecstacy for all inhabitants).

Saint Peter was more than a little miffed at this since he took Cycle Time very seriously indeed. In fact he bench-marked his Cycle Time for Entry regularly against those for Paradise, Purgatory and the Other Place.  In any event Cycle Time for Entry was one of his critical Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which he had to report on weekly to Him. At the last Divine Review he had been much quicker than Purgatory, just slightly ahead of Paradise but he had quite some distance to go to be as quick as the Other Place.

(Other KPIs that Saint Peter was judged on included

  • Number granted entry who later left voluntarily (to Paradise)
  • Number granted entry who were expelled for incompatibility (to Purgatory or the Other Place)
  • Number enticed away from Paradise to enter Heaven
  • Cost of supplying Ecstacy to maintain Bliss – the lower being the better
  • Net Growth Rate – number of inhabitants/aeon
  • EBIT – Ecstasy and Bliss before Inhabitant Tax

Of course Taxes are necessary even here for His Administration Costs were very worrying and His Overheads were always increasing).

“Very well then”, he almost snarled standing up to his full imposing height, “here’s your test. Only the winner shall enter. The losers automatically forfeit entry to Heaven and Paradise and will be transported to Purgatory where they may crave entry. Thereafter those who fail may apply to the Other Place. Failure to secure entry even there will lead to integration with the Universe and loss of Eternal Life. Are you all ready?”

The applicants nodded. They were sobered by the harsh countenance of the Gatekeeper and the realisation that failure carried some long-term consequences. Even the belligerent Engineer was cowed as he swallowed and nodded.

“There”, said Saint Peter, pointing with his beard, “a mere twenty Holy Stadia distant lies the Tree of Life. To that Tree is shackled the most desirable Companion for Eternity that any of you could possibly imagine. The first one of you to reach and kiss her/him shall enter with her/him through the Pearly Gates for Eternal Ecstasy and Bliss. He/She is a variable and morphs automatically to match the particular (or peculiar) desires of the winner”.

As they looked a small mushroom-like cloud imploded and gave way to a shimmering Tree of Life and, clearly visible, encased in shackles of light, they could each see the most beautiful, the most desirable, the most perfect Companion for Eternity they could possibly imagine.

“But there is an impediment” shouted Saint Peter and broke rudely into their rapturous contemplation each of their Ideal. “Every step you take towards him/her shall of necessity and by the curious Laws of Time and Motion in Heaven, necessarily be precisely half the length of the previous step. But the length of the step you begin with – within the bounds of your capability – can be any length you choose. You shall begin on my command”.

“Ready, Steady, GO!” boomed Saint Peter (because as is well known, all firearms including starting pistols violate the Eleventy-ninth Amendment of the Heavenly Constitution and are forbidden in Heaven).

The following events ensued:

  1. The scientist had too many parameters and too many degrees of freedom available. He could not be sure that what was, was. He felt compelled to consider the possibility that what was, was not. Could there be a finite resolution in time of an infinite series of distance? He theorised that his apparent Companion for Eternity might morph into a Serpent with an Apple. He considered which null hypothesis might best allow of being proven false to his eventual advantage. Who would be the peer reviewers when he was ready to publish? He decided to make some approximations and develop a mathematical model. We leave him lost in contemplation of his navel for he has no further part in this story.
  2. The scholar consulted the literature as scholars are wont to do. Of course, he had instantaneous – but temporary – access to all the Heavenly Databases of the Past. Since these began at the beginning of time with the Big Bang and encompassed everything in the known – and unknown – Universes, he had much information to be digested and synthesised to come to the most probable course of action. We must, alas, leave him still studying the early seconds after the Big Bang.
  3. The researcher was of a more practical bent. He set to measuring all the possible lengths of step he could take. It was obvious that he needed to establish the minimum length of step he could take – and small steps would become necessary – and clearly this could not be zero. Moreover he needed to then find the maximum length of step possible so he could then establish the governing max/min ratio of step. We have to leave him massaging his thighs for his maximum step experiment led to an involuntary and unexpected performance of the splits which entailed the stretching of his thigh muscles beyond what was comfortable.
  4. The Engineer leaped into his first step. “Four steps and I reckon I’ll be close enough to her do my will” he exclaimed as he set off. 

We leave the Engineer carrying his Companion for Eternity across the threshold of the Pearly Gates singing “The Engineer’s Song”.

The moral of this story is: The Engineer is the one with the Capital E.

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