The Thing I Like About …

Noah: the fact that Noah is not perfect.

In the Bible, the story of Noah is a story of redemption. The world is purged of the iniquity of man, and only Noah and his family are chosen to continue the human race in the new, cleansed world. Noah and his family are chosen because they are not part of the iniquity – they are not “sinners.”

But, as we have seen for thousands of years, humanity is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Good and evil march hand-in-hand, because humans always have to balance their capacity to love with their capacity for fear. No purge, in the Bible at least, ever eradicated humans’ tendency to hurt one another, to feel anger, hatred, despair and other fear-related negative emotions, or to be tempted by greed, lust, and excess.

In Noah, he’s not perfect. He’s slow to anger; he’s not fearful of much. He’s a kind man, and a faithful one. He knows that he’s being asked to do something by a higher power that he’s not qualified to understand, and he’s happy to do it. But he’s not sure how to interpret the signs and dreams he’s been given, and he’s not sure of the purpose or the outcome. He has doubts and concerns; he hurts and grieves and struggles and makes mistakes. He can only do his best, from the best intentions that he can have, and he isn’t perfect or infallible at all.

It is he, an imperfect, ordinary man, who is found good enough to survive, to come forward and author a new chapter in humanity.

We spend a lot of time criticizing ourselves as a species – and we certainly have room for improvement in the way we treat one another – but, whether we follow a religion or not, it can be very frustrating to feel that only a total purge of our iniquity can solve the problem. Noah suggests that imperfect, ordinary humanity is exactly what we’re expected to be – that we are not inherently evil – and that the answer to our problems, to our struggles, to our doubts and fears, is not to run from them but simply to start over.

Noah is not perfect at all. Sometimes we’re even quite irritated with the way he’s interpreting his divine mission, and with his sense of hopelessness. But he and his family do have one thing (besides an ark) that the humans left behind don’t seem to have, and, when Noah realizes what that one thing is, he finds hope and peace and joy again.

He has love … and that and two months’ rations fix every problem in the world.

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