Genesis 24-26 (con’t.): Let the earth bring forth… beast of the earth

The gathered waters having been populated and the skies having been filled with fowl that multiply in the earth, mammals are to appear next, beasts in general and cattle specifically. This presages what science later discovers and proves in the evolution of planetary life. The oceans as cauldron of biological soup permitted the first identifiable life. Birds represent the only living ancestors of the dinosaurs which emerged from the oceans and populated the lands. “Bird” as synecdoche for dinosaurs is appropriate and logical. The as yet not fully understood generally non-ectothermic reptilian population dominated the greatest span of evolutionary time by far, existing in various forms for more than 200 million years. The most generous dating of the appearance of Homo erectus would be 2 million years ago with ancestry of modern man going back a mere 200,000- 60,000 years. Genesis 1:20-23 account for hundreds of thousands of millennia, metaphorically a single, precisely the fifth, day. The earth appears after the second day, so the 4 billion years of earth’s orbiting the sun takes up 2 more days before the 200 million years of the fish and dinosaur reign of the fifth day. While this 3:1 ratio of time for the days of creation does not correspond exactly, it can be seen as an acceptable representation of a collapsed narrative time. After all, the rest of the biblical text, in fact the purpose of the biblical text, involves the story of the audience of the biblical text. That story begins with the creation of mammals.

Yet there remains a question of the purpose of the dinosaurs in the creation story. They may well represent a tangential evidentiary artifact of the narrative point of view.

All stories must be told from some position/place/perspective/pov. The story always has a narrator, even those we tell ourselves which never reach the level of utterance and remain in the mixed metalanguage of thought/metaphor/symbol/word and word fragments existing even below the syllabic level (after all, is it necessary for us to think the word dinosaur in three syllables before we envision the signified thing? If not, then it is reasonable to assume we do not have to utter even one syllable but merely a sub-atomic, if you would, part of a syllable for our minds—isn’t that an odd inclusive phrase?—to conceive/create the thought object, the ideal/idea as it were.) So from where is the creation story being told? Yes, the biblical writers put the words to papyrus or such media of scribes of the time. But according to text, they were inspired by the breath of God. So God is telling (through scribes) the story just as Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison or Chikamatsu Monzaemon tell their tragic stories. The author must choose what to leave in and what to leave out of the narrative. This creates the focus on plot and character required for readable stories (and here I use “stories” to include all narrative media including non-fiction, fashion, architecture, and anything created on purpose by humanity, and “readable” as that which has sufficient meaning to sustain the attention of the audience). Further, to be told every detail of what happens across the universe during a story would be equivalent to spending one’s life living all possible stories of a time period (the time period of the narrative arc) including such things as thermal changes on Mars, the alcoholic depression of a dowager in Moscow as well as the twitches of all embryos everywhere. Experiencing all events from micro to macro everywhere at once would overwhelm any human’s sensory banks. This would not constitute being told a story, it would represent being God because nothing short of that type of awareness could be capable of this perspective. Authors do not necessarily envision a specific audience for a story. That is a formula for pandering and bias unlikely to result in worthy artistic creation. However, artists do create with a mind toward communication, otherwise why not simply think the statue rather than breathe in the marble dust of every hammer blow? As the biblical audience is made in our image, that is, the author’s/authors’(?) image/s, the Creator is truly speaking and listening first to the author and simultaneously to the author’s self-created self-image. God’s communication is humanity’s communication scaled up magnitudes.

Is creation an act of the author’s pride? Is this from whence this deadly sin so destructive to grace and charity comes? Does the Creator create to impress? Is it then logically necessary to create an audience in our image to be impressed? After all, no other audience would be satisfying when performing at this level. While Confucius enjoyed speaking with children, he was not sent eternally wandering village to village for speaking to them but rather to adults whose insights and suffering could appreciate his words (and potentially act upon them thus threatening the powers that were). So it is possible that God creates to impress us. Dinosaurs are not impressed by much but they do represent an impressive era of earth history. Here God may well be saying to the audience “You shall see my works and wonder at them and be impressed.” Dinosaurs fit that category nicely.

The same can be said for the God who may be part of a group, perhaps the primals themselves (darkness, spirit, void, water). In this scenario, God puts the dinosaur out there as a red herring of evolution, huge and fruitful, savage and beautiful, a wonder to enjoy. And then God snatches these strong creatures away as if by magic, leaving the audience (us as well as God’s primal group) gasping in surprise, then again magically replaces dinosaurs with something even more amazing, mammals and humankind. Sure, their story may ultimately be shorter than that of the primitive reptiles, but it is due to the drama of the human mind, its decision-making, its passions, sins, love and dreams. This formula for a short, happy life (ironic nod to Camus intended) is so much more engrossing than the endless flux of instinctual carnivores and herbivores. Give us a great short story over a long slog of an epic lacking peak moments and plot twists. Give us human nature over reptilian brain (but those big guys were good. Kudos to ye, God).

On the other hand, God’s tale of invention could be not God’s tale at all. God could be the most humble of beings, a lab rat, a geek, interested only in the experiment, its potentials and its data. The great scientist in our image is the story that must be told and the spirit is the being who inspires the scribes to tell God’s tale. The dinosaurs represent a classic maxim of scientific method: a law stands until it proves to be false. Hundreds of millions of years of successful life forms god created in the earthly laboratory. Then the system failed. Dramatically and immediately. Was God deterred? Was Edison? They are one in their persistence, God of course madly scaled up. God works through the failure and produces mammals, then humanity. Brilliant inventions those. Good, as it is described. Here the word “good” is neither self-congratulatory or any kind of ego marker but simply a scientist’s declaration of a successful experiment resulting in a predictable (?) outcome. How could the spirit let this story be untold? And to whom better to reveal this great Creator than those sentient beings created as capable of appreciating the work (as long as the story is told properly, in balance, paced with peaks and pauses, rising toward a foreshadowed conclusion).

And so, from life surrounded by gathered waters is life created where the waters are gathered within life permitting a kind of mobility/portability so much like the unborn child once born and cut away from the umbilical cord who can now crawl forth and survive independently. The waters are gathered within all life. None survives without it. None survives without the breath of the spirit. None survives without the void and darkness which stand beside fullness and light and allow these concepts their definition. Oh, what a friend spirit is within the text but also as teller of the tale of a scientist too busy, too intense, too uninterested in limelight to speak the story or even recognize the need or the audience. There in the darkness and void, ungathered water all around, the spirit moving about on its own mission, God slings art against blank pages, fails, takes notes, proceeds, fails again, gets frustrated, rises to the task, slings more paint/chemicals/energies, without caring what dreams may come of it. Spirit smiles, cares, shares brilliantly, and we are intrigued.