The Tower of Babel and Cultural Diversity

My technique was like the Zen story of the archer who shot the arrows and then drew the targets. My arrows had feathers made of mythology and socio-biology and were headed toward the story of the tower of Babel. Wikipedia offered plenty of historical possibilities: temples or ziggurats dedicated to Nimrod, Marduk, Nebuchadnezzar and Zeus. After God intervened, the tower was abandoned, hit by a great wind, had the top burned, the bottom swallowed and/or the middle eroded. Or, as suggested by illustrators for the story’s cousin, the Tower card in the Tarot deck, it was struck by lightning.  The Bible story followed a great flood and starting over from Noah’s heirs that branched out, but apparently ended up, at least in the Old Testament story, back at Shinor. While God encouraged them to scatter, they stayed put and continued to speak the same language. Traditionally, theologians’ exegeses concerned hubris of people making a name for themselves and building a tower to heaven followed by God’s punishment making them babble in 72 languages. This story is followed by God anointing Abraham to form a new nation/tribe, the Israelites.  

What if God values territorial, cultural and linguistic diversity? What if cultural concretization, uniformity and homogeneity (baked bricks) were concepts God wanted to end? These were my arrows. Then, I found someone to agree with me (drew the targets), in this case, Daniel Gordis in Azure Online Spring 2010 “The Tower of Babel and the Birth of Nationhood.”

How lovely the diversity of peoples: red and yellow, black and white, so many beautiful myths, religions, and yes – languages! I thought of a Swedish/Chickasaw friend from northeast Oklahoma married to a full-blood Cherokee chief’s daughter. They are struggling to maintain stories of their tribes. I thought of the Scottish snap and syncopation in a strathspey played on fiddle complete with grace notes. I thought of the little Bushmen of the Kalahari desert with their clicking !Kung language. I thought of my German son-in-law, who looks, thinks and walks like a European. I thought of the anticipation of a 14 ½ year old Hispanic girl for her quinceaneros party. I thought of my Greco-American mechanic, who is teaching his son about Greek mythology and hob knobs with his Hispanic and Italian friends. I thought of Mesoamerican tigre masks. And, I thought of my friend, the playwright, Jere, who told me that she kept dreaming about the Tower of Babel. She infuses her work with a delightful Louisiana touch that only she can bring. Does God love diversity or what? I surely do.