Commonwealth, II.X: Tower of Babel

Commonwealth, II.X: Tower of Babel October 9, 2020

Commonwealth: A Novel of Utopia, part 2, chapter 2

Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from my novel Commonwealth. The rest of today’s installment is free, but only on my Patreon site. If you want to read the next part today, it’s already up on Patreon as well. You can sign up for as little as $1/month, or $2 for exclusive author’s notes and behind-the-scenes material. There’s also a table of contents for all published chapters.

Rae craned her neck to look up at the tower they had come from.

Several stories above their heads, elevated railway tracks looped around the tower in a cloverleaf, connecting to aerial entrances by a web of skyways before diverging in many directions. The tracks seemed as delicate as lace next to the immense structure.

Further up, the tower’s glittering walls soared into the blue. It seemed impossibly high, as if it continued into infinity. She felt dizzy just looking at it.

“Like the Tower of Babel,” she murmured.

“An apt analogy,” Jane said, overhearing. “You know the Tower of Babel story, don’t you?”

“Of course. I read the Bible when I was a girl. My father insisted.”

“Do you remember why the builders were cursed?”

“For their hubris in trying to build to heaven?” she said, with a hint of uncertainty. Something in Jane’s demeanor made her think this was a trick question.

“That’s what the preachers usually say. But Genesis chapter 11 says something different. ‘And God said, Behold, they are one people, and they have one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.’

“Far from chuckling at mortal hubris, the deity of the Bible was actually worried that humans would become invincible if they were united. So he afflicted them with an evil miracle, fracturing them into many tongues, making it impossible for them to communicate or trust each other. The lesson: humans can achieve anything when they work together, but they’re weak and vulnerable when they’re divided. A moral worth remembering, even if it wasn’t the one the story’s authors intended.”

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