Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Our own Tower of...

The original world envisioned in Genesis Chapter 11 "had one language and one speech" [Verse 1] and "the people [were] one" [Verse 6]. The Tower of Babel, far from being a tower of babble, was built as a monument to that unity—as a bulwark, somehow, to protect it:
Then they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.
      And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." [Verses 3-4]
It isn't clear why the people thought that building a tower into the heavens or making a name for themselves could prevent them from being scattered abroad. In fact, according to the story, they were scattered as a direct consequence of the construction—but apparently not as a punishment, because the scattering (or dis-uniting) is characterized as a calculated move on God's part to restrain mankind from achieving whatever "they have imagined to do." The author seemed to sense as perhaps some dreamers do today that if only everyone on earth could agree on some basic things, then we could end war and create a just world society.

We who construct into the blogosphere, are we building a monument out of the brick and asphalt of dialogue to affirm and celebrate our common understanding, or are we standing on our own soapboxes proclaiming our divergent wishes-to-believe and judgments of value? That is, are we constructing a Tower of Babel or a Tower of Babble?

It seems patently obvious to be the latter. In the blogosphere you're going to find various coteries. Among the more divergent (too weak a word in this case) are the Bush haters and the Bush supporters, two groups who speak such radically divergent languages that virtually no overall agreement on Bush will ever be reached. The languages of religion are not nearly so shrilly opposed, but each seems to have some particular understandings (or beliefs, whether or not "dogmatic") that cannot be shared, such as the nature of Jesus, whether Christ or not, whether son of God or not, whether divine or not. (And even people who call themselves Christians don't agree on the nature of Christ.) And you'll find "free"-thinkers (of whom I style myself). But who are they but people who tend to doubt everything (or, perhaps equivalently, to "believe all things")?

Nevertheless, people of courtesy, generosity, and good will can discuss their differences with respect and the hope of occasionally shaping their total understanding to a nearer accord one with another—even if there should never be again on earth a single people, a single language. For whatever reason (by an act of God or by the unfolding of neuronal complexity), there are many wishes-to-believe and judgments of value on this planet. And it looks to me as though there always will be, if they don't clash in a final cataclysm.


  1. Peace,
    I guess it's what you make of it(?) But more often than not, it sounds like a tower of babble. Have you tried aimless blog-hopping? It's pretty depressing to say the least.

    Is diversity looked on as a punishment of sorts in the bible? (given the tower of babel parable?)

  2. Dear Maliha, you read the post before I had a chance to finish it. I think I answer your first (parenthetical) question now.

    Genesis Chapter 11 does seem to portray God as causing the diversity, but it seems not so much a punishment as a calculated move to restrain mankind from achieving whatever "they have imagined to do."

    It's an odd passage. But I interpret it (as you'll appreciate, knowing my general disposition) not as giving us any insight whatsoever into "the motives of God," but as hinting as to how the author of Genesis understood the fact of multiple languages and peoples.

    The author seemed to sense as perhaps we do today that if only everyone on earth could agree on some basic things, then we could end war and create a just world society.