Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Real Original Sin

Title: The Real Original Sin
Word Count: 3,333
Genre: Mythological

This is another challenge piece I wrote, for a contest called 'All About Eve'. Basically, the premise was to write about the real story behind the first woman, whether it be Eve, Pandora, whatever.

I originally decided to go off and talk about Lilith, who, according to Jewish lore, was really the first woman. She was made out of the dust like Adam, and turned out to be too rebellious. There are various traditions for her after that, including the idea that nocturnal emissions fathered her demon children. It's an interesting myth if you ever get the chance to read about it.

Unfortunately, I lost that story, and wasn't able to recreate it. So I came up with a different angle. You should know the story of the Original Sin, how Adam and Eve had their 'eyes opened' to the world around of them. In this story, I play with that idea, suggesting that perhaps that was the only way that humans can really appreciate what they've been given is to experience hardship and pain.

Without further ado, here is The Real Original Sin
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They blame me for casting mankind out of paradise. They blame me for releasing evils upon the world. They ultimately blame me for every bad thing that has happened since my “transgression,” as if my action could permeate through the ages to affect them now. As if they would make a different choice than I did all those years ago. Even as if my actions were, dare I say it... evil.

Then again, I can't entirely blame them. They don't know the circumstances surrounding my actions. The details of that day, and the days before it, have become lost to all but those who lived then. Only a vague reference is made to me, to my choice, enough to let them think this was all my fault.

I have been called many things throughout the ages: Chavah, Heua, Ge'ez, but most people know me simply as Eve. It's high time my story was told; the whole story, not just the fragment children learn about in school or church, written so long after my death. It's time the truth came out.

Most know how it began. My master created the heavens and the Earth, the sun, moon, and stars, the beasts that roam the Earth and swim in its oceans. He also created my husband, Adam, and placed him in paradise, Eden. Adam did as he was told; he tended to the animals and plants in Eden, slept at night, and ate the fruits of the trees when he was hungry. He would speak to the animals, for we were all on the same level then, but none of them fulfilled Adam's need for companionship.

Adam became restless in those first days. He was lonely, and became irritated with the needs of the animals he was tending to. Though Eden was supposed to be a paradise, Adam was not happy. So, our Master created me. I was made from Adam's rib, a shelter for his life essence. Since I was only a part of Adam, I was physically weaker, but my essence was more concentrated. I was better able to deal with emotions and feelings from the start, because I came from a part of Adam that remains hidden.

Being in Eden, though, there wasn't much need for these emotions. Why did I need to be able to deal with great sadness or hurt when we lived in a perfect place? I was created with the capacity for them, but never felt it in those first few days of my existence. I merely completed Adam, gave him a companion who would suit him better than the animal companions he previously had. We knew each other perfectly, as no other couple would ever know each other again. Like him, I did what was expected of me; I tended to the plants and animals, and served as a wife to my husband. I enjoyed it. At least, I thought I did.

I was an excellent caretaker; all of the plants flourished in my care, and the animals sought me out to tend to their needs. Doing what I was told, I also stayed away from one plant, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It stood proudly in the middle of the garden, rising above all the other trees and bearing the most beautiful fruit in the garden. I enjoyed looking at it, though I did not dare approach. After all, what need did I have for its fruit when I had ample fruit all around me, however much it seemed to pale in comparison? I didn't understand why it would be necessary to defy the wishes of our Master.

A serpent approached me one day while I was gazing upon the Tree. I heard a rustling in the leaves of the bush next to me and jumped, momentarily startled by the movement in the otherwise still garden. After a moment, I calmed and noticed the serpent's tongue slide in and out of its mouth, tasting the air around it.

“Why do you tend all these plants, and yet shy away from that tree there?” he asked me slyly, moving around me in slow circles.

I shrugged, busying myself with collecting nuts that had fallen from the trees around me. “My master says we are not to tend to that tree, for we are not to eat that fruit. Besides,” I noted, “that tree does not need our tending. It flourishes perfectly well without us.”

“Do you always do what your master tells you to do?” he asked, a distinct challenge in his voice.

I turned my attention from the plant to the serpent and furrowed my eyebrows. “Of course. Don't you?”

His long tongue flicked out and his hiss came out in an amused tone. “I have no master. I take care of myself and enjoy it immensely.”

The concept of being your own master was so completely foreign to me that I could not fathom what he was telling me. “But, why would you not want someone to take care of you? Even if you did not need to be taken care of, why would you want to be alone? My husband tried that for a time, and could not stand it.”

“Your husband was never his own master. There is much to be said for independence.” With that, he slid between the leaves again, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

Though his words intrigued me, I quickly dismissed the conversation. After all, what need did I have for independence from my master? I was provided everything I could possibly want and enjoyed my time in the garden. I had food, companionship, and a purpose. The serpent was more than cunning, though; his purpose that first day was just to plant a seed of doubt. He approached me again the next day, remaining in the shadows as he spoke with me.

“You are nothing more than a slave here,” he taunted. “There is a whole world outside this garden, filled with more wonders than you can fathom.”

