Genesis 1:14–19

Grass begins before there is a great light to sustain it. This reminds us that we are not dealing with a science of evolution, but a cosmology arising from a selection of elements within a context of too much floating where it will. To have grass precede sun is no problem. Dry ground, on top of water and surrounded by water, is already latent with life. An extension of latency of life will come in a later story—that which tells of ’adam from ’adamah.

These large and small lights are after-thoughts to care for the consequence of dividing waters to reveal Earth. This creation based on chaos reveals the nearness of the structures waste waiting to have these moments fall back or be enfolded again in darkness.

In the meantime, a metronome assists this growing music of the spheres in all its counterpoint and syncopation, harmony and various tonal scales.

Oh yes, these small measures of times and seasons play out their solar and lunar schedules against another progression of stars and regressions of planets. Depending on which measuring tool is used, we see creation in differing stages. For some, it is done and set; for others, it is still beginning or yet evolving. A complicating factor enters as the sun is demoted from a source of energy (a “god”) to a mere marker of time or season. Grass does need sunlight, but our story shifts from Earth to Firmament, from a source of food to a setting of a cosmic context.

Genesis 1:9-13

A line is drawn in the middle of everything, dividing it into Heavens and not Heavens. There is no other distinction made between the two. The Heavens continue to have all the welter and waste of the starting point roiling throughout. Any further organization here is unknown. Potential abounds.

On the not-Heavens side, the preternatural “water” is gathered and inherently present Earth stands revealed. As long as it is not flooded over, the possibility of additional specifics take their turn upon its stage. This is its opportunity to reveal the limit of glory and nearness of disaster in both the deep un-yet and a hovering present.

The gathering of waters that reveal Earth, allow it to be seen, is named Sea. It is good to always have one eye on Earth and one on Sea as we travel paths through the seeds of life—grass, plants, trees.

An appreciation of Earth and Sea looks upon all the specifics and echoes—these are “good.” Here we catch a glimpse of the value of space where a line can be developed sufficiently to have form and identity. This is no promise of perpetuity. So much water must be removed to allow Earth and its companion Air (implicit in Breath) to interact that everything remains fragile.

From wet to dry, from potential to active, we find ourselves located. Gratitude also begins to grow as wonder gives ground.

From evening to morning we find expectation growing that there will be a next morning, a next evening. Already readers are moving from it is enough to have Earth, Air, and Grass. Our grasp for more is awakened. If this is “good” might there be a better?


With “light” comes its foil—”not light.” Together they set up shop in medias res—in the middle of the story of “water.” Here is raised another division of above and below, of before and after. Such a boundary engages each subsequent telling-forward and flashing-back that sets us above to judge and submerges us into unknowing action caught in the tides and eddies of context and instinct.

Evening by morning and morning by evening, sun and moon and ambiguous dawn and dusk, roll through this vaulted lacuna where, in the midst of nihilo, a space non-resistant to order might reach beyond a divisive boundary for inspired material to shape into a beginning of a branching and fruiting story continually at risk of being lost to a weakened resolve to encapsulate a sense of suspended disbelief so a meaning within one set of choices is the meaning for all such attempts to set limits on a many-fingered movement writing and erasing outside the limit of coherence.

The plurality of heavenly vaults suggests the expansion of space in all directions—with an “edge” beyond our apprehension. This restricts our appreciation of indeterminacy and encourages an over-valuing of constructs that set belief and intention over and above the waters of nature, politics, and religion where we swim during our day and night and in between.

Signifying the temporary nature of this division is the lack of the now traditional blessing of “it is good” upon this heroic work of separating heavens from earth. We are left with an ambiguity devolving into a morality of right and wrong, clean and unclean, now and never.

Genesis 1:4-5

A blessed division or distinguishability sets a stage for any play to come that goes beyond sitting in dark silence. Such a space of deep waste may have its moment of instruction but such will be in a context of what has gone before. It can be in medias res but not before.

Against a backdrop of “light” come its twin rhythms of Day and Night. Each encloses the other in a way known as yin-yang.

