Unexpectedly, I am finding one of the hardest parts as a parent is to decide when should I tell the truth about the realities of the world. I see the innocence and joy in life my son has, and it breaks my heart to tell him anything that speaks to the suffering that takes in this world. There is a part of me that wants to preserve that innocence for as long as possible, and yet there is also part of me that wants to prepare him so he has the courage to face it. I think overall I lean towards the former, because who am I to destroy such unadulterated joy in life? Pain will find us all, and when it happens I’ll be there. There is no rush.
But last night I started thinking, why can’t we all be more childlike and experience that joy? What really causes us to “lose our innocence”. I don’t think it’s death in of itself. I don’t think sadness in of itself is what prevents us from experiencing a lot more bliss.
In trying to answer this question about loss of innocence, I started to think what a strange story the Garden of Eden is in Genesis. The fact that eating from the tree of knowledge is what is referred to as the “fall of man”, the end of paradise (and innocence). I don’t think knowledge as a whole is a problem. For the most part knowledge makes me less fearful, less confused, and more likely to course correct in my life. Life of course can’t be 100% bliss, but I imagined a world in which the only sadness we would experience would be when someone we love died of natural causes, or natural disasters. We might experience pain through breakups or moving away from home. It is a dynamic world and there is an impermanence to all things. I think such a world would be a more blissful experience, much more child-like. What really causes us to lose our innocence is finding out the horrible things we do to each other. That is a weight to bear that changes you forever; for which there is no going back. If any biblical story in Genesis is going to represent the fall of man it should be when Cain kills his brother in anger (albeit anger due to God’s dissatisfaction with a vegan meal). Anyway, I don’t really intend to get into a discussion about the Bible, only that as a parent the story struck as very odd even if I believed it was true.
For as long as I’ve been aware of the larger world that we live in, the only things that really break my spirit are is the harm that humans cause each other. I’ve never sobbed and felt the world was a horrible place because someone died in a flood or of a heart attack. I am curious as to what other people think about innocence and the loss thereof. Could we be living in greater bliss than we are? What does it mean to you “Loss of innocence”? If you are a parent have you cried tears of happiness at the purity of your child’s joy, and have you also wept when you’ve watched them realized the horrors people commit against each other? Any thoughts you might have on this topic are welcome.
Woman approaches Adam with fruit in hand. Adam is bent over next to a rock outcrop.
“Adam, I have returned. I have something for you.”
“I have something for you too. Check this out. There is this creature that seems to have been preserved in this rock over here. I don’t even know what it is. I named every animal, and this wasn’t one of them.”
“Hmmm…that is weird. But listen I have something more important. Here let’s eat this fruit.”
“Oh okay. I guess I am a bit hungry…er…wait. Where did you get this fruit?”
Woman gives a little smirk, “Where do you think? The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.”
“Oh no…no. We can’t eat this. Our Father, He had one rule. That’s it. Seems pretty clear cut and not a whole lot to ask.”
“Don’t worry Adam. A talking snake explained it all to me. We have to eat this fruit.”
“Wait…what!? Talking snake? Are there any of those hallucinogenic frogs I named hopping around? How can there be a talking snake?”
“How can you make a person out of a rib? Listen we wondered before why He would have put the tree here, and you said He probably knew we weren’t going to touch and so He didn’t think it was important where he put it. Well what if He put it here, because He wanted us to eat it?”
“Well why would He want us to eat it, but tell us not to eat it?”
“You said you had a lot of questions. So do I. Curiosity. We have loads of it. These questions burn within us and we want to find the answers to those questions. That’s how He made us.”
“That’s some pretty good reasoning. But why can’t we just ask Him and He can explain it to us.”
“Weren’t you listening Adam about making children. Children grow into adults. At some point children have to leave the guidance of their parents and make decisions for themselves. Every home feels like paradise when you’re a child, but this can’t be our home forever. We have to grow up.” Woman does her best God impression, “Symbolism!”
