Regenesis: A Retelling of the Beginning
I don’t usually talk to random guys in a diner late at night, but this was an unusual situation. We were the only ones left in the diner and I had seen him once or twice before. He was scribbling some notes in a notebook that he had, and me being a writer, I decided that we could probably connect on that level. Besides, he was kind of cute. I sat down across from him in the booth.
“What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you Shane. I’m Tara. Are you a writer?”
“I guess you could say that. When I’m not drawing random scribbles on paper.”
“Ha! Well actually, I am too.”
“Really? In that case, perhaps you could help me out, Tara. I’m trying to write this story, but I’m really more of a storyteller than a writer. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like people are much into storytelling nowadays.”
“Well I’d be happy to listen to a story or two, but no promises on the writing front.”
“Great. Well my friend Zeus was — “
“ — Zeus? What kind of name is that?”
“Well, he’s not exactly … human. He doesn’t speak English either, so I’ve had to translate his story but I promise the sentiment is exactly the same as he intended.”
His voice changed dramatically, getting much deeper and more musical. He did mention that he is a good storyteller, but I could have sworn that his face changed too: something about the color of his eyes or the length of his nose… for a second I actually thought he had more than two eyes, but that would be crazy.
“My name is Zeus and I’m an orphanim. You’ve never heard of it? We were one of the first races, so we got to see his first creation unfold — a spiritual creation. It was too awesome for words. If only you could have been there! Take for example our species, we’re known for our ability to travel long distances and our ability to see and understand things. Though we don’t have physical bodies, we appear to you as if we were wheels that are covered with eyes.
“Once he had made us he continued to make race after race of spiritual beings, there’s a huge variety in our world, you know. I only have time to go over a couple: The malakim have the ability to go extremely fast. When they enter the physical realm, they appear to be these giant wings. And the seraphim are more creative types. They appear to have six smaller wings. Also, they’re all fiery.
“Everyone in the first creation can choose to do what they wish, but since different races tend to be better at different things, we often specialize. Our race often acts as recorders or guides, due to our endurance and excellent sight. Malakim on the other hand often act as messengers or transporters. And seraphim make up the most beautiful choirs!
“Oh yeah, I forgot an important one. My friend Shane here is of the race known as cherubim. Their most notable feature is that they can change their appearance at will. Pretty neat huh? They tend to be pretty good at jobs such as acting and storytelling. Anyway if you couldn’t tell already, this first creation was truly paradise.”
Shane? A cherubim? The man was clearly mixed up about a few things. I’m afraid that I was a little bit brusque as I left, because I was nervous about being around a stranger with perhaps a bit of a mental illness. But after I got home, I kept pondering his story.
When I was growing up, I went to this little reformed church with my parents, but I hadn’t been to church in a while. I had to go look up Genesis 1 to make sure that none of what Shane had said was in there, because it sounded just like God would have done it.
I went back to the diner the next night, because I was pretty curious about the rest of his story. Sure enough, he was there again, and seemed pretty happy to see me. I had a few questions to ask him:
“Shane, if there are all these different angels, why haven’t I heard about any of them?”
“Well, Tara, different traditions have different records of spiritual beings. Of course not all of them are completely accurate, but the idea of spiritual beings is pretty common. I just happen to know that it’s true.”
“I’m just gonna continue thinking that you’re doing this for the sake of the story.”
“That’s fine by me. Speaking of the story, I have more of it to tell you. Do you have time to hear some more tonight?”
“So where were we? Ah yes. Elohim had succeeded in creating paradise. We all agreed that he had done something amazing, but he wasn’t satisfied. He had to go and do something bigger and better. But not everyone agreed with his decisions.”
“What do you mean?”
“You ever have a story you’ve been working on, and it's a really great story, and you go back and try and make it even better, but all you do is mess it up?”
“Oh yeah, all the time.”
“Well this is sort of like that. Except it was the Lord of all Creation who did it.”
His voice gained at least an octave and a half.
“Hello, darling! My name is Judith. It just so happens that I was lucky enough to get a view of the action from behind the scenes, since I’m a seraphim who stuck close to El through the whole thing (Elohim is such a mouthful, don’t you think?) He started his second creation with a simple command: “Let there be light and darkness.”
“Since you weren’t there, dear, you’ll have to take my word for it... it was a dazzling display! I mean, in order for there to be light, there had to be a ton of rules that governed how it behaved, such as a universal speed limit. The energy all came from a single point and just… BOOM! … into three dimensions. And everywhere that there wasn’t light, there was darkness.
“El’s next command came not too long after his first one: “Let there be matter and anti-matter,” which allowed some of the pure energy from his first command to change into matter, and a smaller portion to change into anti-matter. With these building blocks he gave our creativity free reign to make a huge variety of planets, quasars, black holes, stars, galaxies… if you can think of it, we made it.
“After an eternity of your time, he said “Let there be life and death,” and the conditions on planets all over the universe started becoming ripe for tiny beings. In the case of your planet, a bunch of small space rocks burned up in the sky, which made clouds. Eventually, lightning from the clouds glued some of the soupy elements on the planet together to form your planet’s first life.
