THE NOAH PARADOX

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TIME AS BURDEN, TIME AS BLESSING

 CAROL OCHS  UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME PRESS, NOTRE DAME, LONDON. 1991

 IN THE BEGINNING: GOD’S CREATIVITY

 Genesis 1: 1 In the beginning when God created  the heavens and the earth,  2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.  4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

 DAY ONE: Chaos as a Necessary Stage.

 Chaos, or formlessness, is needed because if something already has a form it cannot be created, only re-created.  It is formlessness that invites the many possibilities of creation.

Creative processes of the first day: God Saw, God Evaluated, God Separated, God Named.

  1. God Saw: seeing entails the capacity to imagine new possibilities, a major step in creativity. The model of perception described here is not one that forces recalcitrant matter into some preexistent mold; instead it is one of openness, waiting for the intrinsic nature of a substance or situation to reveal itself.  Perception all too frequently consists of only in taking in sense data but in ordering that data in terms of past experiences and future expectations.  When our hopes and fears distort our openness often we cannot perceive the true nature of creation.
  2.  God Evaluated:  seeing the light as good. Evaluation is needed to give the creation meaning.  The creator cannot fail to evaluate; not to evaluate is not to care, and one must care enough to have standards.  The evaluation process affirms that value is inherent in creation.  God does not simply, by fiat, declare the light to be good, God judges that it is good.
  3. God Separated:  separating night from day (recognizing their differences) and separating creation from the Creator.  This last act reminds us that an important aspect of creativity is letting go of the creation.  If we are truly separate from our Creator, we can choose the extent of our distance, the direction in which we will go, the way we will follow.  Separation is an essential component of creation, but one that bears great cost to the creator.
  4. God Named:  Naming draws distinctions and foster  creation.  God’s act of naming has creative  force.  Naming correctly joins the head and the heart, because to love someone is to know or bestow their real name

11_planet_forming_disk DAY TWO:  Separation and Creation of Space

 6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”  7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so.  8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

 The creative process of separation is continued here.  In addition, the concept of space is introduced, specifically, that of particular space or location.  Creation can be understood, in part, as the process of recognizing the rightful place of things.

 The concept of location allows for such concepts such as fullness and emptiness. These are empirical states but also value standards.  Day 2 contains perspectives that could potentially deaden or renew.

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DAY THREE: The Creative Force of Limit.

 9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.  10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.  11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so.  12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.  13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

 Limitation is a significant part of creation,  The dry land appears, not as the result of a new creation, but as a result of the restriction or limiting of matter.  Creativity is not simply fecundity.  It occurs within limits, such as those imposed by the span of one’s life, the frame of a painting, or the preexisting conventions of a musical form.  One of the most powerful uses of creativity is the restriction of the process.  …God must limit the Divine creative force so that it doesn’t overwhelm each separate creation.

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DAY FOUR:  The Creation of Time

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,  15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.  16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.  17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth,  18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.  19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

 The text describing the fourth day illustrates a way to mark time and invest it with meaning.  The ability to mark time allows us to set periods of time apart as special or sacred etc. In reflecting on our limitations, and our finiteness, and our ability to recognize limitation, we can find God.

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DAY FIVE: Blessing and Releasing

 20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.”  21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.  22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”  23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

 It is on the 5th Day that the word blessed is used for the first time.  In this context we recognize that blessing is bestowing on a creature the possibility of carrying on creation (being fertile, increasing, and filling the waters).  The freedom inherent in the first two days of Creation is taken to its ultimate in bestowing on creature the capacity to carry on the creation.

 DAY SIX: In the Creator’s Image

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so.  25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind  in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”  27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”  29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.  30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.  31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

In order to understand more fully what it means for us to made in the image of God, we must review the events of the first five days of Creation, because our image of God is that of the God of Creation.  Liberation and redemption are concepts that came long after the world was created, even though they may be recognizable in the early stages of creation. However, our explicit image of God lies within the first five days of Creation:

  1. emptiness, openness, waiting;   
  2. calling forth, seeing, evaluation;
  3.  separating, naming;limiting, placing;
  4. marking of time; and
  5. blessing and releasing the creatures’ own creativity.

 

DAY SEVEN:  The Creation of Rest.

God rested2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.  2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.  3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

The last day of Creation is not the 6th day, but the 7th.

Rest plays a vital role in creation.  It links the themes of restricting the act of creation, of creating space for reflection, and of marking time as sacred.  …the creation of rest allows the creatures made in God’s image to experience God’s presence.  If we cannot experience God’s presence in a sacred place …we can experience God’s presence in time, in the weekly experience of reenacting the 7th day of creation.

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