Second Stories: Genesis

I know a pagan leader in Chicago who believes (among other problematic things) that every Christian is required to believe in “the 100% literal truth of the Bible.”

I disagree.

There is a huge variety of ways in which Christians approach their scriptures, from (yes) the literal to the amazingly allegorical. In fact, I’d say that mystical, metaphorical interpretations of Christian scriptures have outweighed the literal approaches throughout history, in terms of legacy.  The literalist interpretations to which the Chicago leader I’ve mentioned is referring to are, in my opinion, radically new inventions of Evangelicals in America who, let’s not forget, are not the spokespeople for all Christians.

And so, in keeping with my series on Second Stories, the following is an interpretation of a biblical narrative that is anything but the sort of literalism so many pagans expect from Christians. It was written by my friend Laura and performed at this year’s Easter Vigil at the Episcopal Cathedral here in Chicago (which I attended and thought was lovely). A retelling of the creation story from Genesis, I think that this story might resonate with a lot of pagans — and might spark some nice theological discussion. The text is of a dialogue between a Creator and the Earth.

Hope you’re all enjoying the beginnings of Spring! The text is after the jump.

Earth:   Will you tell us a story?

Creator:     What story do you want to hear?

E:         Tell the one about when I was born.

C:                                I always tell you that story. Don’t you know it already?

E:         But I like to hear you tell it!

C:                    Okay. Remind me, how does it begin?

E:         You remember! It goes,

E:                     “In the beginning…”

C:                    Ah, yes, now I remember. In the beginning…

E:         Go on!

C:                    In the beginning…

E:         We’re waiting!

C:                    Yes, in the beginning, I was waiting. Before your beginning, you were an idea. Do you remember what it was like to be only an idea?

E:         I thought it was really dark, but I didn’t know for sure. Nothing happened, nothing moved. Like when it’s so dark you’re not sure if your eyes are open or closed. It was comfortable enough, but I wasn’t sure because the nothing was also everything I knew.

C:                    Yes, you were still in the dark, but only for a little while. Pretty soon, you started kicking. If I put you out of my mind for just a second, you pushed and shoved, trying to get my attention, even when you didn’t know what I was. Unbidden, unformed, you asserted yourself. I started to wonder whether I should let you out at all!

E:         It’s a good thing you did let me out!

C:                                Yes, it was good.

E:         Why was I kicking? Did I hurt you? I wasn’t angry…I just remember needing to move.

C:                    No, you didn’t hurt me. You were kicking because you were impatient. You wanted so badly to be created. I had to whisper to you, “Wait. You’re not ready. I’m not ready.” There was so much to prepare. But whether I was ready or not, you were coming!

E:         I remember how this part goes. All of a sudden, there was light everywhere!

C:                    Do you remember what comes before the light?

E:         Yes…I don’t like that part as much. Before the light.

C:                    It’s an important part. What was it like?

E:         Well, before the light came, it felt like the end of everything. I was being squeezed. I panicked. I had no idea what was going on. Everything was pushing me, down, down, down… Everything hurt and I didn’t know if it would ever end. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t breathe…

C:                    That’s right. It’s hard, scary work to be created.

E:        And then all of a sudden, it was over. Everything let go, and I felt lifted up. I was in a new place and there was light everywhere! Something was taken off my eyes. It was…what are these called again?

C:                    Eyelids.

E:         Yes! Eyelids! Those were new! It was like I had been doing this (puts hands over eyes) for forever and all of a sudden…(takes hands away) Wow! There was all this light and air and space to breathe and move in…I was free. There was this whole new world and this whole new way to see and a new myself…I had never seen me before…. I understood now…I was totally amazed, I had no idea what to do.

C:                    (Laughing) That’s right. You looked at yourself and looked at me and just stared. Your wonder was so wonderful, so good. You blinked and blinked and tried to understand where you were. Do you remember?

E:         Yeah. Things took shape and slowly I started telling them apart. I saw shadows and outlines, but I didn’t know what things were, what they meant, how deep they went, what they felt like. I needed to touch everything to make sure it was real.

C:                    Yes, you were curious when you first came. You wanted to put everything in your mouth.

E:         But there was so much everything! Sometimes there was too much and it was overwhelming. I just needed to close my eyes again and be back where I’d been before. I needed something around me that I knew. I was cold and alone and there was too much space sometimes in this new place. (Wraps arms around self)

C:                    I know. I was overwhelmed, too. I looked at you and thought, what have I done? What have I started? There were two of us. My idea was separate from me now and I couldn’t tell what it would become. I had a sense, but you had become your own. And that was a new feeling too. It was good.

E:         And that was just the beginning, wasn’t it?

C:                    Yes, that was only the beginning. And an ending too, the end of being alone. I didn’t belong to just myself anymore, I belonged to you. You changed me, you caused me joy and grief and you grew and changed and needed me. I shifted myself for you, this part of me that was also itself. What did I do?

E:         Mmm…

C:                    Above where you lay?

E:         Sun and moon!

C:                    That’s right. You never knew to sleep, you were so excited about the new, you couldn’t take care of yourself, you just wanted all of it all the time, always restless. So I made pieces of light and dark and set them to move above you and taught you the names – sun and moon and night and day – so you would know when to be awake and when to stop and rest.

E:         And I just kept growing, didn’t I?

C:                    Yes. What was it like to grow?

E:         So many new things! New things happening all the time, some of them that I did and some that just happened and I didn’t know how. Like all of a sudden I knew things and could do things. Other things were hard. Other things took a long time.

C:                    What things?

E:         Like oceans. The still places that move slowly. Oceans just happened, and I didn’t notice while they did. But when I found them I realized they went deep deep deep, down to the bottom, they touched everything. And then there were sparks happening all the time – every time I turned around, I made something else grow. I scattered possibility, rearranged, planted, pushed seeds into dirt and waited to watch what would come.

C:                    Mud! I had never thought to delight in mud.

E:         Mud was the best, mud was so good!

C:                    What else was good?

E:         I tasted fruit for the first time! Pineapple and oranges, sticky juice all over my face, dripping down my chin. My belly was full and it was good! You had given me everything I needed and I was so happy and content. But things kept moving. I felt footsteps, pawprints. A dragonfly landed on my nose and it tickled. I felt deer walking and the lions stalking them, their warm fur and hot breath rubbing along my spine. Fish! Slipping up and down along my skin, slimy and wet and wriggly. All these new sensations. So good!

C:                    So how does this story end?

E:         Silly. It doesn’t end. It begins. You’d been helping me make all these living, growing things. But I needed to create my own idea, just like you’d created me. So I took part of myself and shaped it. I handed it to you and watched you take it. I let it go. It felt so strange, losing part of my new world, and I was worried, but I knew we were doing something better than we’d ever done before. And I waited while you breathed on what I had given you and then…there they were. People. And they were me and you and something of their own that we didn’t know yet. We heard them speaking and they gave names to things and feelings so we would all know what they were. We didn’t know what they would do yet, but we were amazed. We just sat and watched them for a while. We were waiting. We waited together. And it was good.

C:                    It was good.


About John Harness
John Harness is an artist and educator in Chicago. He is a member of Socialist Alternative and the Klingon Language Institute. He writes about political activism and roleplaying games.

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