The boundaries are set within which direction can be discerned.

With a duality of Day and Night we begin to enumerate an unordered set—Day One—not 1st day among others. Cardinal numbered days play back and forth as unique experiences. In this way we continually engage the fundamental of “light” within every subsequent day.

It is the intersection of day (and) night that is a marker of Day One having come to identifiability. The writer moves us from dark to light with an ordering of an on-going sequence—from evening to morning. When joined we turn this fact to poetry— “…it was evening and it was morning, Day One….”

The goodness of light becomes formalized, ritualized into a good process of evening and morning. Evening has broken like a new day to dream all that is needed for awakening into morning. The desert of night is found to be an oasis of day and prepared to welcome day back for deconstruction in anticipation of going further in a next day.

Genesis 1:3

A mechanism is needed to deal with a fluttering desertion of sense—something more than a next technological plateau. In this case a sword of division, a separation of each this-and-that. Here is a beginning—a something that is not a something—a background against which a one might be compared to a one not at one. It could be the constancy of a background radiation before which forms move and whose shadows are distinguishable. Without a sense of  depth, we turn to surfaces and the more immediate tool of “light” as in understanding—not packets and waves from a not-yet sun. This “light” is an apprehension of the falseness of empty nothing and a method or process of weighing differences to reveal themselves. Such a “light” anticipates a fecund space between calling forth and naming after. Being placed here is a vibratory experience that begins with immobile blocks and later recognizes that which breezes by.

And the gift of differentiation was set aside from an ungrounded, generalized nothing without form and void, lacking space and time. In being set aside it became the central tenet of creativity—this is different than what has gone before. Differences are “good”.

The tautology of “let there be” and “there was/is” opens a way forward, if not up or down or sideways.

Whether called “light” or realized eschatology, a beginning goes past what is deep waste and hoving darkness to discerning revelation—choosing increasing vibrancy.

Genesis 1:2

Status Report: Stuff is empty and smoky, vanity on steroids: non-stuff flutters and hovers. Between lies a moment, a circus tent, where wonderment begins to see itself through a fogged glass, clearing as it goes.

Above a desert soars a buzzard dreaming life into sustenance.

The waste of wilderness is fertile. Nurture inseparable from nature looks to its own. g()d and G*D are drawn closer, breath by breath, yearning to know and be known. In such a moment there is first future—any past historically moot and only later glimpsed through any of a multitude of lenses, each striving for its own successive weight to carry all subsequent days—carrying its loss within its glory.

This, then, is the when of every story seeking to peel back a wonder of wonder—a something where every nothing has precedence and continuing authority to ban all but itself from ever breathing. With no good reason to begin learning, turning and turning toward others as fully authorized from an uncertain tomorrow with no purposed direction, the bands and bounds of resistance relax just enough to acknowledge that not even a Nothing can remain implacably aloof. It turns out there is no thing that is nothing alone. Improbability engines and unimagined fiddly-bits spark one mundane moment after another even until after time, beyond space, and a cessation of vibratory echoes.

“Not Sure” Improves the Situation

“If you know that you are not sure, you have a chance to improve the situation. I want to demand this freedom for future generations.” ~Richard Feynman, The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist (p. 28).

E.E. Cummings announces in his play, Santa Claus: A Morality,

Ladies and gentlemen: If you have been
deceived by some imposter—so have I.
If you all have been tricked and ruined—so have I.
And so has every man and woman, I say.
I say it, and you feel it in your hearts:
we are all of us no longer glad and whole,
we have all of us sold our spirits into death,
we are all of us the sick parts of a sick thing,
we have all of us lost our living honesty,
and so we are all of us not any more ourselves.
—Who can tell truth from falsehood any more?
I say it, and you feel it in your hearts:
no man or woman on this big small earth.
—How should our sages miss the mark of life,
and our most skillful players lose the game?
your hearts will tell you, as my heart has told me:
because all know, and no one understands.
—O, we are all so very full of knowing
that we are empty: empty of understanding….

