Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Garden of Eden

I just want to posit a possible reading of the Fall of Man story, incorperating Daniel Quinn's ideas, adding a few of my own. Starting from the beginning of Genesis 3, I'll list each element as I come to it:

The Serpent: Snakes, when they shed their skin, gain a very deathlike appearance. But if you continue watching, the snake comes out, alive and well. Perhaps some people during the period during which this story was constructed made a leap from a live snake coming out of a dead snakeskin, to a live human spirit coming out of a dead human body; ie. they first came up with the idea of the Immortal Human Spirit, and another realm to which it belongs. If this is what the Serpent refers to, then the writer considered this to be a deception, that rather, "...you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19) Perhaps a belief that death isn't necessarily final leads men to believe that we can do whatever we want, the consequences being merely temporary and leading ultimately to a higher existance.

The Woman: Anthropologists speculate that agriculture grew initially out of women's traditional role as gatherers of edible plant materials (the stereotypical division of labor between hunters and gatherers). Perhaps it was women who first went about the business of what Quinn calls "Totalitarian Agriculture," simply because men were too busy hunting to develop this idea, the idea that humans ought to make the choices of good and evil (that is, to rule the world) to increase their food, rather than leaving it to the gods. That is, they ate of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Of course, men followed suit rather quickly, as agriculture reduces space for hunting food.

The Man: Followed the woman into a lifestyle that involved the subjugation of matters of life and death to mankind. Representative of a single culture: those that practice our way of making a living.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: Eating from it is analogous to using one's ability to rearrange the biosphere in an effort to increase one's food supply and the expense of others.

Nakedness: The realization that there is something very wrong happening with our culture...

Fig leaf loin coverings: Religion of human invention, a futile attempt to deal with the problem of what's gone wrong by pretending we have nothing to do with it... covering up the fact that our way of life is the very thing that will destroy us.

The Serpent's Curse: I'm not really sure... and I feel like this is important. Quinn has dismissed the Serpent altogether as an actor in this story, but I'm not ready to do so...

The Woman's Curse: Perhaps this refers to the fact that the birth of new societies out of old ones, in our culture, in response to changing conditions, is always done violently.

The Man's Curse: There is no doubt that agricultural societies work harder for a living than any other.

The Flaming Sword: WAR. Very simply put, if anyone attempts to "return to the Garden of Eden," that is, to attempt to live in the way all men lived before all this happened, he is rather quickly subjugated or eliminated by his neighbors. War is a fact of life, and the main reason we have to work as hard as we do is to support the armies that protect us from our neighbors. If anybody tried to live as an aborigine in the United States, he would rather quickly be taxed out of existance (an aborigine can't afford to pay property taxes, and would be chased off someone else's land). Try it in a place where property taxes aren't a problem, and someone is bound to cut down your forest, plant crops, and shoot you if you try to say anything about it.

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