From Humans Come The Gods

Issue 40 by Olivia Lee Chen

From Humans Come The Gods

In the beginning, there is only darkness. Then light and water. From those three there are plants. From plants come fish – from fish, mammals, and eventually, humans. The first human awakes and rises and raises its head under the stars, and later, under the sun. Its bare feet wade through water, over rocks, sand, dirt, and then, grass. Its arms balance it upright as its outstretched fingers graze the trees. Its eyes see and blink an awareness into its mind that has never been present here before. Then from one there are many, and human becomes humans.

In the beginning, there is only creation. Then comes destruction.

A funneled monster twists from the dirt, connecting the ground to the clouds and spinning a desolate path. The seas swell to the height of mountains and rivers run rampant over land and homes and crops. From the core of the planet rise trembles that shake the foundations of life and open gashes in the ground into which some fall. Through it all, humans watch.

When they teach their children the story of their origins, they say that humans come from the gods. But what they don’t realize is that they have endowed their surroundings with the divine. In the storm they placed an eye – in the sea, the serpentine waves. To fellow mammals they gave other-worldly power. They stood in the overwhelming totality of the world and they needed an explanation for it all, so they likened it to something greater than themselves. And so they created gods, and so in reality, from humans come the gods.

Generations march on and humans putter about the planet. Against all nature they forge through new lands – across vast waters and turbulent mountain ranges. They bend and sift and sow crops and negotiate with powerful creatures to ease the pain of physical labor. First, they move all the time, carrying everything on their backs. Later they settle down, building fences and mud homes. They grow their families.

Some of them move away, so far that their skin lightens to the color of snow. Later they forget the darkness of their origin and find only fear and classification in the difference of color.

All around they build – pyramids and walls and temples. They do so to protect themselves from one another, to give themselves life after death, to honor the divine. Later generations look upon the structures and determine that only the gods could be responsible for such wonders. They repeat to themselves and their children that they must give thanks, again blind to the fact that they themselves have created the gods, just as they have created each wonder.

The idea of the gods twists deep and roots itself into the fabric of what it means to be a human. Some say there are gods all around, some say there is only one – above. They shout it at each other and claim gods for their own, my God, my Creator. They create a hierarchy of the divine and use it to classify each other. They point to instances in nature as proof – of existence, of anger, of assessment, of approval. Against all logic, they allow the gods to cause division, friction, and death. But the idea of the gods is inextricable from their experience. And in that way the gods have come to make humans human. And so for a period of their history it is true in a sense how they originally taught it – that the gods made humans.

Over time they discover more about their world – discoveries that only come with age and familiarity. They chart the globe, mapping out every corner. They create machines that ease their lives and computers that all but take life away. Greed, having seethed deep for generations before, surfaces in response to this newfound power. Technology takes hold and they deem themselves modern and their ancestors primitive.

In nature they discover science, and there they find different explanations for what their ancestors sought. Some condemn the gods for this, while others staunchly resist. Slowly, new generations divorce themselves from the idea. For the first time the gods become recognized as something artificial, an idea created by humans, though somehow less real than the other things they have made.

Through so much explanation, wonder is lost. It creates a void within each human that is unrecognizable and they come to blame one another. War ravages the planet and renders its surface uninhabitable and they turn inward, digging deep into the core, and into darkness once more. They flounder at first, but they begin again, humbly, though they do not call themselves primitive. Like their ancestors before them, they align themselves with creatures, not machines. They ration water and stop eating in excess. Greed retreats, and currency becomes a thing of the past. Previous divisions dissolve, giving way to a new population that sees years of peace.

They find that they are not made to live below the surface and constantly seek to return. For this, the term above takes on a new meaning. Gods are long forgotten.

After many generations the children don’t remember the sun. They don’t feel the power of the wind, or the forceful nature of a wave below the moon. Those who do remember are gone. When they finally rise from the depths, they swivel their faces under the sun and run their fingers through the leaves. Grass springs from soil and up in between their toes. They cast their gaze about them, eyes open wide, and they wonder again. They need an explanation for it all. And so it happens that from humans come the gods.

About the Author

Olivia Lee Chen

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Olivia Chen is a freelance editor and writer based in Dallas, TX. Her work can be found in The Write Launch and Medium's Noteworthy. She can be reached on Instagram at @ohh__livia_.