Friday, February 13, 2009

Forbidden Fruit

Alas, today's first reading tells of the beginning of all our troubles. Every sorrow, every grief, every act of injustice, war, infidelity, deception. Some superficial types complain that God should not have put the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" in the primordial garden if he didn't want us to eat its fruit. But let's see what the story really tells us...
The first thing I noticed on re-reading the story last night was the serpent's odd phraseology: if you eat the fruit, "you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil."
Evil is the privation of good. God, the true God, does not know evil! And he wanted to spare us this "knowledge," too, because you can only know a privation by suffering it. Outside of the experience of a privation, you do not really know it; you only know "about" it. So Adam and Eve already had been like God in their knowledge of good and evil.
The serpent can only be speaking of false gods: "god" redefined. How is it that Eve, or Adam after her, did not stop short at the glaring disconnect and say, "This does not match our experience of God at all!" Instead, they entered into the fictional worldview--where we have remained ever since: a world of competition ("red in tooth and claw") and ladder-climbing and backstabbing, of "winners" and "losers".
In the Gospel, Jesus brings the surprising freshness of God's own view of reality; an innocent worldview where " 'yes' means 'yes,' and 'no' means 'no'." He undoes the privation suffered by the nameless deaf man. Too bad Adam and Eve had not earlier been deaf to the serpent's insinuations!

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