A Doomed Project

Light of truth

Jacob Chanikuzhy

Is there something like a midlife crisis? Some believe that most men and women between the age of 45 – 64 (although the age range can vary from person to person) experience a midlife crisis characterized by depression, anger, worry and a longing to achieve youthfulness and a radical change in the style of life. This psychological crisis is revealed in different ways in different people: some people want to quit their job, family and religion; some want to change their life partner; many feel that, that life is boring and they want to flee into a new place. Other signs of midlife crisis include lack of concentration, an excessive obsession with health and shape of the body, abuse of alcohol and drugs… However, there are also psychologists who think that there is no such thing as middle-age crisis. In their view, it is in the midlife that people are more stressed as they experience stress from all sides. At this period of life they are squeezed from every side to satisfy the expectations of various parties in their multiple role as a husband/wife, father/mother, son/ daughter, employee, member of various associations etc. Moreover, in the case of many parents, it is when they reach forties and fifties with the so called crisis that their children also reach puberty and a host of related problems. The teenage problems of their children make the middle age problems of the parents even worse.

No matter whether it is a midlife crisis or just a midlife stress, it is the period when people become more conscious of their mortality and accomplishments. They feel that their best time is almost over. They want to leave something memorable on this earth lest they be soon forgotten. Making constructions, planting trees, writing books are some of the means people find to retain their memory. The story of the tower of Babel in the bible is an example. It is exactly to “make a name for ourselves” (Gen 11:4) that they started to build a city and a tower. They knew that they are mortals and cannot live forever. So they wanted to leave a long lasting monument as a sign of their life here on the earth.

From the story in the Bible, we know that God was not pleased with their building project. What was wrong with their enterprise? It was not the construction of the tower as such but the motives behind it that drew God’s wrath. The main reason why they wanted to build a city was not to scatter everywhere (Gen 11:4). They wanted to remain as a united body living in the same place. But, is it not a noble desire to live in the same place and to live in union with each other? Though at the first glance it appears a dignified goal, in truth it is an outright violation of the divine command. Actually God had commanded them to “multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1). God wanted them to fill the earth not because He did not want them to live together but because He wanted them to have dominion over everything. Only by reaching the four corners of the earth they can subdue the earth. It is common knowledge that when humans vacate a place wild animals take over. It is only by their presence and efforts humans can take control of the land. It is this divine mandate of exercising dominion over the earth that the people of Shinar tried to evade.

People of Shinar had a clever plan to glorify their name and to thwart the divine will. They started to build a city and a tower. That means they tried to offer everyone the pleasures of a city life and the joy of their towering achievements for ignoring the divine command. However, God confused their language and made it impossible for them to continue their project. The very monument they built as a symbol of their power and glory turned out to be a monument of human pride and fall.

In all periods of our short life we all want to become achievers and thereby mark our presence in our home, society and the larger world. The Babel story teaches that our pursuits should not be at the cost of ignoring God and His commands. Whatever the world offers will not suffice to keep us united until we all speak the language of love. Unless and until we communicate with God who is love, we will fail to communicate with others too.

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