“After many generations, small changes in the genes of these species led to separation of species from species. While at first, some of us were confused at why death was a necessary part of life, it soon became clear that an animal that died on its own wouldn’t go and eat up all the food that the young ones needed. This contributed to the rapid development of new species, at least on the time scale of the universe!
“We were given the challenge of coming up with the coolest animals and plants we could think of. We formed teams from different races in the spiritual realm, and worked together on individual species. We would even get into little competitions. One group would work on, say, the cheetah, and another on antelope, and they would go back and forth, to see who could make theirs faster! I hear that Mr. Shane over there worked on one or two that you might have heard of, black widows and dragonflies. I myself only made the best: a flying scaly creature that lives in the Andromeda galaxy. These creative challenges that El gave us showed our true strength: Diversity.
“But as incredible as everything so far was, El gave one last command: “Let there be sentience and free will.” And on your planet, a few species became aware of their own existence. While at first sentience seemed to be one more truly beautiful part of the creation, the addition of free will divided us as to whether this was a good choice.
It was getting late, and I had to go home to get some sleep before work in the morning. But again, I kept going over the story in my head. I was a little disturbed by the similarity of Shane’s impression of Judith to my aunt Tabby. But more than that, I was disturbed by where this story was going. First of all, Judith had said that death was a necessary part of life. But I couldn’t help wondering if that was really true. I had thought that God made it so people didn’t die at first, and then people earned it with their sin. On further reflection, though, I had to wonder how anything resembling evolution could work without death or suffering. Also, I had to admit that I had wondered before about the whole “free will” thing. I made up my mind to ask Shane about it the next time I saw him.
After a few extremely busy days, I finally got an evening off and went to the diner. I was disappointed to find that Shane wasn’t there. After eating some pure grease, I was about to leave when Shane walked in. I tried to hide my relief, but was secretly glad that he came down and sat at my table.
“So, what do you think of the story so far?”
“Well, I have a lot of questions, like why did God give humans free will if he knew we were gonna betray him?”
“That’s a hard one to answer. Part of it is that it would be cruel to give people sentience without free will. Can you imagine being aware of the fact that you weren’t able to control your own body? It’d be like slavery!”
“I guess so… I haven’t thought much about the creation story since I was little. How did you come up with these ideas, anyway?”
“I didn’t, they really happened,” he said with a glint in his eye.
“There’s no way you’re gonna convince me of that. I mean, you just said that multiple species gained consciousness on Earth, but I know for a fact that you’re making that up. Earth has only ever had one conscious species. If there were more, I would have heard.”
“Actually, scientists have uncovered evidence of other species that were sentient. I’m sure you’ve heard of neanderthals. Well there were a couple of others too, like homo floresiensis, and homo erectus that also lived pretty close to the same time as humans.”
“Really? I’ll have to go look that up. I suppose you probably made up another story about them?”
“I didn’t make it up!”
He was laughing, so I could tell that he was probably joking, but I kept wondering if maybe, just maybe, he was serious. But his face very quickly turned dead serious, and his voice turned gravelly, like after you’ve been ugly-crying for hours.
“You need to know what happened, Tara. You need to tell the whole world. There will be no peace until there is justice for our kind. From the beginning, we told them, “This is not right, you cannot do this to us!” But they paid us no heed. Fear, Tara, is what caused this tragedy. You must let others know.
“I keep going back when it all started, trying to figure out if there’s anything we could have done, but I’m convinced we did our best. I suppose the year of the drought is as good a time as any to begin my story. I can’t even remember the last time we had had a drought, probably when I was just a child. My parents told us that we made it through those times by cooperating with each other, the humans and the flores, and us. I mean with our stronger bodies, the agility of the flores, and the endurance of the humans, we found strength in our diversity. But this time, when we realized the rains weren’t coming, people started to grumble.
“Why did they say such things about us? The humans, they were afraid of us I guess, they claimed that we had held back some of the food and were letting the rest of our camp go hungry. There was no reason for us to do that! What’s good for all of us is good for each of us. On top of that, they started to say that we weren’t as intelligent as them, that we didn’t deserve to have the same amount of food as they did. That was bad enough, but the flores didn’t defend us at all. I guess they were afraid too, and didn’t dare to speak up. Well, it didn’t make a difference.
“There was one man in particular who had it in for us. I don’t know what we ever did to hurt him, but he became powerful in the human clan by saying these things, that we weren’t holding up our end of the bargain, and that we were just keeping everyone else from having enough to eat. As if that weren’t bad enough, guess what my daughter, Eve, had to go and do? She fell in love, with the son of this… demon.
“When I found out about it, I got right down on my hands and knees, and pleaded with her to change her mind. I told her these people were dangerous, but she kept saying, “Adam’s different! I love him and nothing can change that!” So I forbid her from leaving the house. In the end, that only prolonged the inevitable.
“She escaped. We all went out looking for her. Apparently at the very same moment, she was with Adam in — you’ll never guess — the human’s hidden store of food. They were arguing:
“Adam, why can’t you see that what your father is doing is wrong?!”
