In our Western creation story, Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God creates the world in six days. After each of the first five days, God assesses his handiwork and expresses his satisfaction with the phrase: “…and … it was good”. After the sixth and final day: “… and behold, it was very good”.*
Not awesome, not fabulous or fantastic, not the best or superb, but “very good”. Is God the ultimate moderator of words, reviewing the exquisite beauty of creation with a qualified adjective? God’s approval appears to be infinite, but the expression is measured. What do we make of this?
Is something else being communicated here? Something about the state of the universe itself?
Many people assume that the universe is neither benign nor malicious, that its internal workings do not tend to, do not push us towards, either good or evil; that good and evil are what we humans make of them. I wonder.
Is God conveying an understanding that the universe just created is inherently good, that is, full of goodness? Are love, decency, compassion, and warmth the essence of what flows around us? Why do we expect the ultimate victor in war to be the decent side? Why should this be in a world where good and evil are evenly balanced?
Our own life experiences influence us in this determination, and each one must decide for himself. Yet I feel certain that this language of “goodness” contains more than a grammar lesson, an example of controlled and understated writing technique.
May we as humans live up to the expectations of the universe and make this world one of goodness.