CFP: [Religion] BABEL
Please accept the enclosed the enclosed original, as yet not published
written by G. David Schwartz - the former president of Seedhouse, the
interfaith committee. Schwartz is the author of A Jewish Appraisal of
Dialogue. Currently a volunteer at Drake Hospital in Cincinnati,
to write. His new book, Midrash and Working Out Of The Book is now in
or can be ordered.
Check out my book on Midrash:
G David Schwartz
The proposition to build the tower, effective from the
fundamental linguistic unity of humanity was a perversion from that
fundamental unity. It was a suggestion, which intended to create a labor
force, a taskmaster, and an overlord. If the illusion of unity could yet
be perceived. It was to go up to heaven (the un-like â€˜placeâ€™) and notice,
design, see, or create a likeness, which was like the heavenly beings.
Given the storyâ€™s imperative to build, the intention was more
likely than not to subjugate the heavenly beings as well.
Human beings (actually their representatives) proposed: â€œLet
us build a towerâ€¦â€ we can be assured not all human beings engaged in the
actual building of the tower. This phrase â€œLet usâ€ was a sculpturing of
disunity from the forces of unified language. The representatives then
set about creating a labor force, but we may also assume they established
a taskmaster to oversee the labor force. Thus, from the unity of language
was created a disunity or disunity of classes.
In this context, the confusion of languages affected the
inability of task mastering force to master over the laborers. The two
were unable to understand one another. Language, the tool of expression,
the instrument of intelligence, became the force of men babbling toward,
and over the head or one another.
The laborers as well as the taskmasters could not accomplish
the bidding of the ruling class. Hence, the confusion of tongues was the
liberating force of difference. Not only so, but the human beings, used
a â€œweâ€ to effect a division among people, whereas God used a â€œweâ€ to
effect an elevation of diverse beings. The human â€œweâ€ instituted a class
system, and a labor force, the divine â€œweâ€ spoke into existence-concerted
A final irony would be the fact that the earthly â€weâ€ who
divided the earthly beings was matched by (equaled by) the goal of a
heavenly â€œweâ€ which united being. The earthy â€œweâ€ affected disunity. Did
the heavenly â€œlet us disunityâ€ in that particular instance effect a kind,
or a motion toward, or even a mere path in the direction if unity?
Our first clue that this was so was given in our recognition
that the division of tongues was a liberating force. In one sense, God
denies humans the ability to climb to heaven and see and know what was
going on up there. In another sense, a sense, which is, replicated
throught out the Bible, God wants to be known. The sense in which God
wants to be known, however, does not involve climbing up and seeing in
but it is accomplished by thought and meditation, i.e., the use of
Further, the more language is used, the closer we might
approximate a vision of God (or at least a true vision of what God desire
we do with our lives). It follows that the more languages used, the
better. The more avenues of approach the more knowledge. The less a
single language can succumb to practices, which would enslave it but
appear to stand against other languages in order to effect the reliance
of one group of language speakers in another for the nuance and
subtleties which, in their own language (through habitual use or
developing to routine or triteness might not convey) the betterâ€™
Human beings propose to do a gross, unnatural thing: to build
a tower up to heaven and thereby see the master of the universe. God,
however does a subtle thing: God confounds the beings who propose the
journey. God confounds them throught their language, as it were, they
would not even notice their language had changed. They though the
language of their neighbor had changed. They would think as coherently as
they always had. It was only when they made an attempt to communicate
with others that they would notice they have not understood. Would they
have been compelled to perceive the subtly of the work?
Martin Buber says the â€œearth, the people of the earth, the
destiny of the earths people â€" these are what the story is about. But
language is where it happens.â€[i][i]
The confusion of tongues was a blessing insofar as it
prevents the assumption of an easy charity which attaches to two
familiar people speaking.
The architect of Babel used brick rather than stone.
Comparatively brick is not only more labor intensive (being an artificial
process), but more â€œmodern.â€ Labor-intensively modernity was
objectionable to God. Postmodern bliss (sounds a little like bless) would
be a good description.
As long as there was one language, there would have been the
unity of being, the availability to beings who potentiality works in
agreement (even if that potential was the nullifying potential of
agreeing what was to be said and how it would be said). The nullity of
agreement would have resulted in the disinterest of speaking in order to
reason with one another about the ultimate things. One would say, at
best, â€œOh! We know that!â€ So in a metaphorical sense, the implicit
argument of a single language was a tower pointed toward heaven. â€˜
This metaphysical tower, however, could never reach the being
beyond language, but only disappear in the clouds (as ultimate agreement
would cause thought to disappear.)
When language is othered into different means of
communication, however, God is brought closer became delivered to the
necessity of humans to think.
Interpretation of the other languages, the other human being,
in order to elucidate that which the other might say, is the dialogue
required, for bringing God to thought as opposed to bringing the body up
the rings of a tower to reach God who is behind the clouds.
â€œTranslationâ€ bespeaks the ambiguity of language and body,
rising thought the cloud of words, toward God. Language brings an
uttering throught this life which reaches toward the â€œhigherâ€ language
which the future speaks in.
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Received on Sat Oct 04 2008 - 19:57:51 EDT