On Creation and Consumption

I’m sitting at my computer staring at a blank Pages document. Creation is hard.

Compare that with the hour of YouTube I watched this morning. That was easy.

It’s easy to consume someone’s else work. It’s easy to take in the things other people have made. It’s a lot harder to make something yourself. But I suspect that part of what it means to be human is to be a creator.

The Bible starts out, in the book of Genesis, with a beautiful poem in which God creates the world over a span of seven days. This is where a lot of people get hung up because things like geology, biology and astrophysics seem to tell us that our universe was created in a very different way and over a much longer timeline. However, to understand the beauty of the creation story in Genesis 1, you need to understand something about the original audience.

Before it was written down the creation story in Genesis 1 was an oral story shared by ancient Israelites. The point of the story wasn’t to answer how the world was created but why the world was created. Why did God create us? What are we doing here? The story describes God’s purpose rather than his process.

Furthermore, the creation narrative in Genesis 1 was, in some ways, a rebuttal or a response to other creation stories that were common in the ancient Near East. One of the most prevalent of these was a story called the Enuma Elish. There’s a lot going on in the Enuma Elish but the basic premise is this:

In the beginning, there were two gods: Apsu and Tiamat. A bunch of lesser gods were created by these two and lived inside Tiamat (like you do). But these lesser gods made a lot of noise and it kind of bugged Apsu and Tiamat. Apsu wanted to kill them so he could get some sleep.

Tiamat didn’t love that idea, so she warns Ea (one of the lesser gods living inside her) that Apsu is going to try to kill them. Ea kills Apsu first, marries another god and has Marduk. Marduk is super powerful and is in charge of the wind, which he uses to create dust storms and stuff.

All the other gods—who were still living inside Tiamat—got super annoyed at Marduk for the ruckus, so they convince Tiamat to take revenge on him for the death of Apsu. She agrees and a war breaks out between Tiamat, Kingu (her new husband) and the gods that follow her and Marduk and the gods who follow him.

Marduk becomes the king god, kills Tiamat and splits her body in two to create the heavens and the earth. He then forces all the gods that sided with her into a form of slavery. But when they complain he decides to kill Kingu and use his blood mixed with dust to create humans, who will be the new servants of the gods.

Now, if you were an ancient person who grew up with this creation story, what would you think of the gods, the world and your place within it?

From this story, we’re told that the gods are inherently violent. We learn that if you want to get anywhere, that violence is necessary; that it’s ultimately redemptive. We learn that all of life is essentially chaotic. Furthermore, we learn that humans are essentially an afterthought in creation; we’re here to do the work of the gods because the other gods complained.

Now, if you compare this story to Genesis 1 a bunch of interesting things come out.

First of all, Genesis 1 starts out with these words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

In ancient mythology, including ancient Israelite mythology, water is a symbol of chaos. So from the very beginning, we see a creation that is chaotic and dark. And yet the Spirit of God is there.

Throughout the next six days of creation, we see this one God ordering the chaos. In the first three days, he separates. On day one, he separates light from dark, creating day and night. On day two he separates the waters in order to create an expanse called the sky. On day three, he separates the waters below the expanse in order to create dry land.

Then, in days four through six, he fills what he has created. On day four he creates the sun, moon and stars (which fill the darkness and light he separated on day one). On day five he creates birds and fish (which fill the sky and sea he separated on day two). And on day six he creates land animals and humans (which fill the land he separated on day three). There is structure to Genesis 1. There is a movement away from chaos and darkness into order and light.

If you were an ancient person living in the Near East and you heard this story, you would get a much different sense of purpose. Why did the gods create? Why are we here?

In Genesis 1 there is an obvious lack of violence. This Hebrew God didn’t use violence to create anything. Instead, this God is systematically ordering chaos in nonviolent ways. From Genesis 1 is learn that God isn’t violent, that violence isn’t inherently redemptive, that creation was the intentional choice of a single deity and that humans, rather than being an afterthought, are the pinnacle of creation. Humans are the crown jewel of God’s creation, not his slaves.

This Hebrew God creates out of desire and then creates humans, who we’re told are created in his image and gives us the task of ongoing creation.

We were created to create. We were created to partner with God in the ongoing work of creation. What we create probably doesn’t matter nearly as much as that we create.

Because too much consumption without creation can lead to cynicism. Spending too much time taking in what others have created without creating something yourself can make it really easy to criticize the work of others. But when we create—when we spend the time and energy to create something ourselves—we tend to give other creators grace. We tend to understand just how difficult and arduous the work of creation can be.

Which brings us back to this blog.

This blog is my attempt at creation.

This blog is my attempt at spending less time consuming and more time participating in the ongoing creation of the world.

I’ll write more later on some of the reasons why we choose not to create and a few ideas for how to create anyway. But for now, let me encourage you to be a creator.

You were created in order to create. You will find joy and satisfaction in creation, whether you’re creating music, poetry, programs, systems, food, or environments. There is an infinite number of ways we can create. What you create doesn’t matter as much as that you create.

So I invite you to join me on this journey of creation. If you’re creating something, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Let me know what you’re creating, the struggles you’ve had in the creation process as well as the joys you’ve found as well.

Cheers friends,

Jerry

One thought on “On Creation and Consumption

  1. “Because too much consumption without creation can lead to cynicism. Spending too much time taking in what others have created without creating something yourself can make it really easy to criticize the work of others. But when we create—when we spend the time and energy to create something ourselves—we tend to give other creators grace. We tend to understand just how difficult and arduous the work of creation can be.”

    yes, yes, and yes!

    Like

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