The myth of the tower of babel

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Human beings are incredible creatures, fantastic, human capacities surpass by far human life time, a great thinker once said. Some of these capacities blow our minds when we realize all the possibilities they offer and the perspectives they open for us. Consider for instant: asking, connecting, sharing knowledge, collaboration. The future before us is meant to be wonderful considering how technology extends and multiplies our capabilities.

Let us briefly examine here a myth that will make us question our human condition and our relationships.

According to the myth of the Tower of Babel the whole human race spoke the same language and belonged to a single community. This community decided to build a city in which the building of a great tower high as the sky was planned. It was supposed to be a monument of joint efforts standing still before the community was dispersed around the globe. Humans started to collaborate so well that the project seemed unstoppable. Then, the god noticed they were united and felt jealous of the project’s breakthrough, thinking that nothing will prevent humans from fulfilling what they have imagined, the god intervenes to prevent the tower from being finished by making the people speak different languages. Humans stop understanding each other, collaborating, and end up dispersing around the world, so the tower remains unfinished.

As we see, in ancient times the power of communication and collaboration was understood admirably. A clear idea is outlined in the myth of the Tower of Babel; when humans cooperate, their capabilities know no limits. At the same time, a not less surprising lesson is outlined. The god confuses the humans by making them speak different languages so that the lack of understanding leaves them dispersed and unable to collaborate with each other. The lack of communication and understanding causes their power to fade and them to abandon the great common project.

A simple analysis on the elements of the myth leads to deeply moving feeling; human cooperation power is so daunting that the god feels somewhat threatened by the daring project, whose conclusion seems not far from human possibilities. Then a divine intervention is needed to prevent the project from culminating. Such an intervention distorts human capabilities in order to cut the delicate tissue human crowds weave to make their power flow: communication and their ability to connect and understand each other.

If we understand from the myth the role played in the human condition by elements such as communication, connection, understanding and collaboration, our gain is not little. Understanding this we gain a great power: knowing that our own possibilities are extended and enlarged when we collaborate with others. In turn, we understand that collaborating is helping and being helped, and that these are not different things, but two aspects of the same process in which humans transform nature into human life.

Another valuable element of the myth is human community. God observes unity in humans and recognizes their power. That means something. He recognizes that the project is viable and is not beyond the reach of humans and decides to act. The myth says almost nothing about the recognition of humans of their own power. Instead, it directly highlights that it is the lack of understanding what separates human beings.

Having reflected upon these things, let’s return to the present world and think again.

Do we recognize the power in connecting with others? Clearly, there are a multiple human organizations that are aware of the power of collaboration and understanding. But is there a universal recognition of a single community or are we dispersed throughout the world as in myth and different languages separate us?

Beyond any opinions one thing that cannot be denied is that in an era like ours, the internet era, when connectivity has reached higher levels of development, when technology offers multiple possibilities, new perspectives of collaboration that had not yet existed are opened for us. Maybe the time has come for a universal community to be real and no longer a myth or a symbol, or projects that can only take place in dreams and the imagination or realities that the values we cherish the most request, and yet don’t know how to accomplish. No, none of that. the universal community is turning into something we can do together, something that the gods would be jealous of because of its viability, something that would urge them to stop us.

Would not such a project be exciting? The Tower of Babel is a symbol that makes humanists and scientists feel the same vertigo sometimes produced by enthusiasm. We might as well think, yes, it would be exciting if something like that existed. And the good news is that it does exist, others have dreamed before us, others advance our steps and others, who we can join, get down to work.

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Posted by Miguel Salas


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