Friday, April 8, 2011


It occurred to me this afternoon, while mulling over Milton's Paradise Lost, that for years I had misread the story of the Garden of Eden.  In my youth I thought it was about man's disobedience to God in a vaguely sexual way, what with all the co-ed nudity and all.  Later, Milton's epic half-convinced me that it was about man's failure to put God first in his life, Adam choosing damnation with Eve as opposed to everlasting life without her, then that the curse for disobedience would be mankind's inability to understand goodness from a pure state of innocence, but only in opposition to evil and suffering.  Even later, I considered the possibility that it was about missed opportunities--that is, man's failure to nab something off the Tree of Life (which granted eternal life and, I assume, youth) before being ousted from Eden by the angel with the fiery sword--sort of like a primordial Aladdin using up his three magic-lantern wishes without remembering to make one of them "three more wishes."  It was only this afternoon that the (now) obvious psychological significance of the story struck me.  In Eden, Adam and Eve were permitted to eat of all of the trees in the garden except that of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Isn't it just like human nature to want precisely the one thing that is disallowed?  And even in a garden so perfect as to have allegorical trees and talking animals, the quintessential human impulse is to cross boundaries and fly in the face of authority.  Go, humankind, go!

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