“The Garden is perfect. What else is there to explore?” I asked, not pausing in my tasks.

It is only perfect to you because you were told it was perfect. You only know what you can see now. With nothing to compare it to, how do you know it is perfect? Perhaps there is another garden that is better than this one, filled with other creatures and more flowers than you can imagine. But enslaved here in this garden, how do you know?” His tongue flicked out into the air before him as he spoke and I moved away unconsciously. Even then, I recognized that something was different about this creature, something that did not make me feel safe and secure.

“I am not enslaved here. I am free to do whatever I choose,” I argued, placing some seeds on a leaf for the birds to enjoy.

The serpent hissed malevolently. “Oh yes, you can do whatever you choose. So long as it is tending to these pathetic animals and staying away from the fruit of that tree. Do you even know why you do these tasks?”

I shrugged, keeping my face away from the serpent. “I am happy tending to these plants and animals, and I do not need to eat that fruit with all this other fruit available to me. Why should I disobey my master when there is no need?”

“Silly girl. You think that this is all there is to life. You have companionship, certainly, but you can't experience any real feelings. You aren't happy being a caretaker; you are content.” The serpent chuckled and slipped away once again, without waiting for any sort of response from me.

This time, his words puzzled me. I was happy, so why did he assert that I was only content?

My master found me wandering the garden that evening, looking for Adam so I could speak with him about the serpent.

“My child, what disturbs you?” The voice was perfect, velvet an soothing, like the babbling of a stream as it moves over the rounded rocks on the riverbed.

“I am... confused,” I declared, not knowing if that word described my feelings.

“What is it that you are confused about?”

I thought hard about how to phrase my confusion. Certainly my master already knew the source of my confusion; I was only being asked to find the answer for myself. A child cannot grow if the parent gives her no opportunity to. “The forbidden tree, I don't understand why we cannot eat from it.”

It was only a moment before I got a response, but the tension in that moment seemed to compress my chest uncomfortably. “You are not yet ready, my child. Be happy with all the other wonders available to you.”

I nodded, accepting that my master knew what was best for me. “When will I be ready?” I asked.

“I cannot tell you that. You will know then.”

Adam, not being quite as curious as me, accepted my tale without complaint. He felt no need to question our master's words, and no desire to find out more of what that meant. “Why concern yourself with something that you do not need?” he asked me. “If we were meant to eat from the Tree, there would be no prohibition against it.”

His words made sense to me, but I continued to puzzle over why we needed to be ready for what eating the fruit would do. Would it change us? The serpent had made it seem as though it would bring us independence from our master. But how? What about the way we felt about our situation? The serpent assured me I was only content, that I couldn't be happy, that I only knew what I was told. Would the fruit change that? The thought was at the back of my mind throughout the night and into the next day. At that point, I knew I had to speak to the serpent again.

Apparently sensing my need to speak with him, the serpent didn't show up that day, or the next. I was left to attempt to answer my own questions, becoming more and more unsatisfied with the answers I was finding. I became irritable, upset at the animals for disturbing my thoughts. I was angry with my master for giving me an answer I was not satisfied with. Frustrated, I smashed my foot into a melon growing out of the ground. The tension that had been building up over the past few days seemed to dissipate. While I was certainly not calm, I was no longer frustrated either. I stared blankly at the destroyed fruit resting at my feet.

That's when the serpent found me again.

“My, my. Aren't we testy this afternoon?” he hissed as he crawled up a tree.

I stared at the damaged melon at my feet. “I don't understand why I'm feeling this way. I want something, but I don't know what I want.”

The serpent hissed in pleasure. “Of course you don't. You're now breaking those bonds that have held you back. There's just one thing left for you to do.”

I looked up at him and frowned. “What bonds?”

He dropped down from the tree so his face was even with mine. “You were loyal to your master, and thus would not feel anything besides what you were told you could feel. When you began to question that loyalty, by desiring to eat the fruit, you were able to tap your potential. Just think of what it would be like when you can experience everything. You must eat the fruit.”

I shook my head slightly, feeling a sort of remorse for my defiance. “My master said I would know when I could eat from the Tree, that I was not ready yet.”

The corners of his mouth twitched. “You have changed a great deal in the past few days. Are you not ready to eat it now?”

I shifted my weight, uneasy with the way the serpent was watching me. “I don't know...”

His head shook slowly. “That is the Tree of Knowledge, yes? You won't know anything about the rest of the world if you do not eat from the Tree. Your master just wants to keep you under his control, keep you as a slave. But you're beyond that now. You want to know how to feel and be happy and know when something is beautiful without Him telling you so. You simply can't do that without eating from the Tree.”

I bit my lip as I considered his proposal. Over the past few days, I had come to understand that I was missing something, but I could not yet understand what it was that I was missing. Now, I had the opportunity to discover that, to really see the world for what it was. How could I possibly turn down an opportunity like that?

