the babel tree: graphic futility
While on holiday last week, we visited a renovated Tudor house in Suffolk – Kentwell Hall. Quite apart from being a jolly beautiful place where one can fully imagine wandering around in doublet and hose – though don’t let your imaginations run too wild – Rachel & I were both knocked sideways (metaphorically speaking) by a unique sculpture standing right beside the main house. This is what the official blurb has to say:
The Hurricane of 1987 followed by the Great Storms of January 1990 severely damaged Kentwell’s finest and biggest Cedar. Rather than fell what remained, the Phillips commissioned Colin Wilbourne, an outstanding sculptor in many materials, to carve it. The theme is The Tower of Babel , a metaphor which remains relevant today: man’s ambition still exceeds his capacity and he still seems unable to communicate, well or peaceably, with his neighbour.
What this doesn’t say of course is the key problem of Genesis 11, namely the plot to storm heaven and ‘make a name for ourselves’ – but the tree does the job. It is one of those sculptures/carvings that you just have to keep looking at. The four sides at the base create a Tardis effect – drawing you in, luring you into the endless possibilities
It is only when you stand back and see where it all gets you that the futility of this becomes clear. A road to nowhere…
It is ingenious but stark – and rightly so – for the story of human arrogance is stark. It is just as well, then, that the inhabitant of heaven comes down to our level to take us there by his own route (Philippians 2:5-11), a route that took him to another tree, a tree with no beauty – only horror. But that tree was our saving grace.