Friday, 20 February 2015

Eve's Monologue

I wrote this a year ago during Lent after hearing some especially egregious blame-ridden commentaries about Eve's being the mother of all evil. It irks me that the coming-to-consciousness of our species should be seen in such a negative, moralistic way. The temptation story or myth is an attempt by ancient peoples to explain why human beings are the way they are. There is archetypal and psychological truth in it about the nature of self-awareness, a characteristic which defines us as a species — in our eyes anyway.  I don't take the story literally. 

I also don't freight it with a heavy-duty moral message around the concept of original sin and the misogyny that Christian church fathers endorsed, but I do think it captures the essence of what it means to be human.  We are responsible for our own choices, a good many of which are ego-serving and have led to horrible actions over the centuries. And we would prefer not to have to know much about our inner selves and what leads us to do what we do. It's easier to blame others.

We'd like that snake of inner wisdom to stay coiled up deep in our psychic underground.

Source of image:

(Eve, now outside the garden, is talking to an imaginary friend. She is about 14 years old.)

 “I am not quite sure what happened. One moment I was sitting in the garden having an apple, and the next thing I knew, I was being told I had to leave. What gives!

It just seems so unfair. God is such a buzz kill. What difference does it make to him if we want to eat something. Well, yes, he said not to, but it was just an apple, for goodness sake. I didn’t really believe what the snake said about knowing good and evil. Like what are good and evil? And what difference does it make! … Apparently quite a lot!

God certainly seems to think it’s a big deal, or he wouldn’t be punishing me and Adam. At least that’s how it feels. Adam now has to work in the fields for food, and I have to labour in my body for children.  Whatever …

Mind you, if I do childbirth, it would be nice to have more people around to talk to, other than Adam. Adam’s okay, but I was not impressed the way he left me twisting in the wind about the snake. I didn’t make him eat the apple any more than the snake made me eat it, for that matter. It was my choice to eat it, and it was Adam’s choice as well.  

I shouldn’t blame the snake any more than Adam should blame me. Except it hurt more.  I wasn’t in love with the snake. I was in love with Adam.  I still love him, but now I see him warts and all. He can be so stuck up and superior.

It’s funny I am thinking about all of this because before I ate the apple, I didn’t think about good and evil at all. I just enjoyed being in the garden.

And also, let’s face it, snakes don’t talk. Come on, the voice I heard was my own, pretending I could talk like a snake. I was such a four-year -old back then.

Anyhow, it was warm and there was lots to eat, and we didn’t have to do much of anything. It was nice talking directly to God. It was odd how he couldn’t find us after we ate the apple. You’d think he’d know where we were because he is God after all.

On the other hand, maybe we just thought he couldn’t see us, the way we used to when Adam and I played hide-and-seek and thought that if we hid, God wouldn’t know where we were. Like closing your eyes and thinking because you can’t see anyone, no one can see you.  Except now I realize they can.

 … I must admit I had begun to wonder where we had come from. Adam told me he got to name everything in the garden.  I thought that was so cool (I’ve decided I’m going to name our children). Anyway, that naming stuff seemed a bit odd to me. What were the creatures before Adam called them something?  He even named me! Who was I before Adam named me? How come I didn’t get to name Adam?  You know, I hadn’t thought of that before either.

So there you go, I was beginning to be curious. When my friend the snake asked if I wanted to be like God knowing good from evil, I thought good and evil were another kind of plant or animal, like knowing a pepper squash from a Hubbard. So I said, ‘Sure.’

 I didn’t know about evaluation. Everything seemed good to me. But once Adam named things, they were out there, not part of us.  So I guess it was only a matter of time before we wanted to put a value judgment on them. Is this object  good?  Is that one bad?

Not only that, it now seems that some things you do are good and other things you do are evil. I hadn’t thought of actions in that way before either. We just played up until that point  in the garden.

And supposing God hadn’t created me to be Adam’s helpmate. Would things have turned out differently if he had been created to be my helpmate? How about that!  Gosh,  Adam and I were so na├»ve we didn’t even know why  we looked different from one another. But then we did — know, I mean.  That was weird.  At first, I really wanted to cover that up. Lucky fig leaves were growing. What would we have done if they’d been out of season? Of course, that implies we understood about time, which up until very recently we didn’t.

I always thought Adam and I were more or less the same person: his thoughts were my thoughts and my feelings were his feelings and vice versa, but it‘s now obvious to me that is not the case.  We do actually have two separate bodies! Not only that, but to be one person, we have to have sex. 

Apparently getting together like that can make more people, as God pointed out. Mind you, I suppose that was just one more thing we would have learned by our own experience.

Starting to think about life has made me different from before.  I see things in a new way: I observe and wonder about things and then  I seem to stand aside from them. I suddenly feel like a more knowledgeable, even wiser, person.  I have realized I am in the world … and in my own life.

But honestly, I still don’t know why God is so upset. Except, if I stop to think about it, I don’t know if he is all that upset. It seems to me we began all on our own to realize that the world wasn’t the way we thought it was. Then we assumed knowing this would annoy God. He didn’t really throw us out of the garden; we threw ourselves out because we knew things we didn’t know before. Why would we see the garden as perfect once we knew about good and evil?

We just wanted to blame God when we were actually angry at ourselves for figuring things out and having to live with them the way they are. Then we thought, oh-oh, God must be angry at us for knowing.  We seem to like to impute a lot of things to God which we really have no way of knowing about him.

I must say it was a lot easier to be ignorant and just live instinctively in the moment like the other animals than to be conscious of time and so many other things.

One thing I do  know,  I didn’t bring evil into the world. Adam and I just suddenly realized it was there...  in an instant... in the moment it takes to swallow hard.”

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Skimpy pajamas

“He made the veil of violet, scarlet, crimson, and fine linen; he worked cherubs on it.”

To Eaton’s, they were “cotton shorty pajamas”
In dark red and blue, 
with navy piping around the lapels.

I thought of them as my skimpy pajamas.

I was wearing them that morning
in late spring or early summer
when I woke up to voices in the backyard:
my mother and younger brother,
bent together like two conspirators,
though he was too young to know
what he was a party to.

I ran as fast as I could
through the kitchen,
out the back door,
across the cold, dew-soaked grass
to my little garden
where my mother was hurrying to bury
Soot’s fourth kitten,
the runt of the litter,
sickly from birth,
dead overnight
and now being buried without me there,
before I woke up
as if hiding the tiny body in the earth
would guarantee it had never existed...

If only all sorrows could be so easily put away
and not leave you standing there
watching and shivering.

I wrote this poem while waiting for Greg while he had a spiritual direction session with one of the sisters of St. Joseph. She had found an unoccupied room for me with some books, an armchair, a lamp, and a side table on which there was a bible opened to Chronicles. 
After I finished writing the poem, which had been stewing round in my head for a while, I thought, out of curiosity, to play the game of pointing to a passage and then seeing if it had any relevance for me.
I held my finger over the open book and plopped in the middle of the left page. It landed on the verse quoted above (2 Chronicles Chap 3, verse 14). Cotton shorty pajamas indeed! I was, of course, startled by the unexpected synchronicity.

©February 11, 2015