I sat in the very back row of the theater, choosing a seat with an easy exit.
Reading the story of Noah allows for pausing, allows me to read between the words and maybe grab a metaphor or two and react to it alone, without my vile and tainted judgments harming anyone else.
Watching the movie was riskier—even protected by the darkness, I found myself still sitting directly next to die-hard believers—people who identified with a l-i-t-e-r-a-l interpretation.
Noah’s Ark is the vessel in the Genesis flood narrative (Genesis chapters 6–9) by which Noah saves himself, his family, and a remnant of all the world’s animals from the flood. God gives Noah detailed instructions for building the ark: it is to be of gopher wood, smeared inside and out with pitch, with three decks and internal compartments; it will have a roof “finished to a cubit upward”; and an entrance on the side. The story goes on to describe the ark being afloat throughout the flood and subsequent receding of the waters before it came to rest on Mount Ararat. The story is repeated, with variations, in the Quran, where the ark appears as Safina Nuh (Arabic: “Noah’s boat”). The Genesis flood narrative is similar to numerous other flood myths from a variety of cultures. The earliest known written flood myth is the Sumerian flood myth found in the Epic of Ziusudra.
Of course it was perfect… I had to practice conscious restraint and had to open my mind. Within the first 5 minutes the woman near us was crying. She was so moved by the story.
I’m not going to lie, I was dumbfounded… but I quickly composed myself and decided to lean into her experience… I said the set aside prayer under my breath “help me set aside everything I know, and everything I think I know for an open mind and new experience.”
The movie began to captivate me—the cinematography was crazy good. I got lost in story and forgot all about everyone around me and all my judgments fell away.
At the end, the crying woman was upset. Clearly this was not the story she believed. I read loads of controversy after seeing it— an argument about good and bad, accurate versus inaccurate.
Symbolically, I’d call it the movie of the century. So packed with relevance for this moment in our world.
My unconscious, unconnected, unobserved mind is the flood—when I’m not on my Arc I’m lost at sea, judging, consuming, self-centered and scrambling to find relevance and meaning, longing for happiness. Then, exhausted and ready to surrender, I climb up on my Arc.. My spiritual practice that reminds me of my core values, helps me understand my mind and allows me to see clearly what matters and what doesn’t. I find my Arc when I use the tools available to me—when I love more, practice non-judgement, when I embrace kindness and surrender with nobility—when I realize happiness comes from losing things, not gaining things.
I know many Noah’s—people who’ve dedicated their lives to adding more love in the world, people who walk thru each day reaching out to others versus pulling back to themselves… people who give more than they take—people who never feel satisfied unless they are in service to humanity.
The arcs they build all look different—some build churches and church pews, some temples and holy spaces— some build parks and national forests.
I saw a rolling chapel, built on the back of an 18-wheeler at a truck stop recently—that’s certainly some people’s arc. I know many circles of redwoods on the Northern Coast that are as great an Arc as any I’ve known.
Arc’s aren’t just places of refuge, some people are building Arcs by teaching people how to observe their breath and their mind, how to practice loving-kindness and develop peace thru meditation. Many Arcs are in church basements where recovering people gather to share experience, strength and hope in a 12-step environment. For lots of kid’s, a mom’s embrace is the Arc of all Arcs’.
The strongest message is not the Arc, nor Noah. It’s the observation that we all must climb on board ourselves.
Many people call to us, many people have built the Arc already—be we alone must choose to save ourselves, to surrender and climb aboard. Noble friends and worldly servants will all be ready to pull us up, to cheer us on—but unless we alone decide, we won’t make it.
When we pause and deeply listen, Noah’s inside all of us.
We’re all in need of rescue– we’re drowning in our thoughts and external desires, we’re sleeping at the wheel and the earth and our people are drowning.
Go be Noah. Go build an Arc.
“no one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”~Buddha