In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Upon the earth, he placed a garden, and within the garden, he created a man. The man was called Adam, and Adam’s job was to assist God in tending the garden. God had made the garden and filled it with life. But it’s inherent in the nature of life that it must degenerate and fail in death, and just as the world itself is alive, so too does the world degenerate. The world always moves towards chaos, both of its own accord and because of the actions of mankind. To speak in scientific parlance, the universe tends towards entropy.
Because of that fact, it’s the role of mankind to be a gardener, like God. This is why God created Adam in the garden and gave him a job. Man, like Adam, must tend to his domain so that things don’t degenerate any more than they need to. Man ought to act as a warden against chaos, and this is the central theme in the early stories of the Old Testament, particularly in the story of Noah and the Flood, which we will examine in this essay.
So, Adam walked with God in the garden, but through his own actions he lost his place and was cast adrift into the world with the seed of evil in his heart. Adam’s sin was not merely defying God’s command but allowing the seed of evil to enter his body and soul by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. From Adam was born Cain, Abel (who was murdered), and Seth. Descended from Seth, After many generations, is Noah.
Noah is , the bible says, “a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.”
But Noah wasn’t born into paradise like Adam was. The world Noah inhabits is “corrupt before God” and “filled with violence.” So God sends down a great flood, a deluge, and drowns every living creature upon the earth “wherein is the breath of life” so that his creation might be cleansed and given a chance for new life. But Noah’s prepared. He’s a just man in an unjust world, and he knows trouble’s coming.
Noah’s wise enough to see the influence of chaos growing in the world and busies himself making preparations. Noah hears the voice of God and builds an ark, a vast ship into which he gathers his family and many animals. In the ark, they survive the horrors of the flood, and eventually they’re gifted with a new world, a second chance, which they populate and tend as the voice of God had commanded Noah to do.
Noah spends approximately 365 days in the ark, during which time he has no view of the outside world except through a window that’s too high or obstructed to see much of what’s happening outside. So, for one year, Noah and his family and a bunch of stinking animals live in the dark as the only survivors of a watery apocalyptic wasteland. Eventually, Noah sends forth a raven to gather some data about the state of the world outside. Mythically speaking, ravens and birds in general are often bearers of news. The Germanic God Odin sent two ravens out into the world every day to gather intelligence and report back. But historically speaking, ravens are also associated with death because they’re carrion birds, eaters of corpses. So Noah sends his raven, but it doesn’t return to the Ark. Noah realizes that this doesn’t indicate that the raven found land. Rather, it could have found no shortage of floating corpses to feed upon. So Noah tries another experiment and sends a dove which finds no place to rest and returns to the Ark. Seven days later, Noah sends the dove again, and this time it returns with an olive branch in its beak, indicating that the waters have begun to subside.
Noah waits until the ground is thoroughly dried out and capable of bearing his weight, then he and his family and all the beasts he safeguarded emerge from the darkness into a new world. It’s a world that has been completely transformed and washed clean of all traces of the old world. Even the garden of Eden has been washed away, and now there is no visible indication of God’s presence on earth. God’s physical form has retreated from the earth and appears now only in a disembodied manner to select individuals. Noah emerges into a desacralized world, a Godless world, and he and his family must start again using only the resources they had with them inside the ark.
But what does Noah do for his first act? If it were you or I in that situation, we would busy ourselves with the essentials like building shelter, sourcing water, making fire, stockpiling food—practical and worldly things that would help our family to survive in a foreign and hostile environment. But before Noah does any of that, he builds an altar and offers sacrifices to God, in exchange for which God grants mankind the divine right to feast on the flesh of animals. Noah is saved by this act because all the world’s vegetation has been washed away, and the only food remaining to him is whatever plants he carried with him in the ark, the fish in the waters which survived the Flood, and the animals which could be bred for food. However, God prohibits the eating of any creature which still has life flowing in its blood. Animals must be killed before they are eaten to prevent an excess of suffering. It is hinted that the eating of meat by humans was done before the Flood, though it was by no means a common dietary practice. Now it becomes divinely sanctioned and completely necessary for survival.
Noah is a character who understands the deficiencies of the world around him, makes the necessary preparations to suffer the consequences of those deficiencies, protects the people in his care, and through the adherence to his fatherly duties, he saves the world from destruction and is redeemed by the inherent Good in reality. This is the core of the meaning in the story of Noah, and we could do worse than to emulate Noah in our own story before we are swept away by disaster.
