Reading My Late Mother's Bible
THE TOWER & THE TONGUE
I think I'm finally getting a handle on Genesis: God, when He created the human race, saddled himself and the world with the equivalent of a very intelligent, very defiant puppy. It ate stuff it shouldn't have in the Garden of Eden and was banished to the backyard. In the backyard, it bit and killed a litter mate, fouled the grass, and generally ran wild until it was sprayed with a garden hose as punishment. Then it shaped up for awhile. But just awhile. And then, because it was a puppy with hands, not paws, and because it wasn't really a puppy at all but a tool-using hominid endowed with language, it erected the Tower of Babel.
The Tower was bad, one sinful stack of bricks, but why it was bad, the reason, I find surprising. I used to think I knew the reason. Before last week, when I started reading the Bible instead of just quoting from it and alluding to it and smugly assuming I'd absorbed it merely by sleeping at night in its vicinity and having several friends who vote Republican, my sense of what made the Tower of Babel abominable was the excessive pride that it expressed, the narcissism behind it, the arrogance. Wrong, it turns out. What made the Tower offensive -- or not offensive, but deeply threatening -- was the amazing teamwork of its builders.
For those who believe that capitalism and corporatism are systems beloved of God, I have bad news: except for those that He personally authorizes such as the assembly of the ark, He dislikes big projects, especially big, costly ones, and particularly ones whose execution depend on complicated communications. He dislikes them because, for a being of such vast powers and undisputed cosmic alpha status, He's ridiculously insecure. He may even fear for his job, to hear Him talk:
"And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they all have one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do."
There is palpable panic in this verse. It's almost as though, as the Tower rose and rose and the sound of its architects, engineers, and laborers conferring and conversing reached His ears, God could feel human beings coming for Him, could begin to imagine them turning on their master. He seems not to have to have foreseen such competition, but once it materializes, He acts immediately; acts in the frustrated manner of an eight year-old who suddenly finds himself losing at a board game. He demolishes everything from the building itself to the universally-shared language that permitted its construction.
We all saw what happened in New York City ten years ago. Now I fear that the Internet is on borrowed time.
[To catch up with this project, see prior posts]