“He’s just looking out for those that he loves!”
“But what’s good for all of us is good for each of us!”
“Dad says that we need to look out for our own, because there isn’t enough to go around”
“We were frantically trying to find them, but we were too late. The human mob found them first.
“What’s going on in here, Adam?”
“Dad! Don’t hurt her, I love her!”
“That … thing?” he roared, “you betrayed me! You can’t love that! And you showed her this place?!? You… you’re no son of mine. You betrayed the human race! … Men, you know what you have to do. These two have committed the worst offence known to humans. We must ensure that justice is served.”
“You’re not my son, you are no longer human.”
“Adam made no effort to fight back against his father, but there was no mercy to be found. Eve screamed and tried to escape, but she was not as fast as the humans. We had heard the commotion from a distance, and we discovered them at the worst possible moment: in the middle of a brutal double murder.
“What have you done to my baby! You beasts!”
“What are you doing here? You know that this is human territory! You have all violated our agreement that this is human land. The punishment is death!”
“Their thirst for vengeance did not end until every single one of us had been brutally murdered. The flores were chased to a remote island, but did not last long. Now you see, Tara, why you MUST tell the story. Our blood is calling to you.
Listening to that story was horrible. I knew that humans were capable of some pretty terrible things, but this was too much. I left in a bit of a hurry again, because I was disturbed. That night, I just kept going over the story in my head and thinking that I didn’t really know any people like the ones in the story. I mean I guess I didn’t know Hitler or Stalin or anyone like that, but I think that Shane was just wrong about this one.
I went back the next day because I wanted to correct Shane of his error.
“You need to change your story, Shane, because humanity isn’t the pile of crap that you’ve made it out to be.”
“You’d be surprised, Tara, at the things people do when they’re backed into a corner.”
“I don’t know if I really believe in God, but if he did exist, I don’t think he would ever have allowed such a thing to happen.”
“He did allow it. He did more than that, he made humans, so it's his fault.”
“Just because you claim God made people, doesn’t make him responsible.”
“Wait till you hear what he has to say about that:”
“What’s up Tara? My name’s Mark. I was pretty good buddies with a man you might be familiar with, named Jesus. We spent a load of time together travelling around the countryside, and we talked about everything. There are couple of times that stand out in my mind about those times. One is a conversation we had about a story he told that didn’t make much sense to me the first time I heard it:”
“Hey Mark, you remember that story that I told about that fig tree? The one that didn’t make any fruit for three years?”
“I think so, the owner wants to burn it, but the gardener wants to give it another chance?”
“That’s the one. Can you tell me whose fault it is that the tree didn’t make any fruit?”
“Uh… gardener’s I guess. If he had done a good job like he said he would, the tree would have made figs. Or maybe the tree is just a dud. But wait a minute, I thought it was a story about giving second chances. Are you trying to say that when a person makes a bunch of these bad choices, it’s not really their fault?”
“Keep thinking. You’ll understand soon enough.”
“Well I kept thinking but I didn’t really get it. Not for a while. I also clearly remember our conversation about the story of the son who wastes his inheritance on wine and prostitutes.”
“Jesus, I keep going back in my mind to that moment in your story where the father sees his son from a long way off and runs to him, even though his son just wasted all of his father’s money. What a beautiful symbol of love!”
“The father certainly loved his son. But don’t you think that there is another way that he could have been more loving towards his son?”
“Well, I suppose he could have stopped his son from leaving in the first place. It might seem harsh at first, but I’m sure his son would have understood eventually that his father really did love him and wanted to do what was best for him.”
“One last moment that sticks out in my mind is the time right after he told us he was going to die. I got to talk to him a bit later, and asked him what everyone was thinking:
“Tell me, Jesus, why do you have to die? Can’t you save yourself?”
“I could do it. But I won’t. The truth is, I deserve to die. All the suffering you see in the world, part of that is my fault. I’m the one who made it all, and this is the only way that I can pay for my mistake.”
“It’s not your fault though! You aren’t making people do bad things!”
“If a man beats his child, and the child beats another child, doesn’t the man bear some responsibility for that? I do deserve this, don’t try to convince me otherwise.”
“Alas, Tara, I could not make him to listen to reason. He wouldn’t have had to die if he wasn’t positive that he had to pay for his mistakes.”
Though the other stories had required some thought, this one took the cake. Nothing in my church background had prepared me for thinking that God might really accept some of the blame for what humans had done. Even if none of the stories were true, I still had to wrestle with this idea because it had so many far-reaching implications. Would someone who believed this just do whatever they wanted to do and blame it on God? Or would it relieve the burden of excessive guilt and allow people to be free?
“Well these stories have really made me think, thank you Shane. Do you mind if I write them down?”
“Better you than me. I’m actually a terrible writer.”
“All it really takes is practice!”
I have not seen him since I left the diner that day. But I can say that his stories changed me for the better. I’m not ashamed of who I am any longer: a human who has inherited some bad and some good from my ancestors and ultimately from God.