The Place Of Confusion

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The Place Of Confusion
2016 05 21 – Delegation Morning Reflection

Once upon a time the human beings were all together, migrating. They moved with the seasons and the land, spreading out in the warmer times when there was plentiful food, and coming together in times of scarcity or when the cold winds blew, to wait out the winter together until it was easy to travel. Each group had its own name, way of speaking, knowledge, skills, traditions and powers.

In the fulness of time, the human beings arrived in a fertile land with clean water, plenty of food and a mild climate. Instead of spreading out to explore and harvest, the human beings forgot their original instructions, and began to build their camps in the same places, close to the good water and the food and to each other.

The living was good. There was enough to eat and time for relaxation and socialising. There were many marriages and new babies. This good time did not last. The waste began to pile up and the river became polluted by those who had put their tents upriver.

The human beings did not want to pack up their tents and move. One group would say that, if another group did not like it, they should move. The other group would claim to have been there longer.

People began to argue. Old sadnesses came up again and old insults were remembered, and the human beings began to breathe threats.

The problem here, said one, is that we don’t understand each other. A friendly gesture to one person is an insult to another. A reasonable use of clean water to one crafter is a frivolous waste to another. Some people think some medicines are good, others think they are ineffective.

What we need is something to bring us together. We can use our ovens and drying racks to make good materials for building, so let’s start to build structures that will last, and arrange them into a city. We will take a census and build storehouses so that we can be organised. We will build together and share in the good things we create.

That is what the humans beings began to do, but not all of them agreed. Some did not want to work at some jobs, or did not want to work with others, or did not want to stay in the place they had been assigned. They wanted to work at different times or using different methods. So the work was slow and created more arguments and problems.

So again, the former speaker addressed their assembly, and proposed putting specific people in charge of keeping time and making sure work was being done and people had no complaints. And they agreed to make sure that no-one could leave the building site in case they were tempted to return to their migrational lifestyle – which everyone agreed was unacceptable. If human beings left the settlement area there would not be enough people to collect food, construct and maintain buildings, and keep the necessary records.

Then someone made a bold proposal. They would build a great monument in the middle of the city so that everyone could see it, and everyone would contribute to its construction. We will call it “Fusion”, said the person, because it will unite us in a single purpose, and everyone who lives near it will be a true Human Being. We will all be known by the same name.

Let’s go further, said someone else. We ought to do away with all these different ways of talking that we have. That way, we will be able to communicate effectively. If people do not speak our language then we will know that they are not our friends, not part of our vision.

So they built the monument and called it Fusion, and no-one spoke unless they spoke in the single language and had a single purpose, and worked for a single cause. The land became bare as the people stripped it to build the monument and maintain it and defend it from those who refused to speak the language and work on the construction.

The single language of the city could not contain the poetry and artistry and questions and joys of the people, so they sang the songs they remembered from their old life of travelling, songs about things they had never seen, and did not understand, except as a longing.

And then the people began to remember the world outside, and the journeys they had had, and the places they had been, and the names they could remember for those places. They remembered different foods, and old songs, and the languages they used to speak. And one person said to another person that they wanted to leave, and no-one else understood it. And another person started arranging the records they were in charge of according to a different system. And people tried to remember why they had built the monument and the city, and wondered what lay over the horizon.

They could no longer understand one another. They no longer consented to the single dominant narrative. So they left off building the city, and dispersed over the face of the earth in all directions. And they called the name of that place ‘Confusion’, because there, their individual gifts and ways of being had been enslaved, fused into one purpose that served itself, but through the gift of confusion, liberation came.

Time for reflection and commentary, including a reading of Genesis 11:1-9 if appropriate.

Finish with Prayer from George Ella Lyon, from ‘Imagine a World: Poetry for Peacemakers

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