It’s a poignant thing to hold a dying book in your hands. What was once, straight, flat, and dry, now dissolves into a pulpy mess that, if it ever recovers, will be warped and distorted out of shape forever. The loss of dozens of books hit me hard. I think one of the many reasons for this is that books represent, for me, order. They stand at attention all in a row, many on shelves I built lovingly for them. I remember where I purchased them, the thoughts and feelings of that time. In a world that’s far too bumpy and lumpy, books represented the ultimate in orderly array. Now The Golden Bough is melting in my palm, smearing my fingers royal blue. The forecast for the week—more rain.
The story of creation in the Bible—more properly, stories, for there are many—is not creation out of nothing. Creation is the making of order out of chaos. Ancient people, including the Israelites, believed that water was chaos, if not an actual dragon, that constantly worked against order. You can’t build on water, it attacks the shoreline, it drowns those who fall in. Never a seafaring people, Israel equated big water with evil. God, then, fought constantly this unruly foe. Whether it was with word or sword, the Almighty vanquished that sloshing, thrashing element that tries to tear apart everything we build. Read Genesis 1 closely; the water is already there when the creating starts.
Life has a way of getting out of control. It’s not without irony, however. A person buys a house to store their books, and before the books can be moved in, they’re destroyed. It’s rather like a parable, don’t you think? If that person unfortunately thinks of him or herself as a summation of the books s/he’s read then the loss is like losing a limb or two in that endless battle against the forces of confusion that attempt to overcome our world. When this happens some of us turn to books for comfort. The books, however, are disintegrating in our hands. My Amazon account, it seems, is mocking me at the moment with it’s mover’s discount. Why buy something that will only hurt me when the water gets in once again? The people of ancient times knew that the waters of chaos had to be held in check constantly. They look for any opportunity to get in and destroy. Ancient writers knew that in order to defeat them, only the most powerful gods will do.