13 November 2006

The Seventh Creation

Filed under: Genesis 1 — ktismatics @ 2:03 pm

Five paradoxical creations, maybe six, each one effaced by its own particular irony: Genesis 1 overflows with a surplus of creation and self-destruction. Our reading of Genesis 1 extends a bridge between empirical science and Biblical inerrancy, but those encamped on opposing sides of the chasm are likely to ignore it. Jesus said that he spoke in parables not to make it easier for people to understand him but to make it harder. Apparently there are revelations that hide inside themselves.

Putting ourselves in the middle of Genesis 1, we watched as a formless void opened itself outward into a whole reality that incorporates us into itself. The history of humanity is contained within that brief interval when our forebears first began separating themselves from the meaningless determinism of raw nature. This unexpected, unprecedented thing: is it something we made up, or was it hidden in the text all along? If no one else can see it, does that mean it doesn’t exist? If it doesn’t support traditional presuppositions, does that mean it’s bad? And what about those of us who can see: do we share something in common with that first witness, and perhaps also with that earliest creator?

Did we discover the truth of Genesis 1 hidden from the foundation of the world, or did we create it? The answer, of course, is yes. We entered Genesis 1 as creators looking for clues to our heritage, and we found what we were looking for. The Creation wasn’t a one-time-only spectacle, a demonstration of sheer ex nihilo power, but rather the exercise of a subtler force. Rather than cowering awestruck beneath the Almighty’s unapproachable otherness, the witness sat at the teacher’s feet learning the ethos, participating in the work of creation. Humanity emerged from prehistory as a product of time and chance, just like everything else in the world. At last, at the beginning, our ancestors became shapers of those very forces that shaped them. They became fruitful and multiplied, not just as one biological species among many but as the only godlike creatures on this planet. We, their not-so-distant progeny, are bearers of the seventh creation, the most important one of all: the creation of creation.

From the inside, this new reading of Genesis 1 seems like the only interpretation that’s any good. The spiritual insights of medieval Catholicism and the tight exegeses of the Reformers are no good any more; neither are mythopoetic genre interpretations or the neo-Freudian analyses or the Derridean deconstructions. A new reality was created inside Genesis 1; this reality expanded without limits until finally it absorbed the text that generated it. Like all complete realities, it’s a self-contained system that reaches back to create its own beginning. But if I leave the theater and step back into the street it doesn’t take long to realize the tenuousness of this newfound reality, the proximity of all creation to fiction. It’s harder to see this ephemeral indeterminacy of creation as a good thing. But it’s what keeps an overstuffed universe from imploding; it’s what makes possible the unpredictable appearance of formless voids that, almost miraculously, open out into alternate realities. Who knows? Maybe other realities will open up from inside the one we’ve been immersed in since the beginning of this work. Creation isn’t a destroyer of alternatives; it’s a fruitful multiplier.

You stand before the full universe and see something that doesn’t exist – yet. You enter into the void and find an entire universe opening up around you. Those who didn’t come along with you can see your trajectory and lament its futility. There’s nothing there, they tell you; you’re heading into a cul-de-sac. As you accelerate into the void you hear their Dopplerized voices receding and you wish you could make yourself turn back. You will not be heard from again in that place. If you’re one of the lucky ones you won’t care.

In every act of creation we can feel ourselves leaning into the future. The work pulls us toward its completion, when potential becomes fully realized, when we can rest assured that what we’ve made stands on its own. But do we also feel the past leaning into us, infusing us and our creation with something ancient and legendary and heroic? Every time we create we return to the beginning. The interval, the formless void, the three-way oscillation between discovery and creation and revelation, the search for excellence in what we’ve made – every new creation retraces the first creation.



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