For the people in Burma.

May all beings everywhere
plagued with sufferings of body and mind
quickly be freed from their illnesses.
May those frightened cease to be afraid,
and may those bound be free.
May the powerless find power,
and may people think of befriending one another.
May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wilderness ~
the children, the age, the unprotected ~
be guarded by beneficial celestials,
and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood

Advertisements

Babel

small_su_logo.pngWe are all familiar with the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. As I was walking the street, I suddenly realized that the interpretation of the metaphor, as it has been explained to me, is still too simplistic. For the people who are not very familiar with the story, I’ll give a short recap. The purpose of this recap is also to help you understand my thoughts, because I’m not very sure I know the Babel story perfectly.

So basically, once upon a time in the old world, all people speak the same language. This makes it easy to cooperate. So they decide to build a tower into the skies and go have a cup of tea with God. After a while (they get pretty high, I guess) God decides he prefers the dead to the living and will have none of these people in his kingdom. So what does he do? He magically makes people speak in different languages (that’s right, languages haven’t evolved over thousands of years either, God made them). So now, these people can’t cooperate anymore and they abandon the tower and spread throughout the world. That’s the story.

I believe this is a spiritual warning. We must not try to ‘be’ with God through material pursuit. This is exactly what we are doing; we’re creating a new Babel. The biggest group of people who speak English live in… China. We’re all adapting to the Latin alphabet and the English language and are cooperating to redesign the world to make it fit our needs. For me, the metaphor of ‘God’ means the sum of everything, all life, nature, matter, energy, ecologies et cetera. So we use our intelligence and capacities to act out of harmony with ‘God’ which I interpret as the all-encompassing ecology. The more we act out of harmony, the harder it will strike back. Maybe next time ‘God’ won’t divide us, but destroy us. The warning is there in the story of the Tower of Babel.

So how do we avoid this destruction? Simple. Get down from the fucking tower and let’s stop acting like Gods. Some people say that we can rape this planet, because “God created man in his own image”, unlike animals or other life. So we get to make the decisions about other life, like God does. Well, let’s turn this one around now and get more philosophical. I hate antitheism, because I dislike angry, arrogant atheists, they are just as bad as any other fundamentalists – because that’s what they are; fundamentalist atheists. However, I believe that “man created God in his own image”, because we have very limited minds, we cannot understand infinity. We don’t know what it’s like to be more intelligent than we are, because you’d have to be more intelligent to understand this in the first place. So God’s depicted as human, because that’s what WE are. We think we are gods, because we depict God as a man.

Let’s make a list of the elements I know from the story of the Tower of Babel and compare them to current society.

Babel

Modern day society

One language

Moving towards one language (English / Chinese)

The Tower

Our quest to create our own world

Splitting up in different languages

Ecological disaster, scarcity, famine, war (sorry)

Motivators: greed, vanity, dissatisfaction with what we are given.

Greed, vanity, dissatisfaction with what we are given.

Mass cooperation

Globalism


I bet there’s a lot more. I think I’ll read the story, because biblical stories or fairy tales are good vehicles for philosophy. Have a look at the work of Daniel Quinn for instance, he writes stories to educate about ecology.

The art depicting this story always shows that they got pretty far with building the tower, so either God is slow and didn’t understand what was going on until they got pretty close, or he’s a sadist. Or maybe God’s not a man… Maybe God is the force of the universe, or the force of nature to be more context-specific. If we pollute, there is no immediate repercussion. However, the more we pollute and the more ‘advanced’ (in our eyes) we become, the harder nature will strike back in the future. I think this is what the tower symbolizes. It shows what happens if we live in disharmony with all that around us, because of vain and greedy mindlessness.

I don’t propose to tear this tower down right now. That would be crazy. We have a long way down first, so let’s start walking. Downstairs we can live in peace, together, in one united world.

Check out all the other religious traditions with the same metaphor.