The Great Flood

Genesis 7:17-20 “For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. 18 The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water.19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains…”

“How long does a building stand before it falls?
How long does a contract last?
How long will brothers share the inheritance before they quarrel?
How long does hatred, for that matter, last?
Time after time the river has risen and flooded.
The insect leaves the cocoon to live but a minute.
How long is the eye able to look at the sun?
From the very beginning nothing at all has lasted.”
Epic of Gilgamesh


Hokusai / The Great Wave at Kanagawa  


Nearly every culture has a flood story.  A great tide takes over what civilization has built, a deluge pours on Earth, a rising of water takes out what has been created leaving behind only a few to start again.

The Hebrews had Noah, a story most are well familiar with.  The Babylonianss had the story of Gilgamesh.  Greek, Indian, Australian, Native American, and African cultures all have flood stories as well.  They are omnipresence, everywhere in human cultural memory.

All cultures with flood stories share a similar theme.  It’s a tale with various characters encountering an onslaught of water, a great flooding that destroys what’s already been created, often in punishment for wrongdoing, wickedness, or sin, and the destruction is in preparation for a new, hopeful start.

Among these great cultural floods is Starfire’s.  Noah had a timeline when the waters would recede and life could begin again.  He was given 40 days and 40 nights before the waters would recede (depending on which translation you read this timeline of course varies.) Starfire was not so lucky, with various timelines given depending on which contractor is estimating, which piece of the building is repair next.  The after effects of our great flood continue to be felt.  Biblically, as 2 Peter 2:5 states, the flood “did not spare [our] ancient world.”

Perhaps not divinely influenced or mythologically inspired, a flood nonetheless wiped out years of creation, work, artifacts of decades of outings, and programming.  The building itself has been closed since August 2nd.  Historical relics of our past work: pictures dating back to the early 90s, newspaper articles, the archived documents of bygone fundraisers, previous grants received, notebooks, readings, artwork, past collaboration projects’ accessories like signage and props, and assorted desk trinkets all destroyed in a sudden rising tide.

Flood damage

the tides of destruction

Part of the heritage of Starfire will be the story of when the great flood happened, and the covenant we made with families to continue the work of community building one person at a time.  There is also the story of what happened after the waters receded and how we built again, more thoughtfully, more intentionally.  Part of our cultural story will be the questions of purpose, philosophy, and praxis.  There’s a cultural wisdom in flood stories that is universal, regardless of which culture’s story you read.  And that is, that with a great water, a flood, a modern day water main break, there’s an opportunity to correct the course of action.  At it’s heart, flood stories are creation stories more so than they are about destruction and wiping out of past mistakes (those pieces are important, but the after is the moral of the story, not the waters of obliteration themselves).

Creation stories are stories of hope, not of despair and ending, but new beginnings.  They teach us to have care for that which we’ve created, and that which we are charged to care for, and about.  Flood stories are eye towards the care of our creation so that destruction through water main breaks or Olmstead or the rising tides of what is right, need not be so utterly messy.


November 3rd, 2015

Genesis 8:11 “the dove returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. Then Noah knew that the floodwaters were almost gone.”

Candice Jones Peelman