Day 95

My partner just asked how many days behind I was. Turns out it’s three. Doops.

Pulled my pipe out so I could feel distinguished. Now I might have to have a quick smoke tonight. Don’t know how my partner will feel about that, but we’ll see. It’s like having a glass of red wine in my hand as I write: it makes me feel thoughtful and classy.

I just watched the movie Saved! tonight. If you’ve never seen it, go watch it. I forgot how good it is. It’s different to see movies that involve God now that I’ve grown closer to (but still infinitely distant from) Him. My favorite part of movies like Saved! and Dogma is that they involve a character (or two) doubting, questioning, and at some points even denying God, but later they come to know and love God again, and usually their eyes are opened by an unlikely source: in Saved!, the cynical, rebellious Jewish girl comes to the main character’s aid when no one else will help or pay attention to her, and in Dogma, two irreverent stoners, a stripper (who happens to be Serendipity, a muse), and the never-mentioned thirteenth apostle of Jesus Christ (all who have very non-traditional views on God) are the ones who help the main character (who works at an abortion clinic) save the world.

I think the hard part for me is that in both of the above movies, the hard-headed religious zealot is the bad guy/girl. I don’t want to be like that; I don’t want to turn into something I hate. I can see how it must be easy for people to get incredibly evangelical and feel like if they’re not talking about God all the time then they’re doing it wrong. I have to remember that sometimes (often?) in our modern world that people do not want to hear this message. People do not want to hear that they are wrong, that who they are is not good enough. I don’t blame them.

For those of us living in this strange world, caught as we are within the so-called “Great Mystery,” travel down the road comes slowly; at least for me it did. It still does. And it’s hard for me to remember that there are people with different interpretations of the Bible. I feel as though I’m missing something. Perhaps by the time I have finished the Bible I will have a better understanding. Perhaps I will have a sense of how to interpret it and still remain myself. Right now I feel like I’m going to be lost in all this.

A Christian who is a sculptor might make statues that glorify God, a painter might make a painting. I know how to write and speak; perhaps this is how I will glorify Him. But I also have empathy and compassion… perhaps by demonstrating and teaching the truth of Love, I can bring people to the truth of Light.

1 John 4:8 would be appropriately quoted here,

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

but I prefer, having now read it, 1 John 4:7, which reads

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

I like it because the negative is absent; 1 John 4:8 clarifies that God is love (but as C. S. Lewis writes, love in itself is not God or a god to be worshiped) but 1 John 4:7 is a positive command, a blessing, if you will, a wish that we will love one another as dear friends. If I were to die right now, I would want 1 John 4:7 to be my last words to the world.

I’m going to catch up on my other two chapters. This is good enough for this one.

Peace be upon you.

Day 3

This will be brief, out of necessity. My partner stayed over last night and to the morning and I have not yet had time to begin writing.

I asked her about the apparent discrepancy between Genesis 1 and 2. She said that perhaps it just appears out of order, perhaps that there were already plants and animals elsewhere but that God created the garden itself after breathing life into Adam. Speaking of “breathing life,” it’s going to be interesting how many sayings or metaphors we still use that come from the Bible. I have a feeling I’m going to find several.

One thing I discovered is that there is a chance that the word “formed” in the NKJV may be an incorrect or incomplete translation. There is a potential that the original Hebrew word could also be translated as “had formed,” which would make verses like Genesis 2:19 fall in line with Genesis 1. The other thing I pointed out to her was that Genesis 2 tells a different story with a different lesson than Genesis 1.

Also, I discussed that, if one believes that the Bible is divinely inspired, then any translation error would have to be intentional, have meaning, or both. There would be a holy purpose for every mistranslated word.

Also also, my partner pointed out that in Genesis 1, it appears to imply that all animals were vegetarians, and that meat eating didn’t begin until the Fall of Man. I asked why God would create wolves with such sharp teeth if they were meant to eat fruits and plants. She said perhaps that’s when evolution kicks in, and allowed animals to evolve into meat-eating forms.

I told her if you’re going to use evolution to defend the Bible, you better produce a fossil record; you can’t have it both ways. She didn’t seem to like that. But that’s just what makes sense to me. I keep my science and my faith separate because they describe two different things.

