Tower of Babel?

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

As I sat in morning prayer this morning, I wondered where on earth to start with “Intercessions are offered for the world and its needs”.  Nice? Turkey? South Sudan? The UK? Syria? Iraq? the Democratic Republic of Congo? So many places (and I’m well aware I’ve missed out loads) that it seems overwhelming.  That doesn’t include the local concerns I know about here, and there are many. “Where do I start?” I prayed. “What should I pray for? It feels too much.”

I got two answers to that prayer. One was about being specific, about remembering that every mass tragedy, every army manoeuvre, every coup attempt, involves individual human beings.  Someone, somewhere has an idea or a plan or a vision, and others catch that vision and act, or don’t. Sometimes they may act through fear, sometimes for personal gain, sometimes because they buy into the ideology.  But none of this is faceless, there are people at the heart of it all.

The other answer I got was a little bit odder.  It was a sudden memory of the story of the Tower of Babel.  Humans get together and decide to build a tower to reach heaven, God doesn’t like the idea and makes them suddenly speak different languages so that they can’t understand each other and can’t work to finish that job.  It was the first human attempt at Globalisation, and it failed. At first glance, that’s just God trying to reduce humans down to size.  It could even be seen as capricious, or wilful behaviour by God.  But this morning, I understood the myth differently.  There is only so much information I can hold, only so many connections I can achieve (especially if I am a bit weary and looking forward to a holiday!).  Maybe the meaning of the Tower of Babel is that it protects us from more than we can bear.

Occasionally people will tell me they are taking a break from social media, because they are finding it overwhelming.  At the moment, I’d like a break from all news, because it is overwhelming.  But I am a human being with my own place in society, and turning my back feels wrong. Perhaps I need to remember that I can’t pray for everyone specifically, but I can pray for some.  And I can pray that others will pray for those they know.  This isn’t a call to parochialism – far from it.  It’s a call for us all to use the connections we can cope with, and to encourage everyone else to do the same.  It’s a reminder that we none of us do this alone, but that we don’t have to be overwhelmed, that we can share the sorrows and the joys.


PS I appear to have blogged.  I may blog again a bit soon.

3 responses to “Tower of Babel?

  1. Well said Claire. I agree that the ‘bad’ news is overwhelming and it would be impossible to try to encompass all the world’s problems in one prayer.
    Can we repair the world? Not alone that’s for sure, but we can pray hard for the desire to heal and to love our suffering neighbours.
    Little by little and one at a time and maybe if enough of us feel the same there will be a shift in the hearts and minds of the aggressors.

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