The Great Flood – McNeil
As we learned in 10th grade, the first human civilization grew up in Sumeria, which the Greeks called Mesopotamia, meaning “between the rivers.” Those rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, provided the fertile soil that made the whole farming bit feasible. Unfortunately, a heavy snowmelt and a bad storm in the headwaters of those rivers could send down an inexplicable flood that drowned crops, livestock, and people, and melted the earthen bricks upon which society was quite literally built. This happened a lot.
So one day, a Sumerian storyteller was looking to give his audience a scare. He’d been telling a lot of man vs man and man vs self stories lately, so he decided to trot out nature as the villain. The scariest thing in nature: floods. And so began a really fantastic tale of a great flood, the one man who saw it coming and how his ingenuity saved the day. This man, Ziusudra, Utnapishtim, or Noah would go on to be played by Jeff Goldblum in the remake, Independence Day.
In the original story, which inspired or was completely unrelated to similar tales in Babylon, Judea, China, Greece, Finland, Australia, India, and the New World, the hero is such a nice guy that when the gods choose to end the horrible sins of the world* with a deluge, they give him a heads-up and instructions to build a boat.
One interesting point: nowhere in Genesis does Noah attempt to let anyone else know about the flood. He tells his family and, presumably, many animals, but nowhere does he give anyone else any warning. The modern image that we have of Noah as Cassandra, trying futilely to save others isn’t there, though it makes him a much more sympathetic character. Jeff Goldblum never would have left everyone else to die without so much as a “Hey, guess what?”
“You’d all be dead if it wasn’t for my David.”
This may not be your typical heart-pounding, slow-motion-running-in-front-of-an-explosion type of escape. When you think “action-hero” you rarely think “shipwright.” But when you get right down to it, other heroes may be saving themselves, but the ship-building heroes of the flood story are saving the human race. They may take a little longer, but how embarrassing would it be if the ark on which all animal life on the planet depends capsizes because you forgot to caulk it appropriately?
Finally, just because I find this fascinating – did you know that “clean animals” got to come on board the ark in sevens? Why? So that Noah would have something to sacrifice to God when they landed. Also, there were dinosaurs.
Unlike alien invasion, global warming, earthquakes, volcanoes and the mighty F5 tornado, we never have to worry about floods again, because God said, “I do set my [rain]bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth… And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.”
Well, that’s a load off.
And now, for good flood/ark footage, I present a music video made up of clips from Evan Almighty and The Crow.
* Or relatively minor political corruption on the part of John Goodman.