We live in a world that is colored with the full spectrum of light, mingled with the darkness of violence and dissidence. After a major event of violence, we see the media and people on social media screaming for something to be done to turn our world back to the light. Calls for the masses to return to God and pleas to the government to enact new laws to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again, all lead to the same place – arguments between people on opposing sides that creates only more chaos. But here’s the thing, our world has never fully resided within the light. The world rotates on its axis and spends equal parts illuminated by the sun, or shrouded in darkness. Our world has never existed in a complete state of peace, oneness, or goodness. Ours is a world full of opposites, of paradoxes and as hopeless as this sounds, this is how it will always be.
In the ancient times, the people were faced with the same chaos and called for the same actions to fix what was broken. Before Sargon finally ended his campaign to conquer and unite all of the city-states within Mesopotamia, there was another king who was seeking to do the same. His name was Lugalzagessi of Umma. He was a king who was far more destructive in his campaigns, choosing to burn the homes and temples of the people living in the city-states he conquered. The Sumerian people saw this as barbaric and would not fully submit to such an evil man so when Sargon arrived and removed Lugalzagessi from power, the people probably cheered the victory. There was a new king who seemed to respect their traditions and religion, leading them to be more willing to follow Sargon over the king who came before him.
With the passage of time, the people decided they did not like having their language changed from Sumerian to Akkadian, having their cuneiform writing manipulated to reflect the change in language, having their systems of weights and measures standardized, or having their laws changed, thus disrupting their old way of life. While Sargon maintained their religious traditions, he was a ruler who changed their world to suit his own vision. Eventually, revolts arose and Sargon was forced to send out his armies to push them down.
Herein lies the paradox between law and chaos. By nature, humans are chaotic and changeable, seeking to find the meaning behind their beliefs and opinions. Humans are willing to overlook blatant sins of those they follow as long as they are able to assign meaning to their beliefs. This is not a new phenomenon as it has been going on for thousands of years. The difference is that those in the Ancient World put names to this, assigning this phenomenon a pantheon of deities to fulfill their own need to explain the unexplainable.
We can see this culminate within the goddess, Inanna. Inanna, herself, became the epitome of Paradox. At the beginning of her divinity, she was the goddess of fertility and of the bountiful harvest. Over time her domain grew to include that of war, of death, of life, and eventually, she was elevated by Enheduanna, the high priestess at Ur, to rule over the entire pantheon.
Innana was the very embodiment of paradox. She was the lover and the wife, the prostitute and the mother; she represented love in all its forms. She celebrated female sexuality and marriage. She celebrated the consummation of love and pleasure. Inanna was woman, she was femininity, she was love, and she was creation. Inanna was also war and righteous fury. She was retribution and pain. She was the seven-headed mace that was brought down upon her enemies. She painted fire beams on her forehead and turned woman to man, and man to woman. She was androgyny.
Beyond this, she also represented the chaos that was seen to be human. She was proof that law and structure was the invention of man. While she instructed her people to follow the laws of the land, she also sought to free them from the constraints of such rigid structure to fully live within their own realm of creativity.
Betty De Shong Meador wrote in her book, Inanna Lady of the Largest Heart, “On the cosmic level, Inanna pulls the rug out from under our belief in order and principle. She is the element of chaos that hangs over every situation, the reminder that cultures and rules and traditions and order are constructs of humanity. Society congeals possibility into laws and mores so that we can live together. Inanna reminds us these are but products of the mind. At the bottom all is possible.”
As humans, we are always seeking ways to make our world more colorful and more interesting by delving into our own creativity. We see books, movies, television shows, paintings, graphic design, video games, and many other venues of creativity that keep us entertained. It is inherent in our nature to find that creative escape in order to temporarily hide from the ugliness in the world. But with that comes the need for structure.
Ms. Meador states, “Inanna feeds the creative spirit that stretches the imagination beyond social confines. She is a goddess unbound by social order. She is the unthinkable thought, a constant reminder that what seems pinned down, fixed, certain, is not. She confronts us with the unbearable uncertainty that form and structure are merely ‘as if’ solid and secure.
While Inanna’s polarities and contradictions generate creativity, they also provoke insecurity, disruption, and terror. A social disorder can be violent and destructive. Primitive rivalries and genocide can erupt in the most advanced societies. Sexual freedom and the blurring of gender boundaries can rouse hatred of those whose beliefs are threatened.”
This is why we need the existence of law in order to be able to live together and thrive. Without law, we will always be turning on each other, seeking to further our own ends without thought or care to those we hurt along the way. However, without the chaos, we would all be systematic automatons going about our everyday lives while strictly adhering to the laws of the land without the personality and creativity that makes us all beautifully unique.
The Ancient Mesopotamians found a way to live in both worlds, accepting the paradox of law and chaos in order to survive in a harsher world than we live in today. They respected the defined laws and mores of their time, understanding the need for structure to be able to live together. They also recognized the need for creative release, to allow their imaginations to soar among the cosmos and create their own unique identities that made the world so interesting. The priests and priestesses taught the need for structure, stating that their gods and goddesses believed it to be necessary to life; but within Inanna came the contradiction and paradox of also shunning the rigid and oppressive in order to embrace individuality.
Meador states, “The profound meaning embodied in Inanna developed historically in the fourth millenium alongside an increasingly male-dominated government, economic, and social order. The rule of kings tended toward an authoritarianism that demanded citizens obey hierarchical class structures and mores. Pressure was applied to extract conformity. Against this template of the good citizen, Inanna introduced cosmic disorder and disobedience. She introduced the possibility of the individual who thinks for herself/himself. Inanna confronts us with ourselves. The question of choices of how to live one’s life, is always present. Conflict and contradiction confront us daily. To take Inanna seriously is to face the expansiveness of our own freedom. Through the choices we make, we build the unique individuality of ourselves.”
We will always live in a world that is chaotic and dangerous while looking to the laws and lawmakers to protect us; but I argue that chaos is necessary to see our own growth. A utopian society might not ever be possible, and that is okay as long as we are constantly looking to find growth within ourselves in order to try to make changes closer to home. Some problems are too big for us to solve on our own, and that is when we must make our voices heard.
E., & Meador, B. D. (2006). Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: poems of the Sumerian high priestess Enheduanna. Austin: University of Texas Press.