Monday, October 29, 2012

Rehashing old essays: The Relationship and Existence of the Great Flood and a Higher Being


            The Great Flood myth—it is ever-present in society. Every other culture has one version or another that reflects their particular belief. Its pervasiveness has generated movies, books, debates, and a search for the Jewish faith’s Noah’s ark, the vehicle that saved humanity. But was Noah—or any of his counterparts: the older Utnapishtim of Babylon, Manu of India, Bergelmir of Norway, or Yu of China—ever real? Did the Flood happen? Some scholars say it did. Others say the myth is merely symbolic of death and resurrection. The truth is, the myth is too complex for a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ There are strong arguments supporting both positions, but the existence of the Flood hinges on the success of ontological arguments, which have an important but faulty assumption that He exists.
The universality of the existence of the myth dictates that it did happen. David Leeming’s A Dictionary of Creation Myths lists five heroes of Flood myths from the world over: Utnapishtim (Babylonian), Ziusudra (Sumerian), Noah (Hebrew), Manu (Indian, and Deucalion (Greek and Roman). The prevalent pattern of the story goes that the gods (or the god), after setting human beings in the world and watching them become wicked, loud, and evil, have become dissatisfied with them and have decided to destroy them. However, there is one man who does not deserve to die, so a god warns him. This man is then told to build a lifeboat and to save his family and whatever animals and seeds he can. Sometimes the dimensions of the ark are given. The length of the storm that drowns the world varies from seven to one hundred and fifty days, during which everything outside the boat dies. After the storm, the animals familiar to the culture are sent to look for land three times, the third whence the animal does not return. It has found land to rest on. After disembarkation, a sacrifice is made to the god for saving the family and everything else. More often than not, the new race of humanity comes from the saved couples. Every other detail varies.
Some differences between versions of the story are evident. Manu of the Indian myth, according to Rachel Storm’s Indian Mythology, is saved by a fish that he had saved, called Matsya. It warns him of a flood to come, and Manu prepares for it (but the fish tows him to safety during the flood anyway). Matsya turns out to be Vishnu, one of the more powerful gods of the Hindu religion. The Talk.Origins Archive lists that in the Alaskan myth, the animals that were sent to look for land were not avian. Instead, they were the muskrat, the beaver, and the fox. In Stuart Gordon’s re-telling in The Encyclopedia of Myths and Legends, Odin, Vili, and VĂ©, the first three gods in Norse mythology, killed Ymir the Giant, the first being, whose blood became the Great Deluge. In Myths of China and Japan, by Donald A. Mackenzie, Nu Kwa of Chinese mythology warred against the gods to stop them from bringing the flood. All the same, Yu, according to Rachel Storm’s Asian Mythology: Myths of China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, in order to contain the flood, built a drainage system that took thirteen years to complete. Despite these differences, however, the Great Deluge is one of the more common stories in every culture.
One might argue that just because the myth is universal does not mean that it happened to everybody in the world all at the same time. It is likely that the stories are similar because they all come from one source. Mackenzie suggests “culture mixing” to explain its existence in many cultures (4). In the case between Egypt and China, Egypt acquired an agrarian way of living in which they were able to produce surplus. Surplus means trading. However, “not only the seeds and agricultural implements were passed along, but the ceremonies, and religious beliefs connected with the agricultural mode of life in the area of origin” (9). Egyptians did not pass on just their products, but also pieces of their belief system to anyone they came in contact with, like the Chinese. Similarities between the two cultures’ faith systems exist because of trading.  Other agrarian societies traded with each other, and so the same happened with their mythologies and beliefs. The Great Deluge was one of those mythologies that they passed on.
One may argue that not all cultures are so easy to influence, but, while it is true, this argument does not work against the Great Flood. The goods and beliefs being traded must have some significance or familiarity to the other culture in order for the people to incorporate them into their culture. The Flood has significance to a lot of cultures. Practically all of the ancient civilizations started beside a body of water—the Egyptians of the Nile, the Babylonians in between the Euphrates and Tigris, and the Chinese on the Yangtze River are some examples. Flooding must be familiar to any one of these and other cultures, especially since it was at least a yearly occurrence when the winter ice melted. Death from drowning has been familiar to them since prehistoric times. It is a basic story of survival.
Oral history supports the existence of many catastrophes even though they cannot point to a single source. Immanuel Velikovsky, a historian-scientist of the century, lists in Worlds in Collision the ancient civilizations in Greece, Persia, India, China, Hawaii, the Polynesian Islands, and North America (the Aztec, Mayan, and Inca civilizations) as having kept a history (oral, written, and religious) of different “world ages” (29-33). The number of worlds varies from five to nine; each is bookended by a catastrophe, such as an inundation or combustion. It is interesting to note, while reading the section “The World Ages,” that the idea of “world ages” is so widespread. Once again, “culture mixing” may have a hand at explaining this. It is also possible, even though Velikovsky did not hypothesize so, that the myth of the Great Deluge derives from one of the catastrophes, each culture according to what they experienced. The problem with this hypothesis, however, is that it leaves more floods than can be accounted for in history.
However, there could still be just one source that the Myth originated from. Paley’s watch supports this argument. William Paley, an eighteenth century philosopher and clergy from England, wrote his ontological argument in “Natural Theology” (a selection of which is in Fifty Readings in Philosophy by Donald C. Abel). In it, Paley hypothesizes that if he were to find a rock in a desert, he would not ask where it came from for a rock has always belonged in a desert. However, if he found a watch (representing all of God’s creations) instead, he would begin to wonder how the watch came to be there. If it came to exist there through another watch, and that watch from another watch, this line of reproduction may go on forever, and it would not answer who made the first watch. Someone or something intelligent with the purpose of the object in mind must have made the first one. Similarly, even though oral and written history passed on the Deluge, they cannot account for its origin. The Flood myth still needs a source.
