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Along the Way
Of Towers and Floods
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In the years that followed the tragic death of Abel, both Cain and Seth married and began the process of populating Gods great work of creation. Before long Adam, Eve, and their boys were barely remembered as mythic figures from a distant past. However, the fruit of their inventive genius was being harvested throughout the land.

Cities sprang up all over the place. You barely got past the outer villages of one city before you were entering the outer villages of another. Indeed, more than a few cities had begun to overlap so much that it was difficult to determine where one ended and the other began. There were vast farms and herds to support the large populations housed in the cities.

The descendants of Cain and Seth had been inventors in their own right. Now there were metal workers, poets, potters, leather workers, accountants, bankers, chemists, loggers, journalists, social workers, and entertainers. The oldest profession was still around; the practice of law, that is. Cains original idea of religion had been taken up by one of Seths descendants, though Cains descendants were doing their best to develop the idea as well.

If Cain and Abel thought that their parents were workaholics, they would have been aghast as how their descendants had developed obsessive work habits into an art form. They were busy, exceedingly busy. It is difficult to comprehend how given over to work these people had become.

They had places where they would bring their children during the day, so strangers could care for them. This let the parents concentrate on their projects and remain as busy as the next person. Of course, the care takers of the children were pretty busy as well. Another strange example...couples would undergo elaborate mating rituals and then use various forms of magic to prevent children for many years. They were concerned that children would keep one or both of them from being busy. One wonders why they went through the burdensome mating rituals in the first place, if they intended to put such care and effort into not having children? Indeed, it was not uncommon for people to offer their children as a blood sacrifice, so that they could stay busy and not have to leave their projects go for a while to raise children.

While religion seemed to flourish among the descendants of Cain and Seth, God was increasingly frustrated that fewer and fewer people were listening to his voice in their hearts. Prayer had become so formal. The descendants of Cain and Seth vied with one another to see who could come up with the most poetic and impressive prayers. They were impressive, indeed! Thousands of verses in precise meter and rhyme, with rich images, metaphors, similes, allegories and other figures of speech were common fare among prayers. God appreciated the work and skill that went into the prayers. They were a boon when He had trouble falling asleep! Problem was, they didnt have heart. They were all noise and show but no listening! If people didnt take time to listen to God speak in their hearts, how would they know what He was trying to tell them. God wanted to keep the conversation going with humanity but it was getting harder and harder. They wanted to talk but they refused to listen.

Now, God might have been willing to let the situation slide by a bit longer, figuring it was a phase humanity was going through and would soon outgrow, but events did not allow that luxury.

Humanity had been so busy doing things--cutting down forests, killing animals, making fires, and arguing with one another--that they forgot their actions have consequences. Streams and rivers were being poisoned. Species of animals were becoming extinct. In fact, they had wiped out all the dinosaurs and were busy working on the woolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers. The fires had poisoned the air and there were too few trees left to purify the air. They didnt know it but the greenhouse effect had kicked in and the polar ice caps were melting. If people didnt realize what they were doing quickly it would be too late! Yet, no matter how urgently He tried to get the attention of humanity no one seemed to be listening anymore.

He had to get through to them but how? Then the idea hit him. A prophet! He needed a prophet. If people wouldnt listen to God with their hearts, maybe they would listen to His prophet with their ears! But who?

Noah was a retiree who had spent his youth as a boat builder. His three sons were grown and married. He had looked forward to this opportunity to kick back with his wife and concentrate on their hobbies, wine making and animal husbandry. So, after qualifying for social security and submitting his pension claim, they spent part of their savings for a nice piece of land up in the mountains. Noah was building them a nice house for their retirement. Since he only knew how to build boats, the house looked suspiciously like a boat. Mrs. Noah was patient with her husband and could live with him as easily in a ship shaped house as in the split-level that she really wanted. Noah was taking a break from his efforts at laying the keel for their new house when he heard the voice of God.

It wasnt a loud voice. It wasnt even an audible voice. Rather, it seemed as if God was speaking to him in his heart--of all places! The conversation went something like this.

"Finally! I got through. Someone was listening!"

"Huh!?"

