Genesis and the reappearance of God
By Marcel Saxone
I believe that imagination plus knowledge leads to creativity. My writing is about using the little knowledge I have, and combine it with my imagination that has no limits, to generate creative responses to the Hebrew Scriptures.
My hope is that my creative response will also awaken the reader’s imagination, so together we can create something even bigger, and both move closer to the Ultimate Creator.
*Wherever “man” is mentioned, “woman” is also intended
Bereishit provides some wonderful insights into improving G-d-man* relationship, just like the good old days in the Garden of Eden.
Nowadays it seems G-d has assumed a position of irrelevance in many peoples’ lives, and I believe this comes at a great cost to us all, including the planet. As a result, it seems many individuals act as if they were the ultimate rulers on earth, that they can do whatever they want, including wanton raping and pillaging.
Bereishit is a reminder of man’s true status, not as omnipotent beings, but solely as custodians, or tenants of Mother Earth, with the responsibility and accountability such a position holds. Bereishit goes back to the roots of the matter, and offers us the opportunity to change some of our ways, and to remember our true position on Mother Earth, as custodians and not as ultimate rulers.
In the Parsha, G-d instructs Adam and Eve to name all sentient beings, and they do so, with no other motive than the command. One can only wonder whether such a privileged task eventually went to man’s head, deflating man’s heart, and giving humanity a false sense of superiority as the quintessential labellers. Our actions certainly indicate our exclusivity at naming rights has gone askew somewhat.
I suggest this is most apparent in our naming of G-d.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with labelling and categorisation. As humans we have a unique need to understand, and to find meaning in life. Especially within the limitations of our perceptions, sight, hearing, touch, etc.
However, labels come at a cost. We are no longer the naïve Adam and Eve living in Nirvana with only pure intentions driving our behaviour. For example, it is common for many to declare some people as depressed, or anxious or as narcissists to explain certain behaviours. This process is called pathologising.
Trained labellers use scientific evidence to substantiate their reasons for labelling. Both approaches have the propensity to develop self-interest groups, for example in the medical profession, or cliques that outgroup the vulnerable. Victimisation can be an outcome of out grouping, which is antithetical to Jewish moral code
Labelling can also lead to missing the experience, rather seeing the label first, compromising the uniqueness or beauty of the person or item.
I remember my two sons as little boys chasing sea gulls, excited and elated. At the time they had no idea what a sea gull was, but were enchanted by the flying, swooping and elusive creatures above them. Nowadays, the sea gulls continue to swoop, but my sons like most of adults, have lost interest.
I suggest labelling has been a contributor to their non-participation. Labelling has killed their creativity in this context. They now see the label first which blurs their experience of the birds.
I agree with the Buddhist saying “ once you label a butterfly, you never see the butterfly again”., and suggest this is what we have being doing to G-d for a long time.
Labels are great for alleviating uncertainty in us, but a relationship with G-d requires uncertainty, a leap of faith into the unknown, using creativity and imagination.
Mankind inspired by the labelling trend appears with good intentions, to have given G-d multiple names as part of our desire to make sense of the relationship with Him. Names such as “The Lord’, “Our Father”, “The King”, “The Judge”, “Compassionate One”, to name some.
I suggest anthropomorphising G-d with such labels comes fraught with its own problems. Mainly because the labels are loaded with expectations, and expectations often lead to disappointments. Plus the labels miss G-d’s own revelations to man, found in the Hebrew Scriptures.
For example, “I will be what I will be”, when Moses asked G-d to identify Himself, reminding us, it is impossible to pin down G-d using Human attributes.
And “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways”, declared by prophet Isiah to the Jews. In other words, we must not expect to understand His actions, as they make no rational sense to us. Even though to this day we are not convinced, and scratch our heads asking why bad things happen to good people, and vice versa?
When Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, before eating from the Tree of knowledge, their relationship with G-d was pure, and authentic, there were no expectations, and thus no disappointments. They were one with G-d, and with all sentient beings, as well as with the planet. Labelling of all life was a pure egoless act.
Adam and Eve were initially blessed with a natural curiosity, the segue to creativity. Of course this also got them into trouble, as it was curiosity not malice that drove Eve to eat from the forbidden fruit
Those halcyon days are unfortunately gone forever and the self-interested ego rules supreme. However given some love and some encouragement, we all still have the ability to reawaken the creativity we inherited from the first people on Earth.
Remembering we are not alone, can help us to become inspired to once more be curious, take risks jump into the unknown using our imaginations and creativity, cognisant that the Unknown is G-d’s home. That G-d is particularly close to us, but most of the time, aided by mnemonics such as labels, we can be aeons away from Him.
Instead of the above emotionally charged labels for G-d, we should consider also naming Him as the “Umanifested”, or the “Unknown”, or the “Unfathomable”, or “No-thing”. This would then familiarise us to G-d’s real home in the Unknown, and help us to be better equipped as “things’ to get closer to “No-Thing”.
We can be each other’s life buoys, so when we jump into the abyss and the chaos, there are others of us waiting above with love, tenderness and compassion, and don’t forget with that bowel of chicken soup with matzo balls.