We were at the beach, and the clouds and sun were positioned in such a way, and I was positioned in such a way, that everyone I could see as I looked toward Haystack Rock was in silhouette. And I thought, isn’t that lovely – all I see are human shapes. I can’t tell if someone is young or old; I can’t tell what the color of their skin is, or what god they worship. We are simply human beings, our lowest common denominator.
That thought lasted all of three seconds, as sustaining as a truffle.
We are different. We are young and old; our skins are different colors. We worship different gods, or no God at all. And I think that is good. I do not simply want to be one of many silhouettes. I do not want to live in Camazotz. (See A Wrinkle in Time)
I once heard an interesting interpretation of the story of the Tower of Babel. The story in Genesis 11 tells of the people wanting to build a tower that would reach to the sky. God sees that activity and says, “There is now one people and they all have one language. This is what they have begun to do, and now all that they plan to do will be possible for them. Come, let’s go down and mix up their language there so they won’t understand each other’s language.” (Common English Bible). So God does that. The traditional interpretation of the story says that God punishes the people for their pride, scattering them and confusing their language.
But what if God was actually delighted by the humans and their ability to build a tower, the way a parent might be delighted by a fort of cushions and blankets or a sand castle that withstands the waves? What if the scattering of the people and the gift of languages was in fact a reward, an acknowledgement that human beings had evolved and matured enough to be able to live with difference? What if God made difference as a challenge to be mastered or a reality to be embraced?
Maybe that is a good measure of our humanity –our ability to deal with our differences and delight in them. I believe we will be tested in that regard in the months and years that are coming. May we prove our worth.