Gustave Doré, Confusion of Tongues (1865)

Late last night, Brian and I had a long conversation about the story of the Tower of Babel, and how it's one of the most senselessly tragic stories in the Bible if you think about it. Though the common remembrance of the story is that the tower was being built to reach the heavens or as an act of hubris, other interpretations suggest that the residents of Babel were simply building a residence that would allow them to cluster together rather than scatter across the Earth (making God the first NIMBY entity?) or to protect themselves against future floods.

The latter is a particularly haunting idea in 2019, as we repeatedly fail to protect ourselves from the literal floods of climate change due in large part to our inability to understand—and therefore work with—each other.

And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

It led to a sudden, gripping, and slightly bizarre revelation—that the throughline that aligns all of my work and interests is fundamentally about the unconfounding of language, and stitching splintered realities back together so that people can collaborate towards ends larger than any of us can accomplish alone. It's why I'm passionate about antiracism and translation and shared infrastructure and facilitation and maps and dictionaries. It's why I love stories about superhero teams learning to work together. It's why I find misinformation fundamentally vile.

This, in turn, led to some late night research on art depicting the Tower of Babel, which led to texting Jane about Gustave Doré, which led to Jane buying me a copy of the above Gustave Doré print after I'd gone to sleep 😭😭😭😭😭