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 significance.
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 slope?
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 molehills.
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 the Almighty.
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.