To get out of the built-in traps of every life grown within the limits of any family or society there needs be an appreciation for holding light and lightly in a finer sieve than those of prior generations. To not do so is to constrain self and future generations to the limits of yesterday.

Future freedom is based on that of past and present. The more active observational investigation has been and is, the freer the opportunities we provide to nurture and nourish any who may follow after (contingencies of imaginative sclerosis and ecological disaster also need to be honored).

Our starting spot is the simple one of noting a different point of observation and finding a next metaphor that will not deny but enlarge to the point of moving to a more specific and thus, mysteriously, encompassing set of data and consequences.

Of course, this simplicity is increasingly more difficult than can be anticipated until it arrives and we exclaim “Of course!” and set about dethroning the latest king-of-the-mountain by way of an intentional and innocent affirmation of, “I’m not so sure.”

A Rule’s Exception

“The exceptions to any rule are the most interesting in themselves, for they show us that the old rule is wrong. And it is most exciting, then, to find out what the right rule, if any, is. ~Richard Feynman, The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist (p. 16).

The appeal to a rule qua rule needs one more look at the observational data—the experience of today’s ability to record observations in a new setting with new tools of measurement.

This ability to hold old data against new data is to have eaten from a tree of knowing outcomes and a willingness to alter them based on new information. When such connections to a new world are outlawed from the beginning, we don’t need to simply wait for some next great shoulder to stand on and with. When different outcomes are dismissed out-of-hand, we can be as certain as ever we can be that it is but a matter of time before the old rule crashes.

Such a crash has never been pretty or sweeping. There are still people aplenty who can only respond positively to a hierarchical structure where they know their place, their rule, and it will always be within a right-wrong binary—Heaven is up; Earth is flat.

Theology, the old queen from generations of incest, is always tested at the point of its current certainty. Ironically, it is its loyal opposition that carries its best hope of reinvigorating its line. The parade of religions seems never to end, like the parade of tectonic plates rising from below and diving deep below—mixing and sifting their moment in the sun, their dance of respiration featuring a coordinating atom of magnesium in chlorophyll and of iron in hemoglobin.

A Beginning that Ends with a Mummy

Alter’s introduction to Genesis has this summary: “Genesis begins with the making of heaven and earth and all life, and ends with the image of a mummy—Joseph’s—in a coffin.”

Alter sees “irrepressible procreation” as implicitly projected beyond this story-line and continuing through every subsequent oppression. As a story continued on to a time of exodus, this carries literary weight. As the experience of many a people whose artifacts have lasted beyond their own very repressible procreation, many questions need raising.

Life of the imagination grows and adapts to its current circumstance. After realizing Life has its seasons of mummification, story can find its way past apparent death—Genesis, Invictus!

Life within political, economic, and religious dicta often finds itself cut off with no advance notice. Such a Kafkaesque reality goes, none-the-less, into Dylan’s “good night” with no Eliotian “whimper” or notice—Genesis, Obliterus!

The Hebrew Bible – Alter

Robert Alter’s new three-volume work, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary is going to be a key source for my comments about Genesis. Alter begins with an extended look at the seeming reality that “translation is betrayal” or, within a religious tradition, “heresy.”

A part of the tension scripture reveals is a distinction between written and oral traditions. There is a temptation to smash these two together in an unhelpful or unholy amalgam that can no longer distinguish past articulations and present need—which delays the arrival of a future with a larger present than our current one.

This confusion is found in an appeal to sola scriptura as interpreted by some “holy” spirit. Not allowing scripture to be a record of previous revelations keeps it from playing its part in present questions, even those simply rephrased from the past. Every generation needs to add to a scriptural base and be exempted from it.

Giving scripture its due, but not more, opens us to clarify the questions and revelations of today while also leaving room for glimmers of tomorrow to be planted in today. When these three beginning states (past, present, future) can be engaged on both personal and social life-layers we find a different order of energy not only welling up but overflowing beyond an explanation of a particular translation or interpretation of either an etiology or teleology. Alphas and Omegas become mere metonymies of a fullness of life where we go beyond signing-in to signing-up to choose life in its interface with death.