The Special Seventh
The Special Seventh
Read this essay as originally published at Watermark Online
Let’s not deluge ourselves (*wink). The source of the controversy about what kids can and can’t learn about in schools these days is as old as the story of Noah’s Ark, the flood, and the rainbow. Many of us probably remember the childhood illustrations with “two of every animal, a male and a female,” inspired by Genesis 6. Possibly because of different authorship or maybe due to competing translations (KJV, NIV, NAS, WBT), it seems that God wanted to clarify (or maybe he just changed his mind) and thus Genesis 7 reads a little differently: “Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal (KJV), a male and its mate (NIV), and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate,” and birds and the other stuff, blah blah.
What we misremember as the first, most gender-norm-affirming
story in the Bible raises questions as a forty-nine year-old poet that I would
never have thought to ask as a ten year old in Sunday School. Why an odd number,
seven? Why a male and it’s “mate,” instead of, “and a female?” What was
that seventh of each species for? Does the Pentateuch give a wink and a nod to
a “plus one?”
Why did God change his mind from one chapter to the next and
what does it tell us about the predictability of God’s temperaments? Or about
the Jahwist, or the translators…or the truth?
Let’s leave this deluge of questions here for a forty-day minute;
let’s pan out.
Without the story of The Flood, we wouldn’t have rainbows
and without rainbows we wouldn’t have those metaphors for inclusiveness, and
without those metaphors for inclusiveness, we wouldn’t have a reason to take
exception with those who put literal meaning into the story of the flood. We
wouldn’t have a reason to dwell on the fourth half-pair of each species and its
Speaking of pairs, lets talk about X and Y: Y=mX+b where
m is the (slipperiest) slope.
Speaking of mates, let’s talk about m: where the change
in Y is related to the change in X and the interspaces therein.
Speaking of Y=mX+b, let’s talk about b: where a line
crosses a set of culturally constructed axes.
Speaking of rainbows: isn’t a rainbow just a curved
Science is science. Except when it’s what we remember
science to be instead of what it actually is. If we can misremember the popular
story of the Ark as “two by two” when it says quite obliquely, three-by-three-plus-one,
then what else have we based our entire post-deluvian world-views on that is basely
less-than correct? Because a scientist theorizes, “it’s so” doesn’t mean it’s
science any more than a pronoun-pontificating poet can make rainbows out of
The art of science evolves along disprovals, not affirmations.
The facts of science stand on repeated affirmations of disprovals. Thus, there
is little that science has proven, but much that science has theorized that
stands, yet ready, to be disproven (X and Y chromosome combinations withstanding).
This, of course, is the high ground that fundamentalists stand on: there are males and
there are females with different kinds of love to link them, none of which are
intimate or procreant. But the poets refute: there are different kinds of males
and different kinds of females with different kinds of love to link them.
Unaffected by political agendas, geneticists will continue
to dig deeper into the dY/dX of the chromosomes of those creatures that
survived, two-by-two-by-two-plus one on Noah’s Ark. They haven’t yet affirmed
the disproval of that special seventh.
And that special seventh is what we should all be
obsessed with understanding. It’s that special seventh that
fundamentalists are obsessed with not talking to kids about. Six-hundred
year-old Noah and his wife, together, constituted their own special seventh
that, also would not procreate when the doves returned. Let’s have this
conversation with our kids and with each other.
If the same God can hate the world so much that he rains his
revenge upon humanity over and over again and just a few years later can “love
the world” so much that he gives his “only begotten Son,” then isn’t it
possible that the same God could create genetic and cultural genders along the
slope between male and female?
m, we learn, can stand for misappropriation: a
scattering of plots that build a narrative that purports to know the Mind of
m, we learn throughout our lives, can stand for misconstruction:
a series of reimagined meanings along a continuum of linguistic accidents,
translations, and games.
m, we learn in elementary school algebra, can stand
for slope: a straight and narrow line or curve of heretofore non-disproven theories.
A mathematician (in drag, for effect) walks into a bar:
“Hold my beer. m is none and all of these. m is a function
of all of the possible x’s, y’s, and a(natomy)’s, e(xpression)’s, i(dentity)’s,
o(rientation)’s and u(niversal)’s *(‘yous’) which create a multiverse of
possibilities, some of which are males and some of which are females, some of
which are both, and some of which are neither.”
m is a confirmation of God’s special design.
m graphs that the same God can love and hate the
world over time. That God can change his mind.
m, most importantly to me, graphs that a rainbow is a
promise and a solution and that the mind of a ten year old Sunday school
student is potentially as pure as the heart of a forty-nine year-old poet and a
six-hundred year-old boatbuilder.