Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Updates are available

Moses went up the mountain.

There God gave him Ten Commandments carved into stone tablets. The tablets were labeled "Version 1.0."

"I am the Lord thy God, thy shalt not have strange gods before thee."

And all the rest.

Moses thanked the Lord and went down the mountain.

He gave the Commandments to his people. They wrote the Commandments in their holy books. They began to use the Commandments to order their lives. It was difficult at first, but soon things were going swimmingly. The people were happy.

God came to Moses in a dream. "I have an update," he said. "Version 1.1. It will make the Commandments easier to follow. And cover more ethical questions." He whispered the update to Moses.

Moses gave the update to his people. They erased a few words of the older Commandments from their holy books, and wrote new words in the margins. It was a bit of a bother, but it did make the Commandments easier to follow.

A few people did not revise their holy books. They stuck with Version 1.0. But soon they decided to go along too, for the sake of conformity.

Months passed, and again God came to Moses in a dream. "Another update," said God.

And so Moses went to the people with Version 1.2.

More erasing, more scribbling in margins, but the people wanted to be up-to-date. They wanted to have the latest Godware. Most of them, at least.

There was some grumbling. "Version 1.1 was fine," some people said. "We don't need the bells and whistles."

Soon Versions 1.3 and 1.4 were spoken to Moses in dreams, and the holy books were becoming a bit of a mess. People could not remember which version of the Commandments they were supposed to be following.

But God had not been idle. After a decent time elapsed, he again called Moses to the mountain. He handed Moses new and bigger tablets.

"The Commandments5.0," he said. "You can't live without them."

"What happened to Versions 2, 3 and 4?" asked Moses.

"Oh, this is far, far better that that," said God. "This is a quantum leap forward. User friendly. Many new features."

"But it's too big," said Moses. "It won't fit into our holy books."

"Time to buy new holy books," said God. "Bigger, better holy books, with lots of spare pages. I can't believe you are still using those tattered old volumes from three years ago."

Moses looked at the big tablets and groaned. "I'm sure these new Commandments5.0 are fine," he said, "but don't all these situational refinements and hair-splitting distinctions make it harder to tell right from wrong? How in the world will the people keep the rules in mind?"

"I am the Lord thy God," said God. "Folks who continue using Commandments1 will get no support from me."

Moses went down from the mountain and ordered his people to buy bigger and better holy books, with lots of spare pages.

"Why do we need all that extra space?" the people asked.

But no sooner had they copied Commandments5.0 into the books than God gave Moses update 5.1. Then 5.2. Then 5.3. Soon the extra pages were filled and the erasing began. And the scribbling in margins. People began squabbling over the meaning of the laws. Almost no one could keep in mind all the features of Commandments5.

Three years passed and Moses got another call to the mountain. UltraCommandments10.0. "Makes everything else obsolete," said God. "A feature for every ethical situation you are likely to encounter. You can't live without it."

"And besides, no more support for Commandments5.0," said God.

"It will never fit in the holy books," protested Moses.

"New books," said God.

So Moses lugged the voluminous new tablets down the mountain, and when the people saw him coming, they ran and hid -- except for a few commandment nerds, who just had to have the latest Godware.

"Wow," said the nerds. "Seventy-three ways to keep holy the sabbath. Twenty-seven ways to covet thy neighbor's wife. Forty-five ways to…"

"New books!" commanded Moses.

Moses and the nerds cast about, looking for the people.

"Hurry!" shouted Moses. "Version 10.1 is coming soon."

But the people had slipped away and gathered in a remote place. They abandoned the holy books. They fetched a single fine piece of parchment, and on it they wrote the Godware that was appropriate to their needs:

"Do unto others…"