Adam’s eyes narrow and his expression hardens, “Alright, let’s do it. By doing this together we’ll be husband and wife, right?!”
“Oh shut up, and eat the fruit!”
Adam takes a fruit from woman and they both take bites. Chewing slowly and swallowing.
“Adam, do you feel anything?”
“No nothing. What about you?”
“I don’t feel anything either. I thought, for some reason, that I would suddenly understand everything so much better.”
“Yeah, me too. This is kind of disappointing.”
“You don’t think he just put the tree there as a test to see if we would obey him, and that the tree had no special powers at all do you?”
“No. That would be kind of cruel. God wouldn’t do something like that.” The fossil Adam was holding slips out of his hand making a cracking noise as it hits the ground.
The winds begin to shift northerly and pick up speed.
“It’s getting a bit colder Adam.”
“Yeah, well I have noticed the daylight hours gradually getting shorter, so I expect weather patterns will start shift, but also you seem to be naked.”
“What!? I’m naked?! Clearly you’re the world’s first crack detective too. No shit I’m naked. So are you!”
“Ack…you’re right…I am naked too. I guess I knew that…but I don’t think I want to be naked anymore. It doesn’t feel right. How do we get less naked?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we should cover up our…um…naughty areas. I don’t feel like we should just be exposing them for everyone to see.”
“Who’s everyone? We are the only two people on this planet.”
“I don’t know, let’s just cover up. I’m going to go find some big leaves. Maybe from that fig tree over there.”
“Fig tree? What’s a fig tree?”
“That tree over there. You got the animals…I decided I’m naming the plants. Let’s go.”
Woman and Adam walk over to the fig tree to find some suitable leaves.
“Adam, I’m feeling a lot of shame right now…like I need a big leaf to cover my behind, and I feel upset that the leaf has to be so big.”
“I feel shame too. Like I need a big leaf to compensate for what seems to be a sub-par dangling appendage.”
“So thus far eating that fruit has only led to feelings of shame associated with a negative self-image. I don’t know about you, but I’m also feeling regret.”
“Yeah me too. Being an adult sucks. I don’t even know who I want to impress. My motivations are so unclear to me right now, I….wait…do you hear something?”
Woman and Adam stop what they are doing and they hear the sound of rustling leaves and the voice of God humming a merry tune.
Adam whispers, “He’s here! How come he doesn’t know we already broke the rule?”
“I don’t know. Inflated sense of self-confidence?”
“Hide? What good is that going to do if He’s omniscient? He’ll know where we are.”
“Just do it! Quick over here among those trees!”
God stops in His tracks and tilts his head listening.
“Adam. Is that you? Where are you Adam?”
Adam whispers to woman, “See, told you hiding was a good idea!”
“Adam! I have divine hearing. I know you’re in the garden somewhere.”
Woman whispers to Adam, “He placed us in the garden, and He knows we’re in the garden somewhere? I see where you got your detective skills from.”
“I think I should answer Him. He’ll find us eventually.”
“Fine…but he should have found us immediately as an omniscient creator.”
Adam steps out from behind the trees. “Oh hey, God. We’re over here.”
“Aaah…Adam. Woman. How are things been going? Getting along? Make any babies yet? Um…wait…why are you holding fig leaves over your naughty areas?”
“Well…er…we weren’t sure who it was in the garden and well we were naked and so we hid. You know…I didn’t want anybody pointing and laughing at me.” Adam blushes.
“Wait! Who told you, you were naked? Those are precisely the lust-filled concepts I didn’t want floating around your heads!” God’s eyes glance towards the Tree of Knowledge. “Have you been eating from the Tree of Knowledge?! There are two less fruits there than there should be. I am very good at counting. The book I’m writing right now even has a chapter called Numbers. Out with it children. No lies!”
“Well Father, I was just taking a look, and well this snake came along and really explained it all quite clearly and you know, it just seemed to make sense.”