Hard evidence can be provided that the Flood occurred around 7000 BC. In a Current Science article, geologists William B. F. Ryan (also credited as Bill Ryan) and Walter C. Pitman III explain how the Biblical flood refers to the making of the Black Sea. The end of the Ice Age affected the rising of the waters in the Mediterranean Sea, which was pushing on an earthen dam that separated it from a lake. The water from the Mediterranean eventually forced through the dam, and the saltwater overflowed into the lake, thereby creating the Black Sea. The flooding happened quickly, widening the lake by as much as a mile a day. A New York Times article encompassing the subject reported that a team of scientists has found a settlement underneath the Black Sea, quite possibly the same one that the people fled because of the flooding. The storm associated with the Flood myths from this area could be the large amount of water that evaporated due to the new sun.
Despite the oral history of the world ages and the discovery of the submerged Black Sea settlement, some will argue that the Flood is a story of symbolism. How could one man predict the Flood without any sort of technology in order to save himself and his family? If he could do it, why were the others who mocked him not able to? They must have had the same methods for predicting weather. Because of these arguments, one must consider that the Flood is really a symbol of the transition from this life to the next. Gordon writes,
One account derives ‘arc’ [like Noah’s ark] from Latin arca (‘a chest’), another from the Hindu argha (‘crescent’, or ‘arc of a circle’). Harding suggests that the ark is a moon boat and that ‘Noah’ is from Nuah, a Babylonian moon goddess. While accepting that Flood-myth may refer to a genuine event, as recorded worldwide, she says the ark or ‘moon boat’ refers to psychological events in which living men are ferried from one world to another. Thus, Egyptian Osiris ferries dead initiates to the Otherworld, Charon ferries dead over the Styx and King Arthur is ferried to Avalon. (169)
Religious beliefs concerning the moon state that the moon descends “for three nights to the underworld, during this period sending storm, flood, and death” (Gordon 316). If the Flood myth did come from a religion based on the moon, then the moon’s descent to the Underworld explains how the waters rise in a high tide, causing flood, and its new phase the low tides. The flood becomes the medium between this life and the next. In this light, the water element represents death and rebirth. (Indeed, in most mythologies, a large body of water is the chaos from which life comes.)
If the Flood myth is really a story of rebirth, then perhaps the moral of the story is that faith in this lifetime results in rewards in the next lifetime. A god has already warned the main character of the story of the coming flood, which represents imminent death. It is up to him to do what he can with his life: either to listen, accept it then prepare for it, or ignore it then live like nothing will happen. The focus of the flood myth is the reward that comes after the flood—that is, beyond death. Noah, in particular, was able to receive God’s new lands and create new generations of devoted men because of his faith. Within this interpretation of the myth, the flood does not need to exist at all! Any catastrophe will do since it is merely symbolic of a greater force beyond a human being.
These arguments, however, do not deny the flood myth, so a closer analysis is needed. To this point, it is acknowledged that ancient civilizations had their own versions of the great flood myth because they experienced frequent flooding—but what makes the one Great Flood special? All but the most prevalent factor has been explained: the Higher Being. (One must point out that there are versions of the myth in which no god warns the people. In the Norse myth, the gods who killed the giant Ymir did not give any warnings to Bergelmir (the Noah equivalent of the story). In the book Daughters of Copper Woman (a book of stories from the Pacific northwest natives), by Anne Cameron, the flood that occurred was because a Thunderbird wept, and when he weeps, a great storm falls. No one warned the people, but Copper Woman, along with her sisters1, still built the house to float, knowing that the storm will bring a flood. In these two mythologies, Bergelmir and Copper Woman are already like gods. The knowledge of the flood turns them into higher beings, in comparison to the other ordinary human characters that had to be told of it.)
A good majority of the myths have a Higher Being, however, and the survival of everything on this world is attributed to Him. Whether He exists or not is beyond the scope of this topic. It depends entirely on a person’s faith, for just as there are many Floods, there are as many Gods. The question of whether the Flood existed or not depends on His existence because He defines the Flood. He made it happen and He was the common factor in all the myths. His role, however, can be minimized by referring to the psychoanalyst Carl Jung in The Basic Writings of C. G. Jung. The Higher Being—he termed Him ‘God’ in his writings—is present because “[w]ith civilized people, collective feelings are also bound up with certain collective ideas, such as for example the idea of God, [...]” (224). Early human beings used the intrinsic idea of God to explain things. The Deluge was an unexplainable mystery. However, if the argument of Paley’s watch is to be recalled, the idea of a God must have come from a real one. Then again, the one attack against ontological arguments is that they succeed only because they speak to the converted.
Ontological arguments, except for the add or more circular one, do not begin with “Does God exist or does He not?” They ask, “How can we prove that God exists?” This question is the first assumption. He exists. It is just a matter of using logic to back it up. It leads only the believer, not the dissenter, deeper into his faith. Ultimately, using ontological arguments to support the existence of the Flood would lead to an affirmative, assuming the question is, “How can we prove that the Deluge existed?” The search for physical evidence of Noah’s ark, like those being conducted in Mount Ararat, assumed that it is real, and perhaps facts are being twisted to fit the theory. It is harder to investigate “Did it happen or not?”
So did it happen? No one can answer that. It depends on whether the Higher Being exists or not because He is the one that let the Flood rise. It is impossible to prove or disprove His contribution to the myth. Many great floods existed around many ancient civilizations. The Chinese great flood could be a memory of the Yangtze River. The Jewish’s is perhaps the Black Sea. The Egyptian myth would almost certainly be the Nile. The North American version could be the melting of the icebergs from the North. It is hard to answer yes or no. “Yes” would mean that each version happened in several bodies of water along with several other gods. The universality of the myth would be taken away. ‘No,’ on the other hand, would ignore the existence of a Higher Being, and this would be to take away the most significant part of the myth. One can only conclude that the Great Flood has to exist according to one’s belief and faith.

