Lost passage from Genesis: Gen 2.0: And God felt that his computer had crashed when the humans he had created from his animation program had gone all crazy killing one another and forgetting to worship him enough. 2.0.1: So God called Tech Support (outsourced to Sumer at that time) and Tech said, “How many times did I tell you to get an Apple; but anyway, you need to re-boot your PC, then download the new Deluge 1.2 anti-virus program and run it. Washes the hard-drive clean and gives you a creation start over. Good luck.”
Many years ago I was at the Village Vanguard in New York City with my college roommate. We were there to listen to some jazz, but there was a young, then unknown comic who opened for the MJQ (the Modern Jazz Quartet). His name was Bill Cosby, and his hilarious routine began with his re-telling of the story of Noah. I remember Cosby, as Noah, listening intently to God’s instructions for building the ark, then asking, looking heavenward, “what’s a cubit?” At the time I was enrolled in a Catholic college and the relief of hearing the inherent silliness of the idea of an ark with all living creatures put aboard was refreshing.
I went back and re-read Genesis 9 again. It’s the story of Noah and the ark. What a bunch of badly written (King James version) crap. Taken as history there might have been a big flood sometime in the past of the Middle East floods appear in accounts of Sumerians and others) and people at the time might have thought the whole world was covered with water and only one family survived. That would make for another incestuous new beginning for mankind (all this inbreeding does help to explain what morons we have become).
Taken as theology one as to wonder what pissed off God so much that he decided to re-boot the whole of creation OS and start over with people named Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth (women’s names not mentioned) and “every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark.” Yawheh could be a real bitchy deity, especially when he felt there were “false gods” getting into his territory. “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually?.” (Gen. 6:5)
Taken as biological evolution the flood begins to make some sense. There was a time, well before the emergence of humans, when the world was covered with water, and maybe all that had something to do with our eventual climb out of the primordial slime and evolving into the slimiest bastards in all creation. If God created us in his image then I can have much regard for his image; if we created God in our image – – which is of course exactly what we have done—then he has every reason to be pissed off that we have made them look like an arrogant, egotistical, vengeful bastard. Take your pick.
As metaphor the flood really works. Water comes into play in a lot of metaphorical ways. It cleanses, as it does, supposedly when baptism cleanses the little baby’s soul filthy with original sin*. So, as God one cleansed the earth. “. . . I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.” (Gen 7:4)
As entertainment the flood was a flop in Kevin Costner’s Waterworld, a success in films like The Rains of Ranchipur (1955). Now, of course, we have the current movie version of the story,Noah, in which A-list star Russell Crowe, looking like gladiator Maximus gone barbaros, plays the cubit master in a rendition that seems to be annoying those biblical literalists like there no a story nice and King James. Amusingly, the right wing sock puppets of Fox News have gone berserk because they were unable to find use of the word God in the script. What director Darren Aronofsky seems to have done is to premise the reason for the deluge as the sins of mankind against Nature.
There is plenty of splashy special effects, and of course all the bad guy offenders of Nature who want to get aboard Noah’s doomsday prepper craft are sunk. Rather than global warming we get a good global dousing. Add one more human guilt film to the genre I like to call “Apocalysomania.” ( 63.3)
But the Noah story also raises in my mind the question of whether we are the ultimate species (something I have addressed before from the point of view of environmentalism, See Archives 56.6; 85.6). After all, Noah was instructed to pack in as many other critters as possible, or perhaps merely as digestibles.
How species-oriented am I supposed to be? Should I give much of a damn whether homo sapiens succeeds into countless future generations? Looking at them as they are today I don’t give much of a rat’s ass beyond my great-grandchildren; then the cockroaches can have the planet.
As a species, I believe that we are evolving in the ways in which Darwin has elucidated. Darwin never claimed—and I concur—that our evolution is not necessarily progressive, that is, that we are not necessarily in the process of heading toward the perfection our species (we might have hit a peak around the time of Homo Australopithicus). We evolve to survive. But we are not as driven, or wired, to survive as a species, as other species (think of army ants), and we tend to see our identities not just as our DNA, but as expressed in our social individuation. In short, our “social” evolution might be in conflict with our Darwinian evolution because we think we are the very purpose of all creation.
Insects behave in a manner as to ensure that their DNA passes on to another generation, and they will follow that drive to the death. For them, the procreative sex drive is the only way in which they can “live on.” They live on as their species lives on. But they do not give a damn for their individuality. I do, but I think that makes for a different attitude toward the survival of my species. No doubt this individualistic attitude derives from our creation of anthropomorphic monotheism; if there is to be a single, one and only deity, he (you just knew it would be a guy) is going to get pissed off at the notion of any competition.
Who knows how many times God re-booted his creation (before he stole a good deal of it from the dozens of creation myths, including floods, that were circulating at the time. It’s like God opis some sort of script writer who can’t quite figure out where he wants to go with this story and so, like Woody Allen’s character Issac (good biblical name) at the beginning of Manhattan (1979) keeps rewriting the opening scene. I can just imagine God (maybe looking like Woody Allen hovering over a typewriter and sitting on a fluffy ergonomic cloud chair) pecking out: In the beginning there was the word and the word was… And then saying, “Shit, what the hell was that word, no, not shit. Thought I had it yesterday, and then I forgot it. I think it began with a J, or was it an R? No an M. Motherfucker! No, I couldn’t use that… Well maybe in that Adam and Eve part. In the beginning was the word…Shit! [Tearing the paper out of the typewriter, crumpling it, and throwing it into the basket full of crumbled first pages.] Hey, maybe I’ll try ‘Call me Ishmael’. Nah, too biblical sounding. I got it: ‘it was the best of times; it was the worst of times…’. But that sounds like one of those Wall St. movies. I got it! ‘In the beginning… it was a dark and stormy night.’ So Noah started building an Ark. It works! I’m going with it. Now I just have to figure out WTF is a cubit?”
© 2013, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 5.1.2014)