Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetry Passage* (Proverbs 8) transports me to Monday mornings of the the daily commute to work in 2002, when NPR’s Morning Edition included one of my favorite segments of all time: Present at the Creation. Each Monday of that year, one of the NPR reporters would take the listeners back to the genesis of some familiar Americana icon and explore what was going on in the mind of the person who wove that particular thread into the fabric of our culture. I’ve always had a curiosity around this kind of thing, and often ask, what in the world was the person thinking who came up with this or that? The NPR series covered a lot of ground, from food to architecture to entertainment to the arts. You can go back in the archives and listen to stories about people like Elizabeth Magie, who created a board game in 1904 called the Landlord game, primarily played in the economics departments of places like Princeton before gaining wide popularity in the Depression as Monopoly. Or people like Gene Roddenberry, who in 1965 brought to the networks something he described as a wagon train to the stars, a program that could address serious issues of politics and war and sex behind a facade of science fiction gadgetry designed to distract the censors, and the phenomenon known as Star Trek began its 79 episode run. Or people like the Rueckheim brothers, who served up a sticky popcorn confection at the world’s fair of 1893 that came to be known as Cracker Jack. You can hear about the genesis of grits, Perry Mason, break dancing, and dozens of other creations that have become part of the familiar backdrop of life in America.
Solomon was playing something of an NPR reporter when he penned Proverbs 8, an homage to the figure of Wisdom who was present at the creation of, well, creation itself. Wisdom begins the chapter as a street corner siren, calling out to passersby to forego their occupation with silver and gold, and to listen to her instruction instead. True wealth, she says, is not found in these material things, but in knowledge and discernment. For those who listen to her, for those who abandon the pride and arrogance of worldly gain, she promises to fill their treasure troves with this true wealth. The street preaching Wisdom then goes on to establish her street cred – she’s been around the block. In fact, she’s been around forever; she was present at creation. She lays claim to being the first-born of creation, and then she lays claim to participating in the genesis of the universe, co-creating the world as a master builder alongside God. Wisdom helped shape creation, giving it form, setting its boundaries, establishing its foundations. Wisdom personifies the genius of creation, the intricate pattern of diversity and complexity that sustains and acts as guardian to life. In other words, she has some credibility; she has the right to cry out and be heard on the street corner.
This same Wisdom who was present at the creation of creation, who co-labored with God to establish the double-helix of heaven and earth and the genetic code for how everything works, also says she delights in the human race. She rejoices in our happiness. Perhaps part of that rejoicing comes from her knowledge that we are made in the image of God, and so we share with her that same creative force, that same spirit of creativity that often comes out in the quirkiest of ways – board games and science fiction fantasy worlds and southern comfort foods and dance and drama. It makes me smile to realize that Wisdom continues to be present at the creation. It fills me with hope to know that in our world of violence and greed and discrimination, she will be present and will be delighted whenever anyone in the human family shapes new possibilities for peace, establishes new economies of fairness, and speaks new communities of hospitality into being.
How about you? Where does this Poetry Passage take you on your journey of faith? Fee free to comment.