Because of Noah’s example for those who would follow after him, God changes his attitude towards humans. Prior to the Flood, God lamented that “every imagination of Man’s heart is evil continually,” and because of this, he floods the world. But God is prepared to give mankind another chance because he recognizes that Noah is still trying his best to walk with God and be an agent of Good in the world, despite the evil in his heart. God spares Noah and his family, and Noah acts appropriately by hallowing sacred ground and offering up sacrifices to the universal Good. Because Noah continues to orient himself towards the Good, God promises never again to “smite every living thing” even though Man’s heart is “evil from his youth.” A meaningful change has taken place here that ought not to be overlooked, but what is it? Why does God seem to change his mind?
It must be noted that before the Flood, Man lived a long time, often more than 900 years. Living so long, he had more time than we do now to fall prey to the evil imaginations in his heart, and he had a lot more time than we do to work evil in the world. But the life of man has been limited after the Flood, partly by God’s command and partly because God permits the killing of mankind by animals and other men, whose blood also shall be shed as punishment. So mankind has less time in his life after the Flood to become an agent of unrestrained evil. Furthermore, everyone who lived after the Flood was a descendant of Noah or married to Noah’s descendants, and so they have been shown the example of how to act properly to struggle against the evil in their hearts by Noah himself. Noah was a man, a descendant of Adam with evil in his heart, but he chose to act in such a way as to further the cause of what is Good in the world. Because of this, God gives mankind a second chance.
In fact, God does more than give us a second chance. He establishes a Covenant with mankind, which is another way of saying that he made a deal. The terms of the deal were simple; God, the highest manifestation of what is good in the world, promises never again to flood the earth to destroy all life, but in exchange, Noah and his descendants must populate the earth, struggle against the evil in their own natures, and live and die in communion with other men and beasts. Man must work to be an agent of the Good, even though he will now be hunted and murdered and cruelly slain, but in return, he will be saved from chaos.
The narrative concerning Noah ends on an unusual and somewhat controversial note. After the Flood abates and Noah’s family settles the new world, Noah becomes a winemaker, possibly the very first winemaker. Drinking his wine one day, he becomes drunk and passes out naked. His son Ham sees his father naked, the great man and dutiful patriarch who saved them from disaster now lying face down drunk in the dirt. Ham’s first act is to go to his brothers and ridicule their father’s nakedness. The brothers take a different approach, literally. They go to where their father is lying, approach him backwards so that they don’t see his nakedness, cover him over, and respectfully deal with the situation.
When Noah awakens, he tells Ham that his son Canaan will be cursed because of Ham’s improper behavior and his display of open contempt for his father. It isn’t Ham who is cursed, and it isn’t clear if Noah is the one doing the cursing or simply stating the fact of the curse. Noah never says that Canaan should be cursed, only that he will be. And it makes sense that a man like Ham, who neglects to show proper respect and understanding toward his father’s human frailties, would fail to earn the respect of his own son Canaan. The message is clear; men who respect their fathers and show mercy for their failings are blessed, whereas men who resent their fathers are cursed, and they pass on that curse to their own sons. Ham is thus contrasted with Noah, who was “perfect in his generations,” who built a structure within which his family was protected from chaos, who struggled with the evil in his soul and manifested Good in his deeds and thus redeemed the world from disaster.
Thus ends the story of Noah, but there is so much more depth to this tale that it deserves further analysis. It ought to be noted that I am not a Christian and do not approach this story from the perspective of a believer. I don’t think of the Bible stories as history, as fact, but rather as complex and highly symbolic instructions about how to behave correctly in such a way that you further the cause of what is Good instead of what is Evil in your life, your community, and in the world at large.
The Bible stories are all, obviously, centered around the character of God. But what is God? What does He do? The first book of Genesis clarifies that God is the agent who speaks what is Good into existence. God’s most significant act in Genesis was not creating the heavens and the earth, animals, and Man. God’s most significant work of creation was in saying that it was “good.” I often hear people speak of God’s creation as though he were analyzing his work after the fact and concluding that he had done a good job, but I think this is wrong. When God said that his creation was good, what he meant was, “This is what is Good. What I have done is the definition of Good and the opposite of this is Evil”. Therefore God and Goodness are the same thing, but God embodies Good in the universal sense, not the individual sense. The Biblical character of God is the anthropomorphized manifestation of the Highest Good acting in the world through the struggles of mankind. God issues commands to people, who either obey or resist. Those who obey the Word of God go on to do good in the world, while those who oppose usually suffer until they align themselves with the Highest Good or they fall into sin and stray from the path of righteousness. By definition, God’s will is to do good, and doing good is doing God’s will.
