Life: Arc of the Ark

Arc of the Ark and Its Treasure
Lent 3

In his nineteenth century book, “The Practical Cabinet-Maker and Furniture Designer’s Assistant”, Frederick Thomas Hodgson wrote of the cabinet-maker: ” [He could] saw it, plane it, mould it, glue it, veneer it, join it, carve it, finish it, and upholster it… all by hand.” Given the frequency with which we hear the phrase “the good ole days”, it would seem that our ancestors could do the same with their living – their faith, their livelihood, their contentment with the world.

One of the earliest known carpenters comes from the Creation story and a man named Noah. He built an ark out of gopher wood, following the instructions given to him by what was explained as a vision or conversation with his God. The resulting boat, which carried not only Noah but his family and a pairing of the world’s family of animals, was called an ark.

The word ark, a simple three letter word, has a much more complicated etymology. From the Latin “arca”, it translated as chest and as a furniture lover, it is understandable since the earliest chests were used to hold important papers. Noah’s ark, though was a boat so why would it be called an ark? There is another similar Latin word known as “arcere”. It translates as “to hold off”. Certainly Noah hoped his boat would stave the flood waters which he had been told were coming. The Germans had a similar word, “arkein” which translated as simply “to hold”. Given that the letter “k” was often substituted in English for the letter “c”, especially in the ending of a word, it starts to make sense that Noah’s boat was translated as an “ark”. After all, it was constructed to hold off the water as well as a vessel to hold people and animals, protected as they would be in a wooden chest. Noah’s ark was, in fact, a floating chest holding great valuables that needed protection as they – both people and animals – would repopulate their world in its re-creation after the flood waters subsided.

Another part of the Creation story of Noah and his ancestors and descendants involves an Ark. This time it is an ark of the chest or cabinet type. Moses was said to have also been visited by heavenly beings and told to construct a specific cabinet in which to house the laws he’d been given. Known as the Ten Commandments, the established the rules of conduct, of worship, of living. This ark also contained something valuable. Both Noah’s ark and that of Moses, known as the Ark of the Covenant (the covenant being the contract between Moses and his God regarding the protection the deity would give the people and the manner of worship the people would in turn give the deity), have been lost to history. No known location of either has ever been definitively found. Perhaps, though, they are not lost but merely protected.

Many of us move through our lives with our own arks. We spend a great deal of time acquiring material possessions that serve as a way to house our living. Our bodies are another type of ark, a vessel which contains our soul, a precious thing for each of us. More importantly, we keep our dearest wishes and darkest fears hidden within, protecting them from ridicule and because of fear of failure.

What we sometimes forget is the arc of the ark that Noah traveled. Anyone who has taken a road trip with children and pets can attest to the fact that no matter how smooth the sailing for Noah’s ark, it was not the easiest of journeys. We can assume that there was a storm since flood waters generally do not calmly rise on a bright sunny day. The path Noah and his passengers traveled, both two and four-footed, was however a line from point A to point B. It had to be an arc because the world is curved and an arc is a curved line.

There will be some reading this who by now will have cried out “But it didn’t exist!” They could be correct. After all, the construction know-how that would have been needed, not to mention the manpower and other labor concerns, were not available at the time that the man known as Noah supposedly lived. Archaeological evidence of such a flood predates Noah by over three hundred years. Does this mean that the ark never sailed or that arks did not exist? Certainly it does not.

The fact is that mankind is always on an arc. We all travel a path daily, hourly that intersects one with another. Even a hermit has been dependent on someone else at some point in his life. The history of the ark as a cabinet is evident in the furniture of today and the antiques valued from yesteryear. Likewise, mankind has explored the planet in wooden ships, some of which were built upon the same design as the ark Noah supposedly sailed. We are still trying to hold off the flood of despair, fear, and insecurities that have plagued man throughout time.

What we need to strive to do is sail a better course in our own lives. We need to realize that by opening our own cabinets of self, we can enjoy the skills and ambitions we hold so dear. It is not an easy thing to do. . Life is not easy. The journeys we take in our daily lives can be scary and often require us to be brave in opening ourselves up to the living of it. Eleanor Roosevelt once said: ““The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” When we do find the courage to open ourselves up, though, we are able to experience life to its fullest. We alone can see our life – cut it, mold it, veneer it, and finish it. All aboard the ark of life!

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