But this is why I’m reading this book. I have questions and I might not be able to find answers, but God put a burning desire in me to constantly seek understanding, and I think I have found a purpose for that fire. I want to seek understanding now of this book, of this faith, and I will raise questions as they come. There is no intended disrespect. I think it is fair and right to seek knowledge and to ask questions of God. Faith should not and need not imply ignorance; that is my opinion.

Genesis 3

People sometimes say that the serpent is Satan. I see nothing that implies this. It seems simply that the serpent is a trickster and a deceiver. Its name is not capitalized, and nothing indicates to me that it is anything other than a snake.

When I first felt and knew and understood the presence of God, I visualized an Infinite Serpent, coiled upon itself in an infinity symbol. There was no visible head or tail, just a body, infinitely entwined. In my mind, the head that I could not see represents the higher spiritual realm, and the equally invisible tail, the lower. This is my own interpretation of a strange and mystical experience.

But when I visualized this image, I felt the presence of what people call the Holy Spirit. I felt love and peace such as I had never known. I knew that I was a part of this universe, that God existed, and that all was Good.

It all came crashing down shortly thereafter and after weeping with joy, I wept with sorrow. I was afraid that the Serpent I saw was a deceiver, and it hurts my heart even now to remember this feeling. But like the Serpent at Yggdrasil, the World Tree, in Norse mythology, the Infinite Serpent I witnessed was indeed venomous.

The good and the bad were entwined within it, and I understood all the ills of the world. This might not sound right, but bad things happen because a) men are free to make decisions and sometimes those decisions hurt others, but more importantly because b) without some measure of stress, we would never grow strong.

Yes, there are things in this world that seem horrifying. We should all be more kind and understanding with one another. However, just as muscles atrophy without some measure of stress and activity, so too do the mind and soul wither without challenge providing the opportunity for growth. We must, out of necessity, rise to our occasions; otherwise all would be stagnant. “What a man can be, he must be.”

But back to Genesis 3.

I don’t have time to discuss talking snakes, so who cares. There’s a point to the story. God says that if you eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that Adam or his wife will surely die. Long story short, they eat and are still alive! Is God a liar?

Of course not. One could argue that they do die, eventually, and that had they not eaten of the tree they would have lived forever! But I don’t like this explanation, because God later says in Genesis 3:22 that they would only live forever if they ate of the tree of life, which is why he banishes them from Eden in the first place.

In my opinion, the death is a spiritual one. By knowing good and evil, by being ashamed of their nakedness, by knowing how to judge, mankind has lost its innocence. Man is dead inside; he and his kind will suffer, toil, and die.

In the book, The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, he discusses the fact that human beings are living in a dream. We dream constantly, we make assumptions about things constantly and dream things up in our imagination. Think about the way the mind alters and manufactures memories… think about the way the mind fills in the details of familiar things. Have you ever driven to work and realized that you were on autopilot the whole time? You can barely remember the journey!

I don’t have time to get into the scientific literature on the nature of memory, but let’s just say that I agree with his statements. The problem is that we live in this dreamworld and we are controlled by a judge inside of us that judges everyone and everything that ourselves and others do, say, or do not do. We judge because we have to make sense of the world. But when we are controlled by this judge, when we feel victimized, we live in the past, we hold on to the past and constantly dredge up painful memories. How often have you been haunted and ashamed of a mistake you made several years ago?

Don Miguel Ruiz says that by living in the past, by living under the tyranny of this judge, we are only half-alive. We are too busy dreaming to see the present, to see the truth that is always before our eyes. Everything we see and touch is the truth, but we have no eyes for this truth — we are blind to it. (I think somewhere down the road we will see that Jesus heals blindness, no?)

So anyway, in my opinion, God is telling the truth. Adam and his wife will “die,” when they eat of this tree. They are no longer innocent; and the FIRST THING they do is judge themselves. They are afraid or ashamed of their nakedness. Now that they have become able to judge, they are afraid of their innocence. They have forgotten it.

Another interesting part is that Genesis 3:8 says that “the Lord God walk[ed] in the garden in the cool of the day.” So God here is described as having a physical presence, a physical body. Perhaps, anyway. Just an interesting aside.

Also after the “Fall of Man,” when Adam and his wife eat the fruