Lessons from the Garden of Eden5
Back to The Garden
The Garden of Eden story is perhaps one of the most important, elegantly crafted pieces of communication ever created. Its impact on the course of human events is like no other. There’s a reason why it is a sacred story: POWER -- the power to explain. The power to influence.
Why does the story exist? For three of the great religions of History – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – it is the cornerstone of moral teaching. It introduces the concepts of Sin, Good & Evil, Right & Wrong to believers – billions of them.
Like none other, the story of Adam & Eve in the Garden answers the deepest of questions about the human condition. It lays bare who we are at our most fundamental state of being: We are creatures struggling with varying degrees of inadequacy…and all the trappings that come with that self-perception.
This aspect of the story – this truth bout the nature of humanity -- has existed in plain sight, yet has been obscured for millennia.
Because we are no longer inhabitants of the world God intended for us. We are inhabitants of The World, a world co-opted by the Serpent, by Satan.
And what is his desire? One thing: To create an environment in which anti-beingness flourishes. He, as the one in control, wants humanity to wallow in its sense of inadequacy because he knows it is the most effective way to keep us separated from God.
And what better way is there to foster this separation and perpetuate this atmosphere of inadequacy than to obscure the truth.
How has this truth been obscured? Through the serpent’s favorite tool: ambiguity.
Words are the fundamental building blocks of human communication. To be blocks, words need substance. That substance comes from the meaning the words are given and the broad acceptance of that meaning.
When a person hears, “Stop!” he/she knows to “cease motion.” This is a very straight-forward bit of effective communication. But what happens when the command is a much less straight forward “Don’t!”
Instead of immediately ceasing action, the receiver of this command’s initial response is most likely to be: “Don’t what?” As a command, “Don’t” is less clear than “Stop”. The element of ambiguity is therefore introduced and its power and meaning subsequently diluted.
There is a fundamental difference between these words. “Stop” is an action word. “Don’t” is a conceptual word.
Action words are easily defined and accepted. Conceptual words are less precise in meaning and allow for ambiguity. With ambiguity comes interpretive lee-way and the opportunity to manipulate and obscure real meaning.
Sin has been shaped into a concept word through the ages and ambiguity has followed, hence the lack of clear definition of the word. In the murkiness that has prevailed, the opportunity has arisen to manipulate its meaning thus obscuring its true meaning. The result is the perpetuation and strengthening of humanity’s inadequacy.
The meaning gets even murkier because sin has become all about following rules, or, at least, the avoidance of it is about rules. Break the rules – BINGO! – you’ve sinned. But here’s the insidious element of this situation: the rules defining sin are generally at odds with basic human nature. When the rules are broken and you’ve sinned according to the rules, what happens? You feel bad about yourself. Rules get broken – sin happens – people feel bad about themselves. Inadequacy wins out.
Hasn’t history shown humans tend to resist rules almost by nature? Ban something and suddenly it’s in great demand.
Did prohibition stop Americans from drinking? It just took it underground and added a dash of daring. Suddenly it was vogue to “live a little dangerously.”
Rules don’t necessarily curb our desire to break them. In fact, they tend to compel humans to break them or at least stretch them to their very limits.
What does one look for in a lawyer? The ability to creatively bend the rules.
When the U.S. Congress passes a campaign reform bill, what happens? Some clever lawyer finds a loophole, a way to bend, circumvent and or stretch the rules.
A man and a woman may want to “be” with each other but not want to become adulterers (in the strictest definition of the word) So they jump into bed and do everything but have intercourse.
Right & Wrong are ultimately only about action. But when rules are put in place as arbitrators of morality, the line between action and character gets blurred. We feel guilty about not measuring up and the Serpent has us where he wants us: trapped in murky ambiguity.
What happens while we’re trapped in murky ambiguity? We begin to chaff against bumping into these rules so much we get thrown into feelings of futility and helplessness which lead to reinforcement of the sense of inadequacy. And all this leads to depression. In order to stave off/deal with/compensate for depression, drugs, alcohol, sex, over-working, over-achieving – all sorts of negative compensation behaviors come into play.
But all these behaviors really accomplish is to make us feel more inadequate -- because we’re not dealing with the real situation. We’re dealing with compensation behaviors. We’re dealing with lines of defense.
People live their entire lives behind lines of defense. They relate to the world, to others, to themselves through these lines of defense.
(And one of the most powerful lines of defense ever created is Religion.)
Keeping people behind these lines of defense allows the serpent to maintain his control over Creation, bend it to his will and shape it to his image: Inadequacy. As a result, Humanity spends its time in this world – whether it realizes it or not – dealing with inadequacy.
The serpent may be able to obscure the Truth, with his murky ambiquity, but he cannot hide the Truth. That’s what makes Truth so powerful– it eventually comes out. The Truth is always finally revealed. It always seems to show up…eventually. It’s as if it were alive!
In actuality, Truth IS alive. It is rooted in creation and is, therefore, as alive as Creation is alive. Subsequently, the same holds for its opposite. Anti-truth, anti-being-ness is alive, too. And alive means active which works to explain a whole lot about what goes on in this world.
Why does it seem like there’s a lot more “un-good” than good in the world? Why does it always seem like it’s a struggle for Good?
Because that’s exactly what’s going on.
It is important to note here that Adam & Eve weren’t kicked out of the Garden because of their incident, because they accepted the idea of their inadequacy. In fact, they weren’t really kicked out of the Garden by God at all. The story is actually more of a sad parting. Adam & Eve needed to leave the Garden so that they would not be tricked into eating the fruit of the Tree of Eternal Life.
God realized that had Adam & Eve eaten from the Tree of Eternal Life, they and by association – we – would be trapped in our state of inadequacy forever.
Could you imagine what a hell that would be?
In his infinite love for us, God opted to protect us from that fate and took us out of the Garden. He put us as far away from that Tree as we could possibly get. He left us to work out our destinies in this world. He led us here so we can work out and through our state of inadequacy.
And to help us do that, He gave us this wonderful story that protects and perpetuates the ultimate truth about who we are.
He did not leave us to fend for ourselves. He left us with all the tools we need. He even sent His Son to show us the way and pay our debt. All we need to do is use these tools.
Our task – our purpose in this world – is to shed our shackles of inadequacy and move to embrace adequacy.