The Tower of Babel is one of my favourite Bible stories.
Now, mind you, I am not and have never been a Christian; I didn't grow up around Bible stories. I'm only beginning to really read and discuss these stories now, in my first year Religion course in college.
The Bible isn't what I was expecting it to be. I've always heard that it is contradictory, I already knew that it had multiple authours and was written across a huge stretch of time, but I had no idea the extent of it. I was expecting some sort of common thread, a continuous narrative of some sort... I hadn't realised that it is much more of an anthology than a story in multiple parts.
Once I got over my desire for an over-arching plot, I could start to look at the individual stories as stand-alones. One of the first stories we learned about was The Tower of Babel: a tower that was to reach heaven, a tower which was to help bind people together in a sense of community. But, as I would come to accept as fairly common in the Old Testament, this angered God. So God splintered humans into different languages, so they could no longer understand each other. Where once all humans could live together in a single coherent society, from then on people's tongues were confused. They could not live as one large community anymore. They scattered.
Perhaps I liked The Tower of Babel story because it is an explanation, an attempt to give a reason for the way things are. But it's also a compelling story because it is tragic. Humans, once entirely united, are from then on doomed to be isolated in separate societies. Were some of those Babylonians in mid-sentence when they made eye contact with the person they were talking to and couldn't understand them? In that instant, did they know they could never speak to them again?
I filed The Tower of Babel story away in the back of my mind as my Religion class moved on. Eventually, we reached the New Testament. Each story, each account, was once again a completely different style and message than the last. There was very little connection between stories side-by-side, never mind between the two Testaments.
And then we read the story of the Pentecost. The story of the disciples of Jesus who gathered together fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, on the Shavuot, and were overcome by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit allowed them to speak in languages they had never learned and, as they all at once began to chatter away excitedly with these new-found words, they were all able to understand each other. In fact, they were able to speak with anyone in any language and understand them.
Sure, this story is another explanation: an explanation for future missionaries. But it's also a proof that this random anthology finally completed a thought: it connected two stories in the Bible together, and delivers a long-awaited bit of justice. Finally, lifetimes later, The Tower of Babel was revoked, in part.
That's a beautiful idea, to me. The kind of beauty that can only come out of patterns one finds in chaos.