Cameron, Anne. “Qolus the Changeable.” Daughters of Copper Woman. York University course kit for HUMA 1210, Fall 2003.
Gordon, Stuart. The Encyclopedia of Myths and Legends. London: Headline Book Publishing PLC, 2003.
Isaak, Mark. “Flood Stories from Around the World.” The Talk.Origins Archive. 2 Sep. 2002: 47. 5 Oct. 2004.
Jung, C. G. The Basic Writings of C.G. Jung. Ed. Violet S. deLaszlo. New York: Modern Library, 1959.
Leary, Warren. “Found: Possible Pre-Flood Artifacts.” New York Times. 13 Sep 2000: A4.
Leeming, David. A Dictionary of Creation Myths. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Mackenzie, Donald A. Myths of China and Japan. New York: Gramercy Books, 1994.
Paley, William. “Natural Theology.” Fifty Readings in Philosophy. By Donald C. Abel. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004.
Storm, Rachel. Asian Mythology: Myths and Legends of China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. New York: Lorenz Books, 2000.
Storm, Rachel. Indian Mythology: Myths and Legends of India, Tibet, and Sri Lanka. New York: Lorenz Books, 2000.
Velikovsky, Immanuel. Worlds in Collision. New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1950.
Westrup, Hugh. “The Great Flood.” Current Science. 84.12 (1999): 4-5.

