Genesis Chapter 2: Verses 15-17
“And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’”
In the Bible, in Genesis, God has told Adam he can eat of every tree in the garden except the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” When I was younger and very impressed by the Catholic Church, I believed it was inevitable that we would all be condemned because Adam had eaten the fruit of that tree. In the black and white rules of right and wrong, there was no way I could ever overcome that sin committed by Adam. Everything in life stemmed from what Adam and Eve did in the Garden. Once they had that forbidden “knowledge,” they were cast out and humanity was doomed. (this is not taking into account the redemption coming later from Jesus)
For so many years, I lived in fear of God’s retribution over my sins (whatever they could have been as a child and teenager). When I got a little older, I started becoming more aware of the world around me and the black and white often blurred into an area indistinguishable. How could something be right one day and wrong the next? I had a lot of confusion. It seemed cruel to think God would create a beautiful garden and give access to everything except one tree and then punish you for taking from that tree, regardless of the influence of other people (Eve), or serpents. Free Will was a manipulative and cruel joke where no one laughed and every decision would be the wrong one. What was the point?
But, still, I never wavered in my devotion to the God of my understanding and wanting to be the best person I could be. The fine line between black and white is difficult to walk without overstepping one way or the other at some point. Thankfully, as I got older, I learned how to think metaphysically; that is, beyond the literal meaning of things. What I believe the passage means now is that once you have an experience, you can never go back to the way you were before and thus you are changed from the way you were (the death referred to). There is no “good” or “evil,” per se, but perceptions based on one’s experience.
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is a level of awareness, I believe, and has nothing to do – ultimately – with things being good or bad, necessarily. The level of awareness we have is a measurement of our development. A child is not expected to have the same level of intelligence or maturity as an adult; adults in certain areas of the world or careers will have different levels of intelligence or experience than others. Once a person reaches adulthood, there are experiences gained that can never be un-experienced. Naïve, trusting innocence gives way to – good or bad – certain experiences that remove that precious innocence forever. Childlike faith becomes challenged by grown-up skepticism and a cynical viewpoint that makes that Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as gray as twilight. At least in the world called sane.
In that gray space of life shared by the gray matter of awareness mysteries exist which will never be solved. I don’t think I will see in my lifetime the level of education achieved by anyone that can explain how the brain truly works. How a mere shift in gray matter alters our perceived “reality” as surely as a fault line alters the face of the planet and life as we know it. There are at best educated guesses, like predicting the weather or Super Bowl scores. Shadows shift, never appearing exactly like they did before.
Mike and I have been together over 15 years; there is no way I would have believed in those first months together that our relationship would evolve to a place of such unknown quantity/quality of life. It has been an increasingly challenging journey, none of it predictable, none of it foreseen, none of it expected or planned. Despite his many strengths before, he was a co-dependent person, insecure as I came to understand, needing affirmation for who he was. But neither one of us ever saw this coming – this place of living twilight where the shadows and sun dance in a spiral as intricate as old Spanish lace. At least I didn’t.
If there is anything evil in the world, it is that which steals away the purity of the soul through the appearance of ego satisfaction. The real evil are those qualities of anger unresolved, existing for its own sake, jealousy, hatred, fear suspicious of truth of love, and all those dark shadows clouding the Spirit’s light within Its Creation. The bushel covering the Light is woven of those dark emotions that keep us forever rooted in the past, forever obsessed with the future, and forever barred from the pure joy of living in the now.
I wonder, where does this place exist, the place of innocence before we become aware of good and evil? Is it a State on the Continent of Denial? Is it a craftily produced channel on the Screen of our Identity? Can we deny Truth and maintain innocence and therefore be aware only of Good? Is it really true that in order to comprehend “good” we must experience bad or evil?
I think it may be that the place of innocence – the place in our awareness not yet fed by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – exists in a level of Being not concerned with knowledge or awareness for the sake of being aware (education), but simply by existence. It’s that childlike state – whether we’re 2 or 52 – before the knowledge of good and evil is gained, when the soul is truly free just to exist for the purpose of expression in whatever form the moment demands. Mike still seems, for the most part, happy with his existence. He has no cares for tomorrow. He is content with knowing how his day goes; he sleeps a dreamless, peaceful sleep; he goes to his mother’s when I’m at work; he calls me after lunch and before his nap, and he always wants reassurance of when I’m coming to pick him up. He loves it when we play with him in the evening, whether with his remote control trucks or a game on Wii or reading a story. He wants to know that he’ll have his bedtime snack of fruit and tea before going to sleep, and says he can’t sleep well if I don’t tuck him in and give him a goodnight hug.
(mike gets a bowl of fruit like this almost every night)
His days are content, unconcerned for yesterday, unworried about tomorrow. He is in a state of bliss most of the time. Those times of toddler-like frustration at not getting what he wants are expressed simply with the thrust of his bottom lip, crossed arms, and an honest exclamation of, “I’m upset!” He doesn’t hide what he’s feeling. He accepts reassurance without strings or compromise when I point out why something happened the way it did or how he can do something different to get what he wants, or simply with giving him the respect due his level of understanding. He doesn’t remember being angry yesterday; but neither does he remember excitement of splashing in the water at a pool, playing ball in the park, feeding the fish in a pond, or driving to a new store. He can’t see the moon or stars shining in the sky at night, but he can feel the warmth of the sun. He takes pride in folding towels fresh from the dryer and eagerly greets the dog when returning from a day away from home.
The roots of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil may reach deep into the earth, its branches reach high into the sky, reaching up to grab the Big Dipper, but nestled beneath its breezy branches in the cooling shade during the heat of the day, we sit, we look forward, we bide our time, contemplating neither good nor evil to an extreme, but simply taking each day as it comes.
Or trying to.