Now ol’ Adam was the first in history
With an apple he was tempted and deceived
Just for spite the devil made him take a bite
And that’s where ol’ Adam met his Waterloo
Stonewall Jackson – Waterloo
If you are not already familiar with the first five chapters of the Book of Genesis, go read them and come back. I don’t want to have to walk anyone through it. I recommend biblegateway.com (not a paid endorsement), as they offer every version of the bible you could imagine. You can read a story in Greek, Latin, Middle English, street slang, whatever you like.
The part you need to concern yourself with is Chapter 3, The Fall. To set the stage, let’s get clear that I in no way believe the story of Adam and Eve is real, that one man and one woman began the species as described in that story, or that the story was ever intended to be read as history. It’s an Eastern creation myth that has been taken by Western minds in the poorest possible context, as statements of fact, and this has led to many, many problems we struggle with today.
A literal reading of Genesis 3 would have you believe that Woman, being weak of will and something of a know-it-all, ate from the Tree of Knowledge and then got Adam to do the same, sending mankind spiraling out of control as they fell from the good graces of God and they were banished from Paradise to prevent them eating from the Tree of Life, which would have made them immortal.
This simple story, which bears a strong resemblance to Pandora’s Box, explains, in the tradition of Creation Myths, why serpents crawl on the ground, why Man and Serpent are enemies, why Man must work hard to survive, why childbirth hurts, etc. That’s what Creation Myths do: they explain natural phenomena in supernatural ways, bringing an air of mystery to daily drudge. And that’s okay. It is good to feel a burst of spiritual pride, to feel like you are connected to the world around you on a deep, spiritual level.
What is NOT okay is looking down on half of our species as less worthy because of the story told in the Creation Myth.
Here’s the Word Of God as seen in Genesis 3:
To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
And if we take that as literal, then women are inherently inferior to men, silly baby factories that must be dominated and ruled. This has been the way of the world from ancient times right up till the middle of the Twentieth Century, and in many ways and in many places, it still is. It is taught and practiced in Fundamentalist Christian churches across the globe. It is also practiced by Fundamentalist Muslims, some Orthodox Jews, extremists of every religious stripe. You can find examples of it on The Jerry Springer Show, The 700 Club, Al Jazeera, and other media.
But we live in a “civil” -ization, we have science and knowledge and common sense, and an unimaginable wealth of information at our fingertips, and it is time and past time that we view our world in a new way, that we let the scales fall from our eyes, to get biblical on it, and either recognize the fable for what it is, or, if that is blasphemy in your religion, then for Christians to carry forth the promise of their Lord and Savior and recognize that Original Sin was absolved and forgiven by the sacrifice that Jesus made for us all.
Whether Woman condemned us or not, whether it is a fairy tale or real and literal truth, it makes no difference. Woman has been forgiven just as Man has, and nobody, preacher nor layman, is qualified to interfere with Her relationship with her Lord, nor to judge whether she has one. That’s why it’s called a personal relationship. It is many centuries past time when Man accepts Woman as a full-fledged half of the human race, not as objects of desire, nor as lesser beings, nor as representative of evil. The warmth and softness of women compared to men is not a sign of weakness that needs to be exploited; it is a woman’s strength, that which she brings to the species that man cannot duplicate. It’s the root of love, or should I say Love. Men and women are different, that can’t be denied, it’s really a duh, but that does not make men superior in any way.
If we lack Paradise in our lives, it is because we are looking for it as something we will find somewhere; we see it as a destination. I would maintain that Paradise isn’t lost to us, and it is not somewhere we go. It is something we create. Like our sense of self, Paradise does not wait to be found, it waits to be created. And if we are all alone, we won’t find it. And if we alienate half of our species because of an imagined sense of superiority, we will never create it. Paradise is not the blind, ignorant bliss of Eden; it is the bonding in true love of the hearts, minds, and goals of people, in family units, in communities, in churches and temples and synagogues. Paradise has no room for hate or prejudice or injustice or intolerance. I think it’s obvious why.
I have heard men and women alike mourn the loss of innocence in their lives, and it always reminds me of a passage I read in a book by Peter Straub decades ago. Of necessity, I am paraphrasing here, because I can’t remember the source, but it went something like this:
Narcissus lay gazing into the pool, weeping. A passing friend asked him why.
He said, “I weep for having lost my innocence.”
The friend replied, “You would wiser weep for having ever had it.”
I think that says it all. The fall from Grace is inevitable, uncontrollable. It is not to be feared, nor mourned, but embraced. We fall because we know Good and Evil, but we rise again because we may choose Good. We make smarter choices when we pool our brains and experiences with loved ones, and every smart choice paves the way for more, for ourselves and for those in our world who observe us, our children, our friends and their families, our co-workers, our church family, our community, everyone with whom we come into regular contact.
We create Good through Love, and we create Evil through the lack of it. In this world, here and now, we have all the tools we need to create Paradise, and to dwell in it forever. We just have to let go of our judgments and embrace others as necessary and worthy.
And that’s the way I like it.