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Monday, 10 June 2013

Eating Mythical Apples

To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your labor pains; with pain you will give birth to children. You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.”
But to Adam he said, “Because you obeyed your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground thanks to you; in painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life."
(Gen 3:16-17)
See, to me there's a bit of a problem with blaming all the destructive, apparently random stuff in the world on the Fall. If I were a Creationist, I'd not have this problem. But I want to have my 14 billion year old cake and eat its moral icing.

So you can't blame the physical and very historical matters of earthquakes and volcanoes and exploding stars on human disobedience, without dragging in some kind of retrospective quantum catastrophe which rewrote everything. And what kind of fool would do that?

But if that's the case, then what do we take from the story of the Fall? Because it's definitely a story worth working through. It has all those ingredients that are so popular in film and television in these troubled times - naked people, power struggles and talking animals. What's not to like?

I would like to note, in passing,  this article which postulates that it was maybe the Fall that cost humans their ability to synthesize Vitamin C. If we imagine the Eden story as factual historically and scientifically, I'd suggest the opposite - if Adam and Eve had working Vitamin C genes, they'd not have needed to eat any fruit in the first place, especially that fruit.

I guess I prefer to have a play with the idea of choice, human intelligence and the HPtFTU (let the reader understand). See, i reckon we had nettles, thistles and all other kinds of woe before any mythological First Lady was conned into eating any apples. Likewise earthquakes, tidal waves and - let's say it - death.
But something happened to us in evolution. Dunno when precisely - whether before Cro-Magnon or at the time the valley of the Neander was full of its eponymous folk. Our brains got big, and our hearts gained the ability to be warm, soft or hard according to how we decided. We found we could eat apples, or not according to choice. And if God told us not to, we could do it regardless - and then try and hide from God later. And if we decided to kill one another,  it wasn't just one of those unfortunate natural skirmishes. We'd deny it, or try and excuse it - I never did it. That herdsmen deserved it. He was different. Smug so and so.

And it wasn't that there were no nettles and thistles before, either. But to an animal, they're problems at just that one point in time - when you're pushing your way painfully through them. It's only we naked apes who worry about them in advance - who can feel anticipated pain. And of course, being naked apes, we knew all about it when pushing through thistles and brambles. And we're the ones who can anticipate the terrors of death, fear the pain of it before we know it for real, and wonder with hope and trembling what lies beyond it. It's not just that work is hard - what animal doesn't have a hard life? But we're the ones going to bed, knowing we've got to get up and face it again in the morning. We're the ones that can go home from work on a Friday, regretting that it all starts again on Monday.

But these amplified pains come with our unique joys - it's a package deal. Hope for years - and an eternity - to come. Pleasures we can work for - and the work itself can be a pleasure.

It was a double-edged sword, eating that apple - giving us the ability to use metaphors, but also to mix them. And those big brains that gave us choice and strategy came at a cost; as those upgraded skulls squeezed through the previous release of birth canal.

And always at the end of that glorious riot of choice, happiness and fear was death and futility - the waste of dreams and dissolution of those big brains. And those brains that let us love, also let us fear and mourn. And the snake - symbol of the eternity into which we are launched - looks like he's won.

But isn't that where God's other judgement comes in?
"And I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; her offspring will attack your head, and he will crush your head." (Gen 3:15)
But that's another whole story of choices, isn't it?

Quotations from the NET Bible

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