A Man Named “N”

A Man Named N

Pentecost 139

There was a drought – a dry period that seemed to go on and on.  Lushly landscaped lawns became shriveled and lost their beauty.  The days of letting a sprinkler run without conscious effort to control the water were gone.  Restaurants only served water when it was requested and if you ordered water, you were expected to drink it… all of it.  Collecting water from washing machines to water around the foundation of houses became the norm.  Cars no longer glistened after being washed every few days.  Neighbors were asked to report on each other if water restrictions were not followed.   So when the rain came, people were gloriously happy, right?

The man named N lived in a time when there were no cars.  One’s neighbor might have been a friend but more often than not, usually became an enemy.  There were no restaurants.  Travelers might find a local who would share food with them but generally, it was a time of everyone for themselves.  Water came from wells or nearby streams.  Liquid nourishment often was in the form of fermented juice or what today would be considered alcohol.  Living off the land was the normal and it was not easy.  Man needed water just as plants and animals did so when it fell from the skies, it was a good thing, right?

We all get deluged by life sometimes.  Earlier this week the state of California saw almost one hundred miles flooded with mud along a busy highway – Interstate 5.  Known as the I-5, this stretch of heavily traveled roadway became a sliding nightmare for travelers as rains triggered mudslides.  More of the same is predicted today for Arizona, Colorado, and parts of New Mexico and Utah.

I myself have been overcome with life events.  In four weeks, a family member was in a very serious traffic accident and remains in a coma.  I attended a conference and returned home to succumb to  pneumonia.  My significant other and life partner, also known as my husband, also became ill but he recovered sooner than I.  At the same time I became a grandparent again and was ignored by the person who is supposed to be my minister of faith.  Joy and sorrow; sunshine and rain; presence and absence – and my life has not been that different than the lives of most people.  It is easy to get bogged down in the daily floods of our lives and forget to believe that the rain will stop, the floods will recede, the sun will once again shine.

The Hebrew flood mythology has served as the basis of both Jewish and Christian principles for thousands of years.  It states that the monotheistic deity known as G-D or God, became greatly disturbed with man’s behavior, behavior that increasingly became more self-centered and wicked.  A man named Noah seemed to be the only human who was worth saving.  God instructed Noah to build an ark and to take eight members of his immediate family and a pair of all types of animals on this ark.  Legend states that it rained for one hundred and fifty days, almost half a year.  Then the rains stopped and the ark came to rest at a place called Ararat.  After forty more days, Noah sent out a raven.  Next he sent out a dove which returned, apparently unable to find a dry place.  A week later Noah sent out the dove again and this time the bird returned with an olive leaf in its beak.  At the end of the next week, Noah again sent out the dove which failed to return.  The story tells of Noah and his family leaving the ark one year and ten days from the start of the flood.  As a sign to never again flood the world and destroy almost all, a rainbow is sent by this one great deity.

The Islamic version of the great flood myth states that Allah sent Noah to warn the people to serve only Allah.IN this mythical tale, one of Noah’s sons drowns due to his disbelief.  The Islamic Noah and his ship come to rest on Al-Judi.  Noah was distraught and angry with Allah at the death of his son but then repents and asks for forgiveness.  Noah is told that great nations will arise from those who were on the ship with him.

There are, of course, many variations of these two tales.  Some believe that before the Hebrew flood, mankind lived very nicely with a single harvest producing enough for forty years.  It is even told that pregnancies lasted only a few days instead of nine months.  Some legends have Noah attempting to convince people to live better lives, a mission of preaching that in some stories lasted one hundred and twenty years before the flooding of the world.   Some myths claim the male waters of the sky met the female waters of the earth, the waters falling onto the earth from two holes in the night sky which came from the constellation Pleiades.  These two holes were later closed by God using stars from the constellation known as the bear.  This is why, in the nighttime sky, it appears as though the constellation Ursa Major or bear is always chasing the Pleiades.

Another version of this myth has three hundred and sixty-five species of reptiles being aboard the ark and another thirty-two species of birds.  Another version claims that Falsehood and Misfortune took refuge on the ark.  Still another story has a lion maiming Noah during a feeding time and this is the reason Noah could not serve as a priest.  One story has Adam, the first man, instructing his body was to be taken aboard the ark along with gold, myrrh, and incense and, after the flood waters receded, was to be placed in the middle of the earth.  In the Book of Revelations, there is a story of a good woman saved from a flood which erupts from the mouth of a demon.

“N” is the fourteenth letter of the alphabet used for English and other Romance languages.  It is one more than half, significant for some people, just as the numbers of days of the flood seem to have meaning for many.  For me, “N” is both no one and everyone.  Thousands are injured every day in traffic accidents and on one fateful day, that “N” was a member of my family.  While there are many questions that will need to be answered and some that will most likely never be fully answered, the fact remains that on that day, I knew the injured person.

I have friends in the affected areas of California but fortunately, none were stranded or impacted by the mudslides and accompanying floods of the past few days.  But someone was – several thousand someones were.  Today the weather moves a little bit east and again, I have friends in the path of these storms.  I don’t think they are being targeted due to their behavior but certainly how we treat nature does have an impact on developing weather systems.  Greenhouse gasses, global warming are not just phrases coined by the media; they are scientific facts and they affect our lives and weather.

What we sometimes forget, in the face of all these flood myths and when encountering devastation ourselves, is the message of the myth.  The point of the telling is not to scare or create a suspenseful moment.  The point of the stories, all of them, is the recovery and yes, there is recovery.  My family member remains in a pervasive vegetative state which is a very dour prognosis and yet…Over fifty percent of all adults who go through such do come out of it.  My pneumonia took longer to recover from than my husband’s sinus infection but…hey, they are different types of infections.

Life is not a competition about who can amass the most toys, the flashiest cars, the biggest houses or even the lushest of all landscaping.  Life is about living and living together for the good of all.  When we are faced with such problems as flooding, we come together.  Family vacations are delightful but sometimes the car ride to such can be…a bit trying.  Can you imagine being on an ark for half a year?  Life sometimes floods us with unpleasant stuff and yet, it is in the midst of such that we really live.  It is when we are at our lowest that we remember to seek the highest and live the best that is within us.

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