The art of our time, sacred art included, will necessarily be characterized by a certain poverty, grimness and roughness which correspond to the violent realities of a cruel age.

–Thomas Merton

Genesis, Chapter 6

Before the Glaciers Melt

Humans spread from the savannas they crafted themselves to thrive in, and crafted themselves ways to thrive across the Earth.

Where it was cold, they made clothes. Where the weather was hard, they build tents. They found places where water hid from the sun, and devised skins to keep it with them. They made tools to trap animals too small or quick to catch, and tools to bring down the mightiest of giants. They saved their food from the corruption of bacteria, fungus, and larva, even as they remained ignorant of their secret lives.

They discovered the world was filled with gods. While there was great power in these subtle spirits, it was much easier to grasp for the obvious ones: fear, anger, violence, birth, death…. No one created anything to express their insights and emotions, they simply worked tools to help the body survive. Impressive tools at times, but still nothing to connect them with any gods.

Its unclear if Noah trained to be a shaman or a preacher or a warrior, but she was a scientist all the same. She had noticed that music was hidden in the winds and waters. The sky didn’t just paint truth of coming weather, but also beautiful vistas for no reason other than its own unfathomable needs.

Inspired she created the first work of art, a flute to play upon the wind’s music. She used it to create beautiful melodies, for no other reason than they made her feel better. She made the first painting, not a technical drawing to plan a hunt or explain lessons from a vision quest, but something to capture beauty she saw all around.

Her anger left, and her daydreams of violence were expressed in tragic songs. She didn’t know of any gods responsible for this power, so she prayed to the unknown gods that must have been responsible. She never imagined that the gods she prayed to had lived in her heart, as they had lived everywhere, waiting for this moment.

Everyone who heard and saw her art was moved by it. Their pains, their despair, their sufferings danced and shifted to it. A few came to learn from her. More were afraid, but still knew that the experience, while uncomfortable, was powerful enough to help them face their worst problems. Many cowered, feeling their hurts moving, but they were too afraid of the pain they had caused and the suffering they endured to live a life without it.

Art was the creation. Noah had figured out God’s power.

Changing Times

Noah gathered many followers. No matter where they came from or how different they looked or acted, those brave enough for art found themselves strengthened, transformed. Every one who persevered through the act of creating art found themselves closer to love and wisdom.

Not all persevered.

Many gave up, blaming their skills instead of the choice to give up. Some met the cruelties and jealousies of others, and again blamed their skills instead of the fear pressed into their hearts by cruel minds. Others despaired so greatly at being unable to communicate wordless truth into an imperfect world that they took life, sometimes there own, more often by criticizing the work of others.

The forces of those who preferred to live in and spread fear than to face their own pain grew. It seemed as if there was a force, a conspiracy, that was aligned against love. There was no force, just millions of broken hearts.

All this caused many to question Noah’s path. The results were muddled, and in the face of the fear of doubt, Noah’s keen awareness was not always enough. She understood human imperfection as well as any who watches the gap between ideals and practice, but she did not always have the words to overpower their fear from witnessing their own imperfection first hand.

Noah had another worry on her mind. Inexplicably, the land, air, and waters were getting warmer. Towering glaciers had always changed shape with the earth’s seasons, but she noticed them smaller after each cycle. Every summer was warmer than the last. Spring took time from Winter, and Autumn took from Summer. Storms showed up at times that defied the old stories. Animals came from strange lands.

For the artists, this was exciting and it fueled their art; but those who chose pain also grew more afraid and desperate. Noah felt both the excitement and fear. She prayed, meditated and listened for new questions to the answers that came to her.

Noah convinced herself and her artists that this change brought new opportunity, but it was also dangerous. Her enemies only convinced themselves that change was dangerous, so they were quicker with stories; they claimed God was going to punish Noah, and wipe her fanciful, useless art and artists from the planet.

The Ark

As the years past, it became clear that change was growing immediate. The waters were overflowing river banks and sea shores. New plants chased the new storms. Noah finally saw the connection to the melting glaciers and the increasing waters. These mountains of ice would add to the seas, and sooner or later the lowlands all the people she knew lived amongst would be claimed by the waters.

She gathered her artists and told them of what she had seen. The fear started to take them, so she said: “But fear and powerlessness is not how our story needs to end! We can create something new! The hewn wood floats; the fisherman rides the log to deeper waters; we can build a structure bound of many logs by rope. We can seal it with pitch to keep the waters out. We can make it large enough to house us all, as well as stores of food; grains, nuts, seeds, grasses, and animals enough for us to out last the waters!”

She revealed her plans for the vessel and the fear was redirected back into excitement and hope; it fueled their actions.

Her enemies laughed and mocked, as they did with all the things they made. She was building something to escape the wrath of the Gods, and they knew it would be futile.

The refuge grew piece by piece; a bizarre, massive cabin of wood and pitch; one large door on its ground level; windowless up the sides; shuttered window holes sprayed along the top.

“A dark box to hide the hideous creations!” they mocked. “More pitch so we won’t hear that awful music!” they cried. “She builds her own coffin!” they laughed.

Then the waters came.

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