I am writing this like somebody from another planet. A profound change has come over me. I have seen the light. The strangest thing is, it happened at the end of a football match. Like a billion other people, I was watching the Champions League final on Saturday on my television screen. It was an all-Spanish final between Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid. The game wasn’t that great until near the end when I got an eyeful of Cristiano Ronaldo’s body. He scored a penalty and tore off his shirt to reveal a torso, complete with 6-pack tummy, to make any body-builder weep. What a man, I thought! He’s like a god – a hero to millions of kids everywhere. His iconic status and goal-scoring ability earn him the princely sum of $2 million a month. Not bad, eh? It can’t be easy finding ways of spending that much cash.
Anyway, soon after the penalty the game was over and the crowd whipped out their smartphones to film the celebrations and send pictures to their pals via Facebook. It was a truly global event, with images being beamed into homes in countless countries. But the effort of watching all that testosterone caught up with me and I must have dozed off. Then I had the weirdest dream. I mean really weird.
I was watching the crowd again playing with their gadgets when everything went pitch black. Darkness descended. The crowd were screaming and groaning in horror and confusion. In the distance I saw a bright light in the sky heading towards the stadium. It soon got bigger and so bright that I had to put a hand over my eyes. Then it descended into the middle of the ground causing the players and officials on the pitch to run for their lives. The blinding light started to dim until we could all see a figure standing on top of a kind of pedestal. It seemed to be in the shape of a man – a cross between a druid and Leonard Cohen. Slowly the screaming and wailing subsided and after a short while there was silence. Then the figure began to speak in a deep, soft voice. Luckily for me it spoke in English as my Spanish is a little rusty. This is what it said:
“Earthlings! Humans! Fear not, for I come in peace. But I bring to you a dire warning of danger if you do not mend your ways. You have turned your backs on the gods. You humans have become vain, hedonistic and selfish. Your consumerism has made you spiritually empty, believers in nothing but material riches. How you have shamed the gods! Yes, your behaviour has been truly shameful.” At this point, with my jaw suitably dropped, I watched the reaction from the crowd. I saw that many were on their knees, weeping and begging for mercy. I noticed that Cristiano Ronaldo in particular looked very penitent. He was sobbing uncontrollably and looked nothing like the boastful sports icon of a few minutes previously. There was a pause. Then the figure began to speak again.
“I have watched you all this evening, enjoying yourselves at this sporting festival. But at what cost to human life has this expensive spectacle taken place! Many of you here are wealthy, while others are poor and hungry. You sportsmen amass wealth and riches as if this was the purpose of life. Have you forgotten that your time on earth should be spent working to improve the lives of others, and by so doing improve your own lives? Have you forgotten that you all face death and will then have nothing, not even the fine clothes that you wear?”. By now everyone that I could see by the dim light was pale and trembling with shame, especially the players. Some of them seemed to be shouting “Please take my money! I will give everything away, I promise!”
The voice continued. “I have some decrees that I must enforce before I leave as I do not trust that you humans will repent. So mark you well the following changes to your life and make good to follow them to the letter.” Suddenly, all the TV screens lit up and began to display the message as if it was being dictated by the galactic visitor. It was like a global Powerpoint presentation, complete with bullet points. It went like this:
- FOOTBALL will be an amateur game, played for the love of sport and friendly competition with your fellow-humans. It will be a recreational activity that comes after your work is completed
- HOMES: your houses and apartments will no longer belong to you alone. You have forgotten that all property is only given to you temporarily by the grace of the gods. You will open your homes to the poor and the sick, or to anybody who needs shelter
- FACEBOOK will vanish. You will no longer have virtual friends. You will learn to love and cherish your real friends, not squander your lives with images of vanity and foolishness
INTERNET PORN: this has most displeased the gods! You human men have become slaves to lewd images of lust and debauchery. How many hours you spend pleasuring yourselves in grim solitude! From today porn sites will be no more. Instead, you must seek love with other humans before engaging in the fulfillment of sexual desire. This will teach you to be patient, compassionate and considerate in your lovemaking
- MONEY – the days of paper money, banks and interest are now ended. You will all relinquish your petty, worldly goods and learn to live simple but purposeful lives, guided by charity and great sympathy with your fellow humans
Suddenly the screens went dark again and the only visible light rested on the figure in the middle of the pitch. The presentation was over, but the visitor still had something to say. “Now mark my words and heed my calls for change”, he said. “I am very wise to all human trickery, of that you can be sure. I know another great sporting spectacle is about to begin, what you call the Worldly Cup. I shall return just after the final of that corrupt and corporate extravaganza to see what you earthlings have learned. Until then, the gods and I will pray for you. Farewell.”
What happened next is a bit of a blur. I woke up shivering and hungry, desperately in need of human company. So many images were flashing through my mind. What a revelation! Now I’m a bit worried about the World Cup in Brazil. What if there’s a blinding flash at the end of the final? And it’s funny, although I can no longer remember everything the visitor said, I could swear that, whatever the creature was, it spoke with a Yorkshire accent.