Essay was written on November 4, 2004.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


After moving four times in the past five years, I know I have too many books. It's gotten to the point where I didn't even bother unpacking them and just left them in their boxes in the spare bedroom. After all, I've read them, so there's no need to put them out in the open, right? But it's been two years since we moved to this house and I want that space for what it was intended to be--my office.

I thought for sure I would clear out all but a few, but I couldn't bear to part with some of them even though I would never read them again.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and Life, the Universe, and Everything

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless

I remember the summer I read the Hitchhiker's Guide books--between working (tutoring) at school, going to classes, meeting awesome people--I honestly couldn't ask for anything more. They were also the first books since Gordon Korman's books that made me really laugh out loud. The movie was a bit disappointing (except for the part where they all got slapped in the face whenever they thought anything, hehe... ooh, and Marvin!) The good stuff are in the books. RIP, Douglas Adams <3

(As a side note, I tried to say goodbye to somebody by saying, "So long and thanks for all the fish," and he didn't get it. I think it's a good thing we no longer talk. He clearly wasn't cool enough.)

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

This is probably the dumbest title I've seen in sci-fi. (I can't say anything about the story. Haven't read it.) But I know for a fact that it contains the word "grok." If I want to be able to speak to other nerds, I have to read this to know in what context "grok" originally existed. (This is actually Ben's book.)

Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge (The Wallflower in English) by Tomoko Hayakawa

The Wallflower was the only manga I bothered to buy after I read the first book. Although the bishonens in it really were pretty (and kinda annoyed me when I first started reading them), I actually liked that the main character never changed her dark, twisted, and perverted ways. (It did annoy me that she became reduced to a childlike drawing, though.) However, after the 16th book, I realized that the end to the series was nowhere in sight. It was too profitable for the author. I just gave up spending $18 every four months on it.

Captain Alatriste and  Purity of Blood by Arturo Perez-Reverte

Captain Alatriste was awesome! (Purity of Blood was so-so.) I bought it on sale for $5 and thought it was the best thing I bought for $5. It's about a war veteran in 17th century Spain who became a sword-for-hire. It reads like an action packed movie better than the movie, I think. (The movie with Viggo Mortensen sucked, I thought (but not because of Viggo), although it won awards in Europe).

I can't be bothered to go online, and sometimes hitting F7 on Word sucks.

I'm a huge Star Trek fan! I will read these someday!

Good by C.P. Taylor, Journey's End by R.C. Sherriff, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie, The Bridegroom by Ha Jin,  Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min
These are most of the books I saved from my college courses. The first three are from Literature of War while the last three are from Chinese Writers.

The first three are actually some of the best books I've ever read (technically, the first two are plays). The Things They Carried is a short story collection of soldiers' experiences throughout the Vietnam war. Journey's End takes place in World War I and is about the experiences of a newbie entering the battlefield, all bright-eyed and excited to be there (afai remember, anyway). In class, I read the part of the newbie soldier. Everybody dies in the end. Go figure.

There is actually a movie version of Good with--GUESS WHO--Viggo Mortensen and Jason Isaacs. It's about a university professor who was asked to join the growing ranks of the Nazi political party or else risk being outcast (iirc). His wife is barely competent at being a responsible adult; he ends up getting into a romantic relationship with one of his students; his mother is going senile; and his best friend is a psychiatrist who happens to be of Jewish descent.

The interesting part about the story itself is actually the music, which I never understood. Every now and then a piece of music would play in the background and it's sort of disconnected from what's actually happening. My theory is that it's a coping mechanism: it's as if his life is happening under someone else's direction despite the fact that he's the one making the decisions that could categorize him as good or bad. For example, should he have written that paper that speaks favourably of mercy killing senile adults and mentally handicapped people?

