Yesterday, as I was sitting in my apartment after work I noticed a rainbow outside. I have always liked rainbows for some reason. They seem so majestic to me; so mysterious. I understand that a rainbow is simply refracted light, but they still provide me with a sense of awe every time I see one. I always take the time to stop what I’m doing and just admire what is in front of me.
With the above information being said, it should come as no surprise how excited I was when Radiolab, my favorite podcast, decided to dedicate an episode to a discussion on rainbows. However, instead of exploring it from a scientific perspective, Radiolab explored it from the biblical perspective. For those of you not familiar with the biblical story of origin for the rainbow, allow me to provide you with the sparks note version.
In the book of Genesis, God becomes dissatisfied due to their sinful nature and evil minds and wishes to restore and replenish the world with less sinful and evil-minded persons. God decides that the best way to restore order to the world is by flooding it and killing off everything, essentially providing the world a fresh start. Before doing this, God instructs Noah to build an ark in order to survive this flood. In addition to building this ark for himself and his family, Noah is instructed to take 2 of each animal onto the ark with him, so that they may also repopulate the earth after the waters subside. In the end, Noah, his family, and the animals survive on the ark. When they come out from hiding during the flood and storms, they see a rainbow in the sky, which is a promise from God that he will never send another flood to wipe out humanity.
Clearly this is not a cheery story. Sure, Noah and his family get to survive and they are provided a second chance, but what about every one else? Surely there was at least one other person worthy of being on the ark with Noah. Surely there were children, confused and scared as the rain gathered and the waters rose. Surely there were parents without answers to these children. That is exactly what Radiolab explores. Early on in the episode, they state, “It’s my attempt to try to reason, to try to make sense, out of one of the darkest and most difficult stories that humans have ever told each other.” If you have 20 minutes of free time, I would strongly encourage you to listen to the aforementioned episode. It’s an incredibly powerful story, and the rest of my entry today will reference it as well. If you don’t have time now, please continue reading, but try to listen to this episode at some point. The episode can be found here.
Growing up, I was very familiar with this story. Much like Radiolab mentioned, I had the idea of Noah and the ark as a fun, gorgeous depiction of animals coming 2 by 2 to the ark to be saved by a kind and hardworking Noah. However, as this story points outs that is likely not what happened. As I get older and my view changes and deepens, I find more comfort in believing that Noah was silent when God requested him to build the ark. I find comfort in believing that Noah, a man important enough to be mentioned in the Bible, responded with silence because he could not come up with an answer to ease his worries, fears, or sadness. There is a quote in the story that states, “A good man knows the weight of hurt when someone dies.” I’d like to think that this is how Noah responded. That he knew what was happening, and was deeply troubled. Growing up, the gravity of the situation was lost on the smaller details, like the animals coexisting together, but the reality is there was genocide of the human population and the main character didn’t know how to handle what was in front of him.
I find it interesting that Radiolab also points out that after the waters subside and life on Earth returns to its intended way, Noah struggles to transition back to reality. The Bible mentions that Noah planted a vineyard, made wine, and became a drunk. This part of the story is left out of almost every retelling in Sunday school lessons or church sermons. To me it seems that Noah, our hero from the story is left carrying the burden of, “Why?”
I think that is one of the hardest questions we can ask in any situation. Why? A lot of times, even if there is an answer to the hard questions, it doesn’t make it easier. It might not lessen the burden we carry around. It might not reduce the grief we experience. That is where hope comes into play. Throughout my life, I have changed my stance on whether or not things happen for a reason. Some times I feel like they do, other times I feel like strangling the person sitting across from me reciting that cliché back to me. Radiolab brings up an excellent question, “Can we as humans live with only hope instead of complete understanding?” My answer to this: absolutely.
Coincidentally, earlier in the day I had a discussion with a client of mine about hope. They mentioned something along the lines of, “Without hope, what else do I have?” Some times there will be hard questions without answers. In these moments I can and do hope that through these terrible times that something, somehow will produce growth.
I’m not really sure how to wrap this entry up. I feel like this is really a discussion without a summary possible. So, with that in mind, I will leave this entry asking you, the reader for any reaction or response you might be having. Be it in regards to the Radiolab episode, the discussion of hope, or the heavy question of “Why?”
Thanks for reading.