In my faith tradition, there is a story about men who tried to build a tower to heaven. Life had not quite become what they believed it would be, so rather than trusting in their God, they took matters into their own hands.
It didn’t turn out well.
Their efforts didn’t entice God to step down from heaven (like all ziggurat towers at that time were supposed to do). Instead, they incited His anger.
He destroyed their tower, confused their language, and scattered them all over the earth.
I think about this story as my car idles in space #6 of the Wal-Mart parking lot.
Ancient stories are rife with tales about flawed humanity.
No matter the timeline of human history, the same story always seems to play on repeat: We think we’re smart, and then, something happens to remind us just how foolish we really are.
I recently watched Joel Coen’s adaptation of the Tragedy of Macbeth.
Written by Shakespeare in 1623, there are no spoiler alerts here. We all know the plot.
Macbeth believes he is destined to become king of Scotland. He and his wife plot (and carry out) the murder of King Duncan. Macbeth is crowned king and quickly undoes himself with paranoia, lust for power, and unchecked hubris.
My car still idles in space #6.
An employee exits an unmarked door, carrying a small bag of items. I know she’s headed my way, so I grab my phone, thinking she’s going to want to scan a barcode in order to prove that I really am who I say I am.
Instead, she asks for my name.
Lindsay Hotmire, I say, looking back at the sign in front of me: Space #6.
After she holds up her tiny, black electronic box and clicks my name off her list, she turns back and heads back into the store, leaving no possibility for my name to etch itself into the tiny folds of her brain.
In the Ancient Near East, thousands of years before time shifted to Anno Domini, a name meant everything.
It told the world who you were, and you were either born or called into the favor of the gods.
There was no choosing your destiny. It chose you. And being human meant navigating your world in spite of that destiny.
I look down at my phone. The black, empty screen reminds me that there is an entire universe living behind the glass of man-made pixels.
I can choose to step into that universe, scrolling between worlds like an anonymous, unseen observer, tricking myself into believing I can force my own destiny, control my own rise to power.
Or I can inhale the air of the real earth, one filled with soil particles and atoms, pixels turning into real life objects, spoken into existence billions of years ago and still somehow. . . here, replicating, waiting for me to stop and take notice.
I breathe deep.
And when I do, I see beyond space #6, noticing a line of trees I’ve never seen before – just 20 feet away – a holy convergence of green and brown dancing off the green specks of my own eyes.
It’s all so beautiful.
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