The World of Eve
A reimagining of the ancient story of Eve in the Garden of Eden, part 3 of 3
Self-awareness, the feeling
Allegorical Eve gave us self-awareness. Now, looking at the world through eyes we call our own, touching it with hands we know to be ours, the look and feel of the world itself changed.
- Enhanced ability to manipulate our world
In parsing the world into this part and that part, nature itself became in our mind a thing of interacting ‘parts’ rather than a continuous whole. We could now take the various parts, manipulate them, and put them together in different ways beneficial to ourselves, building tools, clothes, shelter…cell phones…
- Enhanced memory tools
Concurrent with our new vision of a world composed of pieces was the act of naming those pieces, and using names as a memory aid. We could categorize our memories by name, cross-referencing them into ‘files’ of ‘mom memories,’ ‘baby memories,’ ‘river memories,’ and so on, tagging those files for easy reference using ‘names’ as abstract, data-compressed stand-ins for complex feelings.
As an example, suppose you didn’t have the words’ high school’ to put in your head. If you’ve attended high school, how would you access all those memories of friends and events and tangled emotions if you had no access to those two simple words?
Like surfing the internet, one link leading to another, we do the same with memory, one memory leading to another, using names of places, people, things, as ‘links.’
- The feeling of time, passing
These things so tagged in our memory, mother, child, river, despite that they change day-to-day, are things that exist in our memory across time as the same things.
You may not be able to cross the same river twice; the water flows continuously thus it’s never the ‘same’ water. But you can cross a named river as many times as you like. Whether you cross it ‘here,’ or ‘there,’ or while it is dry, or in flood, or even if it has changed course entirely, it’s still the same, named, river.
And that gives us a sense of time.
It is the difference in perspective between floating down the vast river of life, experiencing it as something over which we have no control because there is just the river being the river and we flow inseparably with it. It is the difference between that, and being in a boat sailing on the river, seeing the river as flowing around us.
Our sense of self gives us a fixed reference point. We are always ‘me’ despite the changes we see in ourselves and our world. Our fixed reference point allows us to feel the flow of change, measure that flow, and call its continuous current, time.
- Enhanced emotional responses
The very understanding of concepts such as good and bad, right and wrong, when filtered through the lens of ‘me,’ I think, turned up the brightness and contrast, so to speak, on our vision of the world. We see and feel things more keenly via self-awareness, including, I think, pain.
In pain you shall deliver children — Genesis 3:16
Which may explain that Biblical passage. Perhaps we can understand it as the old storytellers’ way of saying that with the ability to divide life into pieces and become one of the many parts — comes a keener appreciation of…hurts!
The light behind our engaged eyes, as I think of it, is the light of things popping into focus for us in ways beyond mere vision. It’s as if the boundary we conceived for ourselves, one that then trapped us inside as ourselves, acts as a kind of emotional mirror, reflecting our feelings back at us, allowing us to experience and respond to the world, the good and the bad, in an entirely new, enhanced way.
- Feeling of free will
Before our metaphorical Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, there was no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to respond. There was just the continuous flow of sensation/response without a ‘me’ attached to them. In that sense, ‘nature’ made the response. Human genetic feeling/response mechanisms honed over millions of evolving years made the response.
But with self-awareness, those responses became ‘my’ responses. And no matter your stance on the existence of free will — whether it exists at all, how it manifests, etc. — without a feeling of self-awareness there can be no feeling of free will. The two go hand-in-hand.
- Responsibility for ourselves.
Feelings were now our feelings. Desires were now our desires. ‘Freely willed’ or not, choices were now our choices. And choices, as all of us know all too well, can go very, very wrong.
Life became hard.
Cursed is the ground because of you;
With hard labor you shall eat from it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
Yet you shall eat the plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You shall eat bread,
Until you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return — Genesis 3:17–19
- Knowledge of death
Before there was an ‘Eve’ to know good from evil, water from river, smile from face, there was as well no knowledge of ‘dust’ to return to. There was no individual ‘death’ — not as we know it — because there was no individual life. There was no ‘me’ to die.
There were, likely, feelings of sorrow in loss as cherished smells and feelings faded and became no more, but just as there was no ‘I’ that now lived, there was no ‘me’ that could die. So, no death as we know it. But…
- Knowledge of life
Because there is a ‘me’ doing the living, self-awareness gives us the ability to know life, to know we live, to more keenly feel, eyes opened, ALIVE.
And therein lies our…
In the Bible, God kicked us out of the Garden of Eden, so that chapter didn’t end well. But in this reimagining we never left the Garden. We’re still here. This is Eden.
The fact of life becoming hard made it seem to the storytellers of old that we had left, but the Garden was only the Garden because we didn’t know better. We didn’t know life was hard because we didn’t live it. Nature did. Nature made the decisions.
If all these millennia later, with all our knowledge and technology, if we still haven’t found a way to live in a universally harmonious world at peace with itself, well…is that any reason to stop trying?
A snake put a baby into our allegorical Eve. That baby germinated an idea. The idea grew. And grew.
But it’s not an ending, is it? Life is ongoing. The old storytellers knew this. So they included in the Garden of Eden the tree of life to represent for humanity a goal, a next step that, someday, might be taken. Another fruit of an idea that might form if only we could eat of it…!
…at the east of the Garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life — Genesis 3:24
Another forbidden fruit!
Has it been long enough? Might we dare to eat of this fruit of the tree of life? What might it be? What ideas would it unfold?
So, roll credits! But here’s a little addendum.
The reimagined Adam and Eve story is a ‘have it both ways’ kind of story, merging disparate viewpoints.
With this allegory, the scientists — the evolutionists among us — can look back a few thousands of millions of years and see the beginning of life. And the creationists among us can look back some few thousands of years, and they too can see the beginning of life.
With no contradiction.
According to the evolutionists, life took those thousands of millions of years to evolve. Perfectly sensible.
On the other hand, we can’t ‘know’ life without an awareness of ourselves. Until we could differentiate ourselves from ‘life being life,’ until we could tag that thing we know as ‘me’ and understand the existence of a ‘me,’ there are no ‘things’ existing. There is only life being life.
So, problem solved! (Lol) They’re both right! Life started millions of years ago, and life started thousands of years ago, with no contradiction.