"Sorry, Noah. Its been difficult finding someone who wasnt so busy that he or she was able to hear me call in their heart. You are the first in a long time. Congratulations!!"

"Huh!?"

So, I have a job for you and its important."

"Huh!?"

"Humanity is destroying this planet! It may seem very solid to you but I created the eco-sphere in a delicate balance, with all life dependent upon and influencing all other life. There is a certain leeway but for the most part if you throw the ecosystem out of balance you are in deep kimchee. Well humanity threw the whole thing out of balance long ago and up until now you have been coasting while the rest of the ecosystem shifts into repair and restore mode."

"Huh!? Repair and restore?"

"Yes, repair and restore! What that boils down to is that the planet is about to eliminate the source of the problem and then do its best to return to its original healthy and well balanced state."

"How does this involve me?"

"Unless you havent been listening very carefully, repair and restore should be of great concern to you! Humanity is the source of the imbalance and the self-protecting mechanism I built into the planet is about to kick in and eliminate humanity.! No one would give me the time of day when it might have been possible to prevent repair and restore from kicking in, so now the best we can do is minimize the damage.

"There is going to be a tremendous flood that will wash everything clean in the near future. You need to get people to build a fleet of ships so they can ride out the flood. I suggest building the ships on mountain tops, as that will buy you a little more time before the waters reach you and its too late. It will probably be a good while before the flood waters recede, so build the ships large enough to hold supplies for many people. Youre a ship builder so you know the details necessary for ships as large as I want.

"So, Noah, do you understand my instructions?"

"I think so. You want me to tell everyone that they must built large ships on mountain tops because the world is out to destroy humanity. Do I have it right?"

"More or less."

Noah enjoyed a good project as much as the next person. Since God commissioned this one, he set to it with great zeal. He wrote articles for the newspapers and magazines. Noah made the round of the talk shows, went on a public speaking tour, and even worked a marketing deal with fast food restaurants. They would include toy boats in their "to-go" orders. The toys would be a reminder to get busy on the boats.

Now as crazy as Noahs message seemed when he first explained it, people appreciated his environmental concern. Once people thought about it, the idea actually made a great deal of sense. Noah was well received by the talk show hosts, whose ratings soared when he was a guest. The book publishers liked him also. Each of his deluge books became instant best sellers. His public speaking engagements were sold out months in advance.

The problem was that people enjoyed listening to Noah about the flood but no one did anything about it! Everyone had been informed of the flood many times over but no ships were being built. Noah was getting frustrated. He figured God would call on him some time soon. He had a healthy bank account from his royalties and speaker fees but no ships to show for his efforts. So, he decided to make his home big enough to hold the children, their wives and the grandchildren. Since it was a boat to begin with, at least he would have something to report to God. One day as he was well along in the improvements to his new house, he heard Gods voice.

"So, Noah, how are things going? Any boats yet?"

"Huh!?"

"Its me, God. Any boats yet?"

"Well, I did my best writing articles and books, doing the talk show circuit, speaking at colleges, conferences and mall openings, and working out marketing deals. So far the only ship is the one Im working on. Sorry!"

"I tried. You can lead a horse to water but you cant make it drink!"

"Huh!?"

"Never mind. Make your boat bigger yet! It looks like youre the only one paying attention to me, so you will have to carry some guests as well. I cant let the animals die out with the flood. I want you to bring enough of each type on board with you so we can replenish the stock after the flood waters recede. Got that?"

"I think so. Since no one else is doing it, we should open our home to the cats, rats, skunks, deer, sheep, cows, horses, zebra, cockroaches, ants, elephants, giraffes, mice, squirrels, ducks, chipmunks, tigers, lions, monkeys, snakes, geckos, and other creatures of the world. Is that it?

"More or less."

It takes all kinds. In any crowd you will find people who are realistic, well intentioned men and women. You will also find chronic complainers. As the flood waters began to rise some newspaper pundits and talk show hosts started blaming Noah. Never mind that he was only warning them of the direct consequences of their selfish and short-sighted actions. Never mind that he was telling them what had to be done if they wanted to survive the flood. It was all in the books laying unopened on their coffee tables. So, the little time they had remaining was spent bad mouthing Noah, instead of trying to save what they could of the situation. The day the rains started Noah was still the only one who had finished a ship as God had instructed. Indeed, he was the only one who had even begun a ship!

Will we ever learn?

*********************

It must be admitted that while Noah was a master ship builder, his work on the ark had been rushed. A beautiful rudder was attached to the stern of the ark but Noah didnt have time to attach it to the control mechanism. Once the rain started they had all they could do to get the animals on board and everyone secured before the ark was wrested free of Mr. and Mrs. Noahs retirement property. So, Noah and his family floated for a long time with no idea of where they were going or any way of making sure they got there.

If you have ever gone on a long ocean voyage, you can appreciate why the cruise ships advertised on TV have so many activities. Ocean travel is boring. It is one of the most boring activities humanity has ever invented. The only breaks in the boredom are storms, which are pure terror, or the sighting of whales or dolphins, which are pleasant distractions. This, of course, assumes that you dont get sea sick, which adds its own unique perspective to any time at sea. It is not difficult to imagine more enjoyable ways to spend the better part of a year than sealed up in a ship you cant control with a zoo full of animals and only you and your family to keep them fed, watered and nursed. The ventilation problems alone must have added a certain challenge to the trip. However, one lesson Noah learned from the experience is that no matter how difficult and intolerable any situation is, nothing on Earth lasts forever. With patience and doing the best one can do in any situation, you will eventually come to the end. This is what Noah did on Mt. Ararat just short of a year after their wet and hasty departure.

Noah thanked God for all of his help. God reciprocated by giving Noah some advice on how to survive. He didnt want humanity to destroy themselves again, so He gave Noah the rainbow as a reminder of Gods love. If Noah and his descendents would continue to listen to God in their hearts, as they had done to survive the flood, perhaps humanity could spare itself all manner of problems in the future. God had high hopes that humanity would do better this time around. However, God is the supreme realist. He knew that humanity was not very adept at finding the right balance between freedom and responsibility.

Surprisingly, for many generations Noahs descendents did an excellent job of listening to God in their hearts and of listening to one another. There was peace among humans as they spread out over the face of the Earth. Oh, they had their differences but they could work things out among themselves fairly well. Blood was not shed in violence.

Many years later when Noah was little more than an ancient myth in the minds of most people, a young man had a dream. He wanted to build a tower. Not just any tower but the highest and most beautiful tower in the world. He loved towers. He became addicted to them as a young student. He loved their grace and their spiritual nature, rising toward the sky. He carefully studied the many varieties of towers that were used in the known world and over the years came up with a design for a tower that would be the tallest, most majestic and awe inspiring building ever constructed by humans. This tower would reach to the heavens. It would be covered in polished marble, precious metals, and delicate crystal.

The young designer had a purpose in his design for the tower. He was one of the young men and women who deeply yearned for God in their lives. Yet, their practical education made it difficult for them to believe that it was truly the voice of God speaking in their hearts. What if it is only the voice of my own desires or fears? How can I know God? How can I be in union with the Lord? He imagined that if he could build the tower high enough it would reach to heaven and he could visit with God and ask his questions in person. However, he knew that for any stairway to heaven to be worthy of the purpose, it must be a creation of exquisite beauty and rarity.

It took a number of years before the young designer could put his vision on paper. Then it took a few more years before he could line up all the investors that would be necessary to cover the cost of such a tremendous enterprise. Construction actually began when the young man was approaching his middle years. Slowly the broad and sturdy foundation of the tower took shape and began to rise toward the blue sky. Even this most earthly part of the tower inspired awe in those who saw it. The base covered an area the size of the city walls of the Kings capitol. Yet, it was not just a pile of rocks and mortar but a living city with homes, businesses, parks, and places of entertainment contained within it. One level after another was built as the tower began to move skyward. Each new level added some different aspect of human society to the tower. This thing that moved skyward was not just a construction project but a society itself. It was a society dedicated to the vision of eventually reaching the heavens and seeing the face of God.

