Wednesday, April 27, 2005

CBS News: The Threat of Scattering

Genesis 11
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

I just finished reading Michael Crichton’s latest novel, State of Fear. The best part of the book is the author’s commentary and notes in the appendix. He makes the astute observation that we have become a society preoccupied with safety and precaution. Our fear is no longer generated by the Red Menace or the threat of nuclear holocaust. Now we are afraid of the environment, global warming, disease, and a host of other unknown dangers.

I do not recommend the book to just anyone. The story contains crude language and situations. (For a better review of Crichton's book that mine, read what my friend Jeff Richardson has to say at his website .) I do appreciate Crichton's insights about the increasing level of anxiety in our culture. Really, all one has to do is tune in to a TV network morning talk show. They will be ready to update you on what invisible force threatens to kill you suddenly and silently today. Just listen for the sound bite phrases: “Should you be worried?” or “How can you protect yourself?” We are not running into bomb shelters like those “Chicken Little’s” of the 1950’s who feared the A-Bomb. No, we are much more sophisticated than that; after all we know that the annihilation of the human species will be from a huge meteor due to strike the earth in the next twenty-five years.

The Genesis story of the Tower of Babel convinces me that "States of Fear" are common to the human race. The anxiety and stress of our current age of transition have some novel nuances, but we have always been afraid of being scattered. Translation (this is Babel after all): We are afraid of losing control so we rush headlong into desperate efforts to save ourselves.

Can you imagine one of our morning talk show reporting a story on the efforts to build the tower? Imagine that they aired the story on CBS, the Canaanite Broadcasting Service . . .

"This morning we have the head of Shinar Construction with us to warn us about the problem of scattering and what you can do about it. Good morning sir, is scattering a real problem or just an urban myth?"

"Scattering is definitely a problem. Last year alone an independent report showed that 55,000 people, 30% of them children, were scattered in Shinar alone. "

"That’s terrible, but what can be done about it?"

"We at Shinar propose building a city which will help us make a name for ourselves. Studies show that . . ."

"I hate to interrupt, but a city? This has been tried before hasn't it? And the efforts never seem to quite work. A government report suggests that collapsing towers have caused a 72% decrease in the confidence of city life. People seem to be really scared that this will happen to them. What do you say to that?"

"Well, that may have been the case in the old cities, but new technology has changed that. With the invention of the brick we are certain that we will be able to build a tower that should be 48.6% higher that the average mud hill and at Shinar we have introduced a tar adhesive that will safeguard against collapse to an even greater degree. It is in the experimental stage right now, and once the adhesive is cleared by our scientists and legal advisors we expect construction of a tower at Babel in the next year. We think this is a major achievement in the war against scattering."

"Mr. Shinar of Shinar Construction, thank you so much for joining us this morning and we wish you all the best. Sounds like it could be hope for all of us against the dangers of scattering. Up next, environmental experts warn there could be yet another flood like the big one and, get this, it could come in the next hour. Are you prepared? You may not be as safe as you think! We will tell you what you can do to safeguard your family -- but first these messages."

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