The character of God is that unknown agent which determines what is good, the highest possible good, and is expressed in such a way that mankind can interact with Him in the narrative of a story. But God doesn’t always appear to those with whom he chooses to interact. Usually, God’s chosen ones hear only the Voice of God. The Voice of God is that voice that speaks to every human being and tells us what is right. Often in times of doubt, we hear a small voice in the back of our head which tells us the right thing to do. This voice may come from within our own subconscious or from some unknown external influence, but that doesn’t matter. Some people hear the voice of their father, mother, grandparent, mentor, or idol. Some hear only their own voice or don’t “hear” a “voice” at all, but instead, they just have an intuition or feeling of what is the right thing to do. Many people have called this inner voice the voice of God, and to act on its advice is to “walk with God” as Noah did. The Book of Genesis 1 makes it abundantly clear so that there can be no doubt that creating Order out of Chaos is Good, and to do so is Godlike. Mankind was made in the image of God, meaning he has the potential to create Order, as Adam did in the garden. Both God and Adam ordered chaos in the same manner by speaking order into existence. God spoke Goodness into being, and Adam spoke defined being into nameless animals when he gave them their names.
But before the event known as The Fall, the central tragedy of Genesis 1, Adam was only a one-dimensional character. Made in the image of God, he knew only Good and did only what God told him to do. But after the Fall, he gained knowledge of evil, and everything about him changed. Mankind gained this inherent knowledge of Good and Evil when Eve and Adam ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. Then they became able to decide whether to do Good and create Order or to do Evil and further Chaos. For this conscious awakening, they lost their place in the garden and were distanced from God because they now knew what evil was and how evil could be done by them. It is symbolically significant that they ate the fruit of the Tree, thus taking evil into their bodies and not only into their thoughts. Therefore, evil is a biological component of humanity and can no more be removed than one’s heart can be removed.
Generations later, in the time of Noah, God, the personification of what is Good, laments that mankind has given in almost entirely to evil so that his every thought and imagining was nothing but evil. But a sense of what is Good and righteous did not abandon the human race altogether because Noah was “just and perfect in his generations,” He continued to act in such a way that furthered the cause of Good in the world when he “walked with God.” Noah was as human as everyone else in his time and had the same potential for evil thought and action. But he rejected his evil tendencies and focussed on a single task that kept him oriented towards Goodness. He dedicated many years of his life to the nurture and preservation of his family from chaos.
Chaos is a living force, just as evil is a living force. Some say that evil is the absence of Good or that Good and Evil are concepts constructed by man and have no objective value beyond an individual’s interpretation of morality. But I disagree. I believe that evil is the force at work in every atom of the world which moves things towards chaos. It is the influence that causes things to degenerate, and Good is the impulse that causes people to “tend the garden” in the way that Adam and Noah did. Sure, what is evil for one man might be good for another, but if we operate at a higher level of analysis, we will come to some concepts which are “universally good” because they move things towards Order on a grand scale. For example, murder creates chaos; therefore, it is Evil. If I kill someone, even someone horrifically evil, I will introduce chaos into the world. That person I killed will have family who will resent me and possibly start a blood feud, and blood feuds can last for generations. Therefore, although it is necessary to sometimes murder people for the general Good, to create a little Good in the short term, it is nevertheless an act of chaos. Likewise, Communism is Evil because it has historically brought out the very worst evil in people and creates a culture of chaos that insidiously masquerades itself as an excess of order.
By definition, God’s chosen ones, his prophets, are those men and women who choose to reject their capacity for evil and struggle to manifest the Highest Good in the world. In doing this, they “walk with God.” Both Adam and Noah walked with God. In Adam’s case, this meant that he walked with God in the garden and tended to it. He ordered the garden, named the creatures that he saw, and in so doing, he set them in their proper place. He did not abuse them or take advantage of his privileged position. Instead, he survived on the fruit of trees. But for as long as he walked with God until they parted ways, Adam was an agent of order. After Adam ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he realized that he had a choice, and he stopped walking with God. When God called him to their work in tending the garden, Adam hid because he had become fearful. Thus he Fell from his former position and parted ways with God.
