Order and chaos

let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace

There are two creation myths in the Bible. In Genesis 1, God created the Heavens and the formless, dark Earth, and then made it as we see it, and human beings on the sixth day. In Genesis 2, God made Adam in a land without rain, but with rivers watering it, and without animals or plants. In both, God is in command entirely.

Other myths tell of creation from chaos in struggle. The Mesopotamian God Marduk killed the mother goddess Tiamat, and used her body to create the Heavens and the Earth. For the Egyptians, the Earth emerged from an infinite, lifeless sea, and then the first God, the Sun, emerged from the Earth; but there are many creation myths in Egypt, and in one, four male and four female gods in the primeval waters of chaos come together in a great upheaval, bringing forth the Earth. Or Ptah formed the world as an idea in his heart, which came into existence as he named it.

My source for the Greeks is Robert Graves, who recounts differing myths. Eurynome, the Goddess of all things, rose from the Chaos of the sea. Her dancing created the North Wind, which coupled with her. She laid the egg from which hatched all things: the Earth, the sun and stars, and all living creatures. Or the Wind courted the Night, who laid a silver egg from which hatched Eros, who created Earth, Sky, Sun and Moon. Or Gaia emerged from Chaos, and bore her son Uranus, who fathered giants and Cyclopes on her, and Chronos the father of the Gods.

The poet Ovid, born just before the end of the Republic, said Nature, or the God of All Things, appeared suddenly in Chaos, and created and ordered the Earth and the Heavens.

In the sagas, in the beginning was the Ice of the North and the Fire of the South, and in the middle a great Gap. A glacier from the north melted in the heat of the south, and the drips formed a Giant and a cow. The father of the Gods was freed from the ice, licked by the cow. The Gods defeated the Giants, and built the Earth. But Yggdrasil, the World Tree, covers and surrounds everything. It always was, and always will be.

For the People of the Book, Jews, Christians and Moslems, God is Eternal and beyond the Universe, and creates Order. We reach ordered lives obeying God. For these other myths, the Gods emerge within the Universe, and at Ragnarok the Gods will die in the destruction of all things.

In Plato’s symposium, Aristophanes tells how human beings originally had four arms and four legs, and two faces. We did not walk, we cartwheeled. There were three types: the Children of the Sun, who were male; the Children of the Earth, who were female; and the Children of the Moon who were half male, half female. But humans were uppity, and the Gods were afraid, so split each person in two. And ever since, the half-humans have sought their other half, and when they find each other they cling together and will not let go. Have a look at the song in the comments: Thank you, Guy.

More from that hymn:

 Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!


3 thoughts on “Order and chaos

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