This is a retelling, a re-imagining, of the ancient story of Eve and the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It’s a myth now (unless the Bible you believe in is true). But I think upon re-examination, many aspects of that ancient story will be found to be not so very mythical, after all.
If they made a movie of Adam and Eve, who would play the lead role?
Earthly paradise, naked people, forbidden pleasures, supernatural beings, dramatic ending, there’s a movie there somewhere. (Maybe a musical? No? Sorry. Thinking out loud here.)
There is a small problem. It doesn’t have a happy ending (God kicks them out of paradise). But in this re-imagining we’re going to fix that without, paradoxically, changing much of the ending. (That’s the beauty of story; it’s not just what is told, it’s how it’s told.)
It’s Eve who has the lead role. Adam’s a weak-willed dweeb who, when presented with something that has been expressly forbidden by, yes, GOD ALMIGHTY, says something like, ‘Babe, awesome, hand that s… over.’
He’s male, so he’s following his you-know-what around. Which is a big part of our re-imagining. They call it a snake in ‘Genesis,’ but let’s pull the curtain on that bit of Biblical Victorianism. It’s not a snake. It’s a penis.
Here’s the scenario: Eve’s a bright gal. Her species has been getting brighter for millennia. And she’s the latest model. Showroom fresh. (Adam? Male. What more do you need to know…)
Cue BIG VOICE: “In a harmonious world at peace with itself, a world eternally caressed by the soothing embrace of Mother Nature, is born a child, of a mother, named EVE.”
So, scene 1: Eve, naked, lounging by the pool (pond, lake, stream, whatever), feeling her swelling belly. She’s pregnant. (Maybe by Adam, maybe not, maybe she doesn’t know. It doesn’t matter.)
She knows she’s pregnant. She knows how she got pregnant (the snake thing). She knows what’s going to pop out eventually. And she’s pondering it.
The thing is, in this re-imagining, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (interesting name…we’ll get to that) isn’t a fruit, and the tree isn’t a tree. It’s an idea. And that’s what she’s pondering. Because she’s come to realize that when the baby comes, it will no longer be what it is now.
‘How’s that?’ you ask.
The thing that is part of her now, her baby, when it pops out, will no longer be part of her.
It will be a new baby, most certainly yes. But to Eve, this baby is the genesis of an idea not just new, but unheard of. Unthought of. Unthinkable (before Eve thought it up).
Her baby will represent to her the idea of ‘separate.’
‘Okay,’ you say, looking at your watch. ‘Separate. Sure. That’s…not awesome.’
Not to you, yet. But bear with me because ‘awesome,’ as a description of what our allegorical Eve accomplished, doesn’t begin to approach it.
Inhabiting as we do a four-digit CE century that starts with the number ‘2,’ everything (to a greater or lesser extent) is or can be thought of as separate from everything else. It’s tough for us to imagine how it could be any other way.
So, to understand Eve’s accomplishment, we must first put ourselves into the perpetually bare feet (shoes) of a human so far removed from our world that she may never have even experienced fire, at all, let alone used it as a tool or heat source. (How often have you experienced, in person, a naturally occurring fire?)
So, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves a simple question, where do ‘I’ stop being ‘me’? Literally, where do I end?
Conceptually we can think of ourselves as ‘ending’ at our skin. But in reality? Can we divide ourselves, at our skin, from the rest of the world?
To separate the air from our lungs, simple example, is to die. So, how separate are we, really, from our world?
Aren’t we more like ‘heads’ on a coin called ‘Life’?
You can’t slice off one side of a coin. If you take a hacksaw and try, and carefully slice heads from tails, there will still be a (probably mangled, useless) ‘coin’ remaining, of which ‘heads’ is only one side.
The point is, just as heads is an abstraction that yet exists, so are we. Because you can’t slice yourself off from your world.
You could take to the woods and think you’ve removed yourself from the world, hunt and gather food, and say there is no tails to your heads. But someone forged your knife. Someone wove your clothes. So, there is a tails to your heads.
You could throw tools and clothes away and start from scratch, but someone taught you how to build a fire, or chip a stone to make a knife. There is still a tails to your heads.
You could be born naked in the woods with no parents or friends, and even if you survive despite all odds, you still rely on oxygen, water, food, and sun. There is still a tails to your heads.
There is still life, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral, upon which you feed…
…and from which you are indivisible.
Is there a glimmer? A tiny light at the end of a long tunnel of confusion about the glorious, breathtaking enormity of the concept that Eve, feeling her swollen belly, thought up that day in the scene by the pool (pond, lake, waterfall…), while thinking about her new baby?
The concept of ‘separate.’
A thing could be thought of as separate, even if it wasn’t separate.
Eve of self
Eve was aware. She was sentient. But before that change in perspective, she was not self-aware. She was not conscious. And that too, to our Twenty-first Century mindset, is difficult to imagine.
To me, to be unaware of self is like being ‘me’ in a dream. Typically, I’m unaware of a history, a context, a life in my dreams. When I wake, certainly there is an ‘I’ who did the dreaming. But when I am dreaming, I don’t have an awareness beyond the immediate elements of the dream.
So, maybe that’s a clue to what it’s like to be aware, but not self-aware. Maybe it’s like being hungry without knowing there is a ‘me’ being hungry.
There is just hunger.
So, Eve, as she caressed her swelling belly by the side of the pool (pond) and began thinking of her baby in this radical way, as ‘separate,’ it wasn’t just her baby that was separate from her. It was also herself separate from baby. Herself separate from world.
And at that moment, Eve became self-aware.
On that day, by that pond, in that Earthly paradise (remember, allegory!) Eve graduated her species from Homo Sapien, to Human BEING.
And that’s it. That’s the pivotal scene holding up the arc of our allegorical movie. Eve drew a line from point to point where no line had existed before, a border in her head. In doing so, she abstracted her own existence. Out of nowhere.
That’s the genius of Eve.
But that’s not the end of the story.