Noah is contrasted with Adam in a way that suggests that he was not Fallen, or not as Fallen, as the rest of Adam’s descendants. Noah, too, ordered his garden. He was “perfect in his generations.” This is a tricky phrase to unravel, but Dr. Jordan Peterson suggests that this means he took care of his “generations,” his family. He was a force for Order and Good and influenced things around him in such a way as to stave off the inevitable approach of chaos and degradation. He was so orderly that he heard the voice of God predicting the greatest catastrophe in the history of the earth, and he set to work immediately to preserve his family from that catastrophe. Other biblical commentators suggest that Noah being “perfect in his generations” was an expression of his relative goodness. Noah was evil like all men, but unlike everybody else in his time, Noah seemed “perfect” by comparison. Whichever way you unravel that phrase, the result is the same. Noah was good because he took care of his family despite having every reason to give in to evil.
I believe that we all “hear the voice of God” whenever we realize what we need to do to advance the cause of what is Good in our lives. None of us are perfect. We could all be doing a lot better than we are, no matter how good we might think we are doing. Sometimes we experience moments of clarity that reveal where we have been deficient and what we can do to be better, more orderly, less chaotic, less feeble.
There are agents of chaos at work in your life, in your home, at your job, in your very body and soul. You’re getting older, and your body will eventually degenerate and die. Some day you will get sick, and finally some sickness will probably kill you. You know that’s coming. You’ve heard the voice of God and have been warned. So what do you do about it? You can’t stop the degradation of your flesh, but you can take action every single day to “tend your garden,” to “walk with God,” in other words, to prepare. So do you exercise every day or not? Do you eat reasonably well or not? Do you get sufficient sunlight exposure? Do you attend to medical matters in good time or ignore them until it’s too late? Do you choose to add or subtract chaos from your life by your daily health choices?
I use the example of your health because everyone has a body, but you can use any example you like. Do you have a family? Children and a spouse? Your children must be tended and “named” like Adam named the creatures in the garden because if they are not named and defined regularly, they won’t know what they are, and if they don’t know what they are, they could be anything at all, and that uncertainty will lead to chaos. I don’t mean “name them,” as in call them by name. I mean, give them definitions, something solid they can grab onto. I mean something like:
“You are my son. I will protect you and educate you so that Chaos doesn’t take you, but I also place strict demands upon you so that you know exactly what you are and what you should be to further the cause of Order in your life.”
Dedicating your life to that process of Ordering the Chaos in yourself and your family is something like being “perfect in your generations.”
What about your job? Do you slack off a lot or work hard? Do you steal from the canteen? Do you gossip about colleagues? Are you respectful to other people, or do you make everyone’s day a little more miserable with each interaction?
You get the point. Every action you take, every decision, will move you and the world either towards Chaos or Order, so make your choices wisely because you will be tried and judged someday, and you may be found lacking.
So you might be asking what’s the big deal, right? If everything is falling apart anyway, why do I have to take personal responsibility to stave off chaos when we know that we’re doomed to fail in the end. Why should I shoulder the burdens of the entire world? Because that’s our job. Humans are the only animal who can understand our place in the grand scheme of global existence. We are the only animals who can understand that things are falling apart, and sometimes, often, things fall apart because of the choices we make, and those choices have effects that go beyond our own lives. Therefore, we are responsible for making the right choices, tending our gardens, hearing the voice of the future, and making the necessary preparations so that we and those we care for can weather whatever storm is sent against us.
Noah understood that things were falling apart, and he worked to prepare for a day that might not have come. But that day did come, and he was the only one who was ready. I suggest you follow his example and look for the rising flood of chaos in your own life before it drowns you and everyone you care about.
At the time of writing this essay, the world has been witnessing a new Flood on a global scale, and some of us have seen it coming for many years. Chaos is at work in our society now to such a degree that nothing is certain anymore. Nobody can be sure of anything. Everything is relative. Are you a man or a woman? What does it even mean to be a man? Is any one religion better than another? Should we give Socialism another chance? Should we open our borders or remain insular? Are pedophiles evil predators or victims cursed from birth? Is racism systemic or not? Should you wear a mask or not? If you do wear a mask, are you a good person? If you don’t, are you selfish? Should we be free to say whatever we want, or should our speech be governed by corporations and politicians? Do we need the police? Is being white a sin? Is being oppressed a virtue? Do Lockdowns stop the spread of viruses, or do they harm more people than they save?
