Engraving Belly Buttons in Albrecht Durer’s Rain Forest: Black Holes, Adam’s Rib Stakes, & the Funiculus Umbilicalis

A number of folks have asked about the new novel that I’m working on…er, laboring over.

It has a working title of Adam’s Navel and, as usual, it is ambitious and complicated (sorry, pace Martin Luther: here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God…).

But speaking of “laboring” and God, what’s the deal with Adam’s navel? I mean what is up with the belly button that was so nicely rendered in Albrecht Durer’s 1504 engraving of the First Man?

It seems my laboring with writing Adam’s Navel begs a bigger question, to wit,…who actually was “in labor” during Adam’s birthing, i.e., who was hooked up to that navel of his?

Either the Lord was a woman, with a placental funiculus umbilicalis that fed the First Man his oxygen and nutrients while pumping out his proto-poops,…or…He intended Adam’s belly button to be an accessory, one that could be further accessorized with a 14 gauge barbell belly ring. Either way, something seems to have gotten snipped at Adam’s birth.

Most of us are familiar with Adam’s “rib.” You remember, Genesis 2:22 – And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

Nowadays, many of the ‘most of us’ still squirm at the inference – not that one of Adam’s chest bones might have had a uterus, but that all of womankind owes its earthly presence and gratitude to a gullible fruitarian with a lop-sided rib cage.

But Adam’s navel? Well, even back in the days when I was prone to academic duck speak, I never imagined myself “problematizing” belly buttons; however, maybe the tiny addition to Adam’s tummy in Durer’s engraving might just offer a corrective to the Genesis plot.

Adam’s “innie” is drawn like a black hole in the engraving (go in for a close up), and we all know – or think we do – about Black Holes: Universes are born there. Was this Durer’s Creation Story?…or was he just winking at us? 

Pondering this, I came across The Belly Button Biodiversity Project.*

No kidding here…In 2011, a team of scientists from the biology department of North Carolina State University and the the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences did a deep dive into 66 belly buttons and discovered there was great deal of life teeming in all that lint. A veritable Garden of Eden.

It turns out that navels are very diverse habitats indeed, with, at last count, 2,368 different species of bacteria – more than half of whom may be new to science  – all of them vying for a foothold in Durer’s Black Hole.

“It’s a jungle in there,” one of the researchers noted, “The belly buttons reminded me of rain forests.”

Although not on the scale of either Creation in Genesis or the Big Bang, the intimate life in Adam’s navel, from an ecological and evolutionary perspective, reminds us that our world is still emerging – that it is endlessly being created. 

This is Mother Earth’s gift to us.

Perhaps Michelangelo knew something when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel – something about God’s own belly button and the flowing summer dress she was wearing.

In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was: Umbilicus.

“A Jungle in There: Bacteria in Belly Buttons are Highly Diverse, But Predictable.”

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One Comment
  1. Susan Bodo Reply

    Hi Pete
    Just finally got around to reading your newest. It sounds like you are going to have a hell of a lot of fun writ(h)ing this one. Short stories? Or are they all going to become part of a long twisted one?
    Go forth…

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