“Snake?! I think I know the culprit. Hold on.” God vanishes in a puff of awesomeness and returns holding the snake with its stubby little legs waving in the air.
“Alright everyone. It’s punishment time!”
Adam asks, “Why do You look so gleeful Father?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never done it before. New experiences are hard to come by. Okay now….snake! You have deceived my creation and for that I am removing your legs and forcing you to crawl on your belly!!”
Snake begins to slither around rather impressively climbing up and down trees and curling around woman’s legs.
“I rather like this…”
“I mean punish me no further!”
“Yes…well I curse you to eat dust!”
“Well that would actually make my work easier since dust is everywhere, but I still feel rather hungry for small rodents.”
“And you will now be enemies with mankind. You will bite at their heel and they will stomp you on the ground!”
Snake slithers up woman and speaks in her ear, “Well we’ll just stay out of each other’s way then yeah? Seems simple enough?”
Woman responds, “Sounds reasonable to me.”
“Excuse me. Woman’s voice will not be silenced.”
“It will. To punish you for what you’ve done, giving birth will now be of the greatest pain! And pitocin will not be invented for many years to come!”
“What?! You want me to populate the human species but are making giving birth the most painful experience in my life. You’re a sadist you are. Whatever happened to forgiveness? Isn’t that a better way to treat your children?”
God thinks about it for a few seconds….”Nope. Also, I’m not done. I’m also turning the civilization into a patriarchy. I wanted everything to be equal, but because of what you’ve done I am making women beholden to their men.”
“What?! Are you kidding me?” Woman gives an exasperate look and turns red with anger. “Well considering you made me a nameless helper for Adam over there, it probably wasn’t going to get much better anyway.”
Adam woman turns and says with a comforting smile, “I promise to use my power over you responsibly.” Woman gives him a dirty look, killing the grin instantly.
“Adam! Don’t think I am done! You also ate the fruit against my command. I curse you to become a farmer. You will till the earth and eat from it. It will be hard work and much that grows will have thorns and thistle requiring you to wear thick clothing so that you get very hot and sweaty while you work. Your diet will mostly be vegetarian in nature due to it providing the maximum amount of calories and nutrition per square foot, and you will eat until you die returning to the earth enriching it with organic material for new plants to grow and continuing a never ending cycle of death and life.”
“Actually that doesn’t sound too bad. Makes you really appreciate each moment and strive for a better life while you have it.”
“Yeah Adam, I like this part.”
Adam turns to woman and smiles. “I shall name you Eve as you will be mother of all. And though large amounts of toil and incest lie before us, we’re going to make it.”
“So finally I get a name. Not bad actually. But I reserve the right to come up with one of my own if I find something better!”
Adam capitulates, “Fair enough.”
“I just want you to know children that this hurt me more than it hurts you. I really didn’t want to do all of that, but you forced me hand.”
“I am sending you out from paradise and you will be cut off from the Tree of Life forever. But before you do that I am going kill a few animals and make you some clothing. It’s cold out there East of Eden and I don’t want you to get sick. Besides people will start dropping like flies once you domesticate large mammals.”
Adam and Even watch incredulously as God slaughters a few animals and skins them. Using a little bit of omnipotence to speed the tanning process.”
“There you go, and I put in an extra set so you have something to wear while washing the first set. Now here’s a pack of seeds to start off with as well. They’re all labeled. I put them in this little pouch I made from that dead deer over there.”
God snaps His fingers and they are magically transported next to a large river. “Well good luck. I’ll make a few appearances again just to make sure everybody is aware of my awesomeness. Byeeee!”
“Well Eve, I guess we got some seeds to sow.”
“Yeah.” Eve looks around. “We’ll probably need something to dig with, let’s see if we can find some tools of some sort over by those trees.”
Adam starts to remove his clothing. “Those weren’t the seeds I was talking about.”