The new movie Noah, about the biblical story of the great flood that wiped out civilization except for Noah and his family is raising a lot of eyebrows. Its always a slippery slope that needs to be treaded cautiously when producing historical events and even more so when reenacting a biblical narrative.
I haven't seen the film which was directed and written by Darren Aronofsky, but according to the reviews and his own statements, Aronofsky sees the biblical story of Creation and then Noah as something which has poignant lessons to be learned and adapted in modern society.
In a recent column about the release of the film, Aronofksy relates how visiting the Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1986 while on a school field trip had a lasting impact on him. The remote shoreline with its majestic natural beauty untouched by human hands was an awe-inspiring experience for Aronofsky. A few years later that same pristine area was debased. The Exxon Valdez ran aground and leaked millions of gallons of oil over 1300 miles of coastline.
In the story of Genesis and Creation, Adam is given two seemingly contradictory directives. On one hand man is "given dominion over the Earth and all the beasts within it." On the other hand, Adam is placed into the Garden and instructed "to tend and to keep it." Aronofsky interprets this to allude to mankind's ability to explore and conquer the earth. At the same time mankind needs "tend to the garden" and be good stewards over the earth and the environment.
There is no doubt that the message of the protecting the environment plays a big role in Aronofsky's Noah.
However, where Aronofky has good intentions in finding modern day messages learned from the bible, and perhaps in protecting the environment too, I think in this instance he misses the boat.
"Tending to the garden and keeping to it" has far more in it that just minding the physical environs that we live in.
According to the sages of the Talmud, at the outset of Creation, Adam was given a spiritual code to direct mankind and preserve the natural spiritual consciousness that we are all endowed with. This code was later disobeyed and forgotten. This impacted humanity negatively and caused mankind to morally decay in unparalleled ways.
The great flood occurred and mankind got a fresh start with Noah and his family being the engenderers of civilization.
Upon leaving the ark, G-d promises never to destroy the world again and makes a covenant with Noah using a rainbow in the sky as a sign that He will preserve the world.
According to the Talmud, after the flood Noah was also presented with universal Mitzvas or values to guide mankind in preserving the wholesomeness of the newly cleansed world. This was the same spiritual code given to Adam.
In particular, this spiritual code which came to be known as the Seven Mitzvas of the Children of Noah (Sheva Mitzvos Bnai Noach in Hebrew) covers the full gamut of the human lifecycle on this earth. The code includes key values such as sanctity of human life, individual rights, institution of marriage and family values, proper treatment of animals and the environment, an honest justice system and much more. At the heart of all these principles is the core value of raising one's spiritual consciousness by realizing he is part of a greater divinely endowed purpose.
Making this core value one's reality can be a lifelong journey. However, when we are at least focused on trying to do so, many of the human endeavors which can be very corrupting, slowly start becoming more altruistic and even beautiful.
This code given to Noah was meant to be the bedrock of all future diverse societies and religions. Herein is another facet of its beauty. These Mitzvas or values are universally adaptable across all diverse ways of life. Let's face it, not all humans are alike. I would venture to say no two people are the same. This inherent human diversity can and has lead to many wars between people.
However, these universal principles are adaptable across all ways of life while not compromising each culture's individual uniqueness.
At the re-dawn of civilization these values were put in place in order to foster tolerance and healthy interaction between the future family tribes who were going to inhabit the earth.
While I laud Darren Aronofsky for aggressively looking into the Bible for a modern-day message, I think educating people about Noah's spiritual code will inspire mankind to be good stewards of the human divine consciousness and the environment too.