The last three books from Chinese Writers actually were set in and around the Cultural Revolution in China. (I gave a kick-ass presentation in that class, too--no regrets taking that class whatsoever.) Balzac and Becoming Madame Mao are novels while The Bridegroom is a bunch of short stories. It's been a while since I read any of them, but I recall the latter's stories as discussion material. For example, in one story, a man was randomly arrested and put into jail for a few days. It speaks of the government being completely corrupt. He absolutely hates the government for it. He even got sick while in jail (tubercolosis, I think, or something spreadable like that). When he got out, he vowed to get his revenge and ate and at every single street vendor/cart he could find. He infected everybody else. Children died. Who's to blame?

Becoming Madame Mao is my favourite general fiction. It's about Mao Zedong's (3rd?) most famous wife and how her ambitions overreached her influence. She actually reminded me a lot of Imelda Marcos, even though I know nada about Marcos. They were beautiful women who married powerful men... but... hmm... I dunno how to say this without being anti-feminist: they didn't know what the fuck they were doing. Madame Mao took the opportunities she was handed and made the best she could out of them. Sometimes, she succeeded; sometimes, she failed. The most attractive quality about the main character is that it always seemed like she was feeling her way in the dark, which was more relatable than a super politician's story would be.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Covernotes in Richmond Hill

There's a non-Tim Horton's/Starbuck's/Second Cup coffee shop in town! It's called Covernotes and it's located at the old high school on Old Yonge, beside the Theatre. (Drama types and coffee just seem to go together.) I think this is as indie as it's gonna get in the suburbs :D

Last Thursday, Ben and I walked to Mill Pond and then stopped at said coffee shop on our way home. Verdict: not bad at all... Well--the coffee and latte we got an Thursday was a bit bland, but we went back the next day after going to Potatoes (another awesome food place on Old Yonge), and it was much better.

So what makes it stand out? They sell Kawartha Lakes ice cream, too! No, really, it's my dream coffee shop. (When I become a full-fledged writer, I'm going to set up a bean bag or couch in there.) It's got music and art and books! I kid you not--the art and books part, I mean. I haven't been to the Newmarket store, but the back of the Richmond Hill store is a mini library. There's a poster in there somewhere that says "Books on the Hill"--so they either bought out the old second hand book shop or the book shop has relocated to the back of the coffee shop.

Check it out sometime!

The front of the store + fiance (<3):

To the right of the counter:

This is just past the right side of the counter:

This is the left side of the counter:

And the mini-library at the back!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Try This Style dot com

Although I love fashion and read about it on a daily basis, I'm actually not fashionable myself. I tend to stick to plain jeans, tops, and the season-appropriate footwear. So when I visited for fun, I thought... hey, why not?

For lols, I hit refresh on that website and wrote down each combo that popped up. I had 14 styles to choose from in the end, but I only ended up with what I have here. (Note to webmaster (yes, Regnard, you): 3/4 sleeves are OUT.) Then I went to Value Village and two different malls to see where I could find some of these outfits.

This first one is pretty boring. I couldn't find any aquamarine camis at H&M, so I settled for the nearest thing. Pretty mommy-ish, imo. The trousers were also a tad big for me.

The next was interesting! I found both at Value Village. The shorts were dressy enough for the purposes of trying out new stuff. I dig how the top made me look like I had D-cups.

The next one is also from Value Village. I bought the top because it was presumably still unworn (it had the original price tag). I had to adjust the lightness on this pic because it was dark in the change room, and the clothes themselves were dark.

This set was from Costa Blanca. The lighting in the change rooms were terrible, but they look good irl.

For some of the weirder combos, I went to American Apparel.

No, I would not be caught dead wearing the above around town, but the skirt was cute, and the top was comfy.

Hmm... See, in the light of the fitting room, the top in the above picture was purple. Also, I had trouble looking for a shrug, so I figured a shrug-like item was going to be okay. And I thought the leggings looked beige... But, in any case, they look good together, no?

When this next one popped up on, I was very dubious...

Seriously, green jeans? Guess what, though! Jewel-toned jeans are The Item to own this spring, so I went into Guess and snapped this:

The above combo is actually my favourite outfit. The jeans were tighter than I'd've been comfortable rocking, but, all in all, it felt, well, "cool." (Do people still use that word?) Maybe it was just the price tag, though. $108 for those jeans, and $78 for that top. Worth it? Not sure...

The awesome part about this experiment is that I hit up so many stores I would've otherwise never walked into, especially Guess, Sirens, and Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

Lesson learned: if you feel sexy in it, it looks good. Case in point: the Guess outfit.