In the Beginning
❧ in which Moe refines his notion about the One True God who supersedes everything, and in which Moe expresses his certainty that no one will ever mistake his poetry for history ❧
Before There Was Anything - Of Dust, Clay, & Silk
Before There Was Anything
Moe's story was starting to get really interesting, especially once he decided that the only way it would work was if his One True God controlled the entire universe from the very beginning. This would take a bit of explaining. It would also require a killer introduction, a beginning that would knock the reader's sandals off. But where to start? He looked again at his previous draft, the one that began Let there be Life! He needed to add something more here, something about the primordial Chaos, the dark waters out of which Tiamat rose to threaten all of creation. Creation, yes, that was it. What if there were nothing before the One True God came onto the scene? What if the One True God was above the chaos? Not after some battle, but before any thought of chaos ever occurred?
Several months ago he included an Indian quote in his ill-fated ecumenical edition of The Holy Mountain. The Sanskrit poet wrote, Only the god in the highest heaven knows how everything was first created. And then the poet added, Or maybe he doesn't know.
In Moe's version, God knew.
Of Dust, Clay, & Silk
But then Moe had to decide whether the One True God created humans out of clay -- the way Aruru moulded Enkidu in Gilgamesh -- or out of dust. Creating humans out of dust seemed a much finer way to begin. Dust reminded him of the star dust that had been drifting through his dreams -- tiny sparkling bits of matter that were also spirit and that floated through endless stretches of time and space. Dust also provided a powerful literary echo of the famous dust to dust soliloquy found in the Saga of Shamash, the great epic that had been written five thousand years ago and would be recited until the end of time. He reminded himself that at some point he should also work in the story of Utnapishtim and the Animal Boat. It was always a good idea to work in stories that his readers would never fail to recognize.
In his final chapter he would confess everything, telling his readers that what he wrote down was either borrowed from previous stories or was pure conjecture, pure poetry. Oceans parting. Magic Mountains. They were just romantic metaphors.
Of course his educated readers would suspect this all along. I mean, he put in different versions of creation and insane details about how to complicate your life with impossible rules and regulations. He put in such obviously crazy things like men living for 800 years, trees lighting up without so much as a spark, gigantic bodies of water parting so that wagons and rolled-up tents could cross without getting wet. No one in all of Mesopotamia -- from the headwaters of Mari to the floodwaters of Ur -- ever confused such stories with fact.
Moe even thought about writing his laws and stories on papyrus, so everyone would see for themselves that laws get old and stories need to change. He didn't want to make the mistake of Hammurabi -- as if laws should be engraved into stone, as if what changes should pretend to eternity! Only God was eternal. But writing on thin sheets of vegetables was just silly. Papyrus lasted three hundred years, at best.
Yet still it worried him that some dunderheaded literalists would forget how to read, and would take his stories literally. So he decided to spell it out: What you're reading is a prose poem masquerading as fact, trying to explain the Inexplicable God in human terms. As if that could be done! In his sixth book, which he would call Teshuvah (Return or Repentance), he would explain this in detail, just in case the cabal of mystical sods hadn't already made it clear to everyone.
In Teshuvah he would also return to common sense and to the imagery of dust -- from which humans were created and through which they travelled on their metaphoric never-ending journey to find their home. He would confess that his words were insubstantial, like the desert dust that floated through this world of mirages. Like the dust that floated through the empty corridors of outer space.
He would end with a poem about a line of silk drifting outward from a silkworm and a line of caravans returning to Babylon from distant China across the Taklamakan. Above the caravan hovered a dragon in the sky, wrapped in a robe of Yangshao silk and biting a mulberry. The dragon hummed a Sanskrit word as he drifted upward, away from the metaphors and business dealings of the human race, into the blackness of space. Akasha.
But then he realized no one was likely to understand all that. People believed what they could relate to: family, parents, brothers, uncles. Apple trees and family trees. Only Indians and Persians were any good at metaphor. Mesopotamians were practical people. In any case, Indians and Persians were the enemy, the middlemen who gouged him in every deal, as if taking a bite from each apple that passed over the Zagros Mountains.
What did it matter anyway if man was made of clay or if he was made of dust, as long as people could see what he meant by the One True God? Perhaps he should even make God look and sound the way man would look if he were the Father of all Time and Space. In Heaven as it is on Earth. Keep it simple, easy to understand. Focus on the literal and on the narrative. Leave out the metaphor and the poetry. Forget Teshuvah.
Next: Adam & the Snake