The young designer became an old man and left this world to see the face of God unaided by the growing tower. However, his children and students continued their masters work having long ago caught sight of his magnificent vision. They learned all of the skills necessary to transform that vision into reality. As the years passed, the tower continued to grow. Each added level brought a special charm to the structure and in some way surpassed the levels below, honoring the unique character of the generation that contributed that specific level of the tower. Eventually the tower was so high that a pilgrim who was distant yet two days travel could see it. This was truly the most magnificent, awe-inspiring, and beautiful thing ever fashioned by human hands, a fact acknowledged by all.

One might question if building a tower is the best way to see the face of God and hear his voice. Yet, a thing of beauty has its own way of revealing the heart of its maker and reflecting Gods glory. The tower was truly a wondrous thing. One may not be sure if the construction brought humanity any closer to a corporate vision of God but it did provide a living illustration of the best that humanity had to offer. The building was not only a true work of art but it was alive, a human society that yearned for the stars and used its creative genius to achieve that dream.

Now, as the tower grew the differing construction guilds, professional associations, investors and residents would occasionally voice their preference for the particular floor with which they were associated. Of course, every generation and profession has its critics. The critics of the time each had their preferences as well. Since it was their nature, they felt free to make those preferences known to everyone, whether they were interested or not. Indeed, some critics began to complain that the current master architect and her assistants were not doing a very good job of moving the tower on toward its ultimate goal. Indeed, new theories were being offered regularly on how to reach the heavens. One suggested using a more spacious design for each floor, while others emphasized the beauty of each floor as the key factor.

Over the years these differences intensified. They were aggravated by occasional poor management decisions by the master architect, as well as by the thoughtless passion of some of the tenants and guild members. The quality of construction began to deteriorate. At the immense heights at which they were now working, poor quality materials and sloppy workmanship could have disastrous consequences. There were accidents and recriminations. Passions flared and open conflict appeared among the people. The people would argue incessantly, loudly, with such anger that blows were sure to follow.

What had been a focus for the spiritual vision and creative energies of the people, was now the center of its bitterness, anger, and destructive passion. People were killed. Parts of the tower were destroyed. Groups began to leave the tower either out of fear of the chaos that was overtaking it or out of anger against those who were staying. In either case, whole groups of people set out for distant parts of the world to live in peace away from those brothers and sisters they had come to hate.

The lesson and promise of Noah seemed to have finally been lost. Not only had people stopped listening to God in their hearts, but they had even reached the point where they would not listen to one another. As they spread out over the face of the world, people became isolated from one another. Over the years their languages changed, eventually reaching the point where they couldnt understand one another. Without the ability to easily share their ideas or to cooperate with one another, all that remained was fear and animosity. They lost the ability to construct wonderful towers, along with a common language. The wonderful tower soon became known as the Tower of Babel, because it was there that humanity gave way to its fears and jealousies, destroying unity and eventually producing a babel of different languages that separated people from one another. Their fear and warfare among themselves insured that they stayed at the most basic and barbaric levels of social organization. It was a dark time indeed.

God was frustrated by all of this. Every time people took one step forward, they would soon find a way to take themselves three steps backward. God knew that the ultimate purpose of the tower was foolish and doomed to fail, as heaven wasnt to be found at any height above the surface of the Earth. Yet, he admired the creative genius and energy that was poured out by humanity as they struggled to build the tower. It seemed to bring out the best in humanity for so many years. Once they got caught up in their own different visions of the tower, they lost touch with the shared vision that had produced such a wonder. The tower went quickly from something of awe to an occasion of sin. It was inevitable that the three steps backward would follow quickly.

God realized that these large scale social engineering projects were not working very well. He decided to change his approach and to focus on a much smaller and more workable groups of people. He would slowly craft a people who would speak of him to the world through their heritage and their living witness. He would raise up an entire nation of prophets, priests, and kings. He would fashion a holy people for himself and then send them as a witness to the nations. This plan in mind, he paid a visit on a young man tending shop for his father, the idol merchant of Ur. The young mans name was Abram.

Also read A Course in Christian Spirituality by Deacon Shewman that is available through this link.

(c) 1997-2008. Richard Shewman. All stories, articles, reflections and other written material contained in this website are the creative fruit and property of Richard Shewman. All rights are reserved. The written material contained in this website may not be reproduced or published in any form, except for the individual and personal use of the reader, without the express consent of the author.