These are the questions of the time we live in, and they’re not trivial questions. In times past, things were more turbulent but probably less Chaotic. When evil manifested in the world before the 21st century, it tended to manifest itself in obvious ways. Stalin, for example, was clearly evil. Anyone who can send his own people to the Gulags has abandoned God and Goodness. But these days, things are not so clear, and moral relativism clouds our minds with doubt as to what’s what.
I’m not old, but in my thirty-something years of life I’ve witnessed the world grow more uncertain and, therefore, more chaotic. But it’s an insidious form of chaos that masquerades as Order. Governing speech, for example, and every facet of human behavior is an act of apparent order, but it’s a step too far. Any act of order taken to extremes becomes an act of chaos. Communist Russia was extremely orderly, and yet its people starved to death. But it’s easier to sell people Order than chaos, so to sell Chaos effectively, one must disguise it and make it more palatable. I’ve seen this happening in the world over the past few years, and I recognize it for what it is; a Flood. Unending waves of uncertainty and stress wash over us every day when we check our social media, watch the news, read a magazine, listen to the radio. Even a friendly chat with a friend or neighbor can quickly turn into a political discussion about the latest topic of controversy. There’s no escape from this Flood of doubt.
To be honest, I think the current culture of chaos goes back to 9/11. It may be older than that, but this is the first event in my life that I can recall standing out as a moment of pure chaos on a global scale. Before the Twin Towers were brought down and thousands of people died in the heart of the USA, the world was a much more certain place. Sure, chaos existed, but it didn’t exist on the kind of scale that flew planes into buildings. Most of us had never been privy to the sight of dozens of innocent people jumping out of a skyscraper into a yawning chasm of death to avoid being burned alive in an inferno. I was 12 years old, and I learned a lot about the world by seeing bodies falling from the sky on my TV. No conversation can give you that kind of education; you have to see it to understand. After 9/11, the forces of chaos rallied, and they’ve been in command ever since. 9/11 didn’t end when Navy SEALS shot Bin Laden. It never ended, and it never will.
But we knew there was a problem all along, didn’t we?
Since the increasing prevalence of the internet, we’ve seen our politicians grow more corrupt and inept in a way that we never had access to before. We’ve seen our young people become incapable of dealing with the nature of life and its trials, desperately pleading for “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” so they don’t get their feelings hurt. We’ve seen the enemies of freedom gathering together and making plans. We’ve been hoodwinked into believing that the entire global order should be destroyed because of a virus that’s equivalent in danger to the flu and other influenza-like illnesses that we have comfortably lived with all our lives. We’ve allowed politicians to force us to cover our mouths in public despite the world’s leading medical experts advising that it will do more harm than good. We’ve allowed our men to grow soft and incapable. We’ve witnessed our women abandon hopes of raising children. We’ve permitted resentment to fester and tear our cultures apart for decades. We’ve seen all these things play out in front of our eyes and through the magic of our devices, and, collectively speaking, we haven’t tended our garden. We’ve let things fall apart to the point where we’re now on the verge of a new Flood. Not a flood of water, but a Flood of Chaos.
I don’t know what we can do collectively to stave off the chaos on a global scale, but I know exactly what each one of us can do in our own lives. We must emulate Noah, tend to our affairs, set our houses in order, prepare ourselves for whatever life might throw at us. We must prepare our children, be healthy, gather wealth, work out, become influential, develop skills, reduce our spending, get ready for a sudden change of circumstance. This is the ark we must build for ourselves and our families. Every decision we make must serve a purpose. Ask yourself if you’re making the right choice every time you’re about to spend your money. Every time you’re about to eat, ask yourself if you’re eating the right thing or the right amount. Every time you speak to your wife or child, ask yourself if you’ve made them feel more or less certain about their world. Every time you encounter chaos, ask yourself what you can do to slow it down.
Things will fall apart. You will suffer, so will those you love, and a lot of that suffering will be your own damn fault. Accept that. Then choose to do what’s right. In short, to speak biblically, walk with God. Whether you’re Christian or not doesn’t matter. I’m not a Christian, but I hear the wisdom in the stories, and I put that wisdom to work for me because when my life is flooded out, I want my people on an ark. If enough of us prepared ourselves for the Flood, then the Flood would cease to be a catastrophe and become a cleansing.
Get to work, right now, building a structure within which you and your people are protected from chaos.
-Johnathan Pageau, Youtube.
-Jordan Peterson’s Biblical Series, Youtube.
-Biblehub Commentaries on Genesis.
Post Image Credit:
-Ivan Aivazovsky, “Deluge”.