Instead of giving him a definite answer, I walked towards the Tree, taking small, unsteady steps as I went. I glanced back at him and noted the urging look in his eyes. As I approached the tree, I saw it begin to glow slightly, as if sunlight was radiating out of its bark. It was comfortably warm around the Tree as well, more so than in the rest of the Garden. I felt my heart beating faster, sure that this meant I was ready at last. I reached my hand out and plucked a juicy red apple from one of the lower branches of the tree. When nothing happened, I let out a breath I hadn't realized I had been holding. Unconsciously, I assumed that since eating the fruit was forbidden, so too was taking the fruit from the Tree. I had expected some sort of punishment to come right there, for my master to banish me for even considering this transgression.

The apple was heavy in my hand, but also cool. It contrasted greatly with the warmth of the air and I felt my mouth water at the thought of tasting the perfect fruit. The serpent hissed impatiently and I brought the apple to my lips, tasting the earthy skin reluctantly. Finally, I took a deep breath and bit a large chunk out of the apple.

I'm not sure what I expected, exactly, to come from eating the apple, but no major change took place. It wasn't as if my eyes were suddenly looking at a whole new world. Rather, the change took place slowly. I became upset that the change wasn't something spectacular, then annoyed with the serpent for coaxing me to eat the apple. After a few moments, I realized that these were new emotions, and yet I could somehow name them now. Other than this simple change, I didn't recognize anything different.

Still, I savored the taste of the apple, its brilliant flavors unlike any other fruit in the garden. It was richer, somehow, more potent.

Without paying heed to the serpent, I went to find Adam to share the experience. After all, if any change did take place, I couldn't very well handle the change alone. I was created to be Adam's companion, and yet now I was on a higher level than him. I knew more about the world than he cared to, and I wanted to open his eyes as well. How could I be his equal, his companion, if I had to treat him as a child, as an innocent?

I found Adam tending to a nest of birds. The mother was trying to teach the younger birds to fly, and was doing so by flapping her wings in demonstration. I watched the scene for a moment, entranced by the simple act of teaching. The mother then seemed to give up and just pushed one of her chicks out of the nest. Adam deftly caught the chick, then turned to scold the mother.

“Teaching takes time. Your chick isn't going to learn right away, it needs time to learn how to fly, to appreciate that it can fly.” Adam set the chick back in the nest, smiling.

“But, the chick isn't going to learn how to fly unless it is required to fly. Why would anyone leave the safety of the nest, where mama will feed and nourish you?” I asked, stepping forward. Adam turned to me with a slight frown on his face.

“Should the chick have to be hurt to learn to fly? When the time is right, the chick will want to leave the nest, create a new nest for itself,” he argued, petting the baby chick on the head gently.

I watched the mother bird for a moment, then turned back to Adam. “She knows it won't be hurt. The baby chicks can fly now, they just don't have the motivation to use their wings.”

“That motivation will come in time.” Adam nodded to himself.

“But what might the babies miss in that time?” I countered.

The mother bird, using this opening, pushed another of her chicks out of the tall nest. Adam moved to catch it again, but I grabbed his hand and pulled him back. The chick fell several feet before flapping its wings wildly and catching the air. With a happy chirp, the chick flew around in circles and made its way back up to the nest.

“See? He's happy now, and no harm came to him.” I smiled and patted Adam's hand slowly.

“How did you know that would happen?” he asked, confused.

I placed the apple in his hand, thinking carefully about my response. “Mothers always want what's best for their children. She would not have done that if she knew they would come to harm.” The words came easily, and I knew they were true, that I just had never considered the possibility before.

He moved the apple around in his hand for a moment, examining it closely. “What's this?”

“It's an apple from the Tree,” I said, motioning towards the center of the garden.
His eyes widened slightly and he nearly dropped the apple in surprise. “We're not to eat this. What have you done?”

I shrugged. “I have opened my eyes to the world around me. There's much you don't understand, that you can't understand. Eat the apple and you'll see.”

Of course, you know what happens now. Adam did eat the apple, and our master found us in our new state of knowledge. Angry that we defied His wishes, we were exiled from the Garden of Eden, made to work for our food and suffer. Looking into my children's eyes, though, I've come to learn how sweet this suffering makes life. After all, how could I have appreciated the twinkle in my Abel's eyes when he helped heal a sheep's leg, or when Cain made his first loaf of bread from the grain he so arduously cultivated? If everything had simply been handed to us for the rest of our lives, what sort of life would we have had? An easy one, certainly, but one without the joy of being together after working all day, or without the sense of accomplishment we felt when we did something new.

I'm convinced now that we were always meant to eat from the Tree. Our master simply made it forbidden to give us the choice between knowing good and evil, and suffering as a result, or living in ignorance and being unable to realize the true beauty He created. We still catch small glimpses of Eden in the world around us, whether it be a waterfall in a secluded forest, or watching a mother bird teach her chicks to fly. Maybe one day we'll be able to see the whole of paradise again. Maybe one day people will be able to understand why I made that initial choice, and why I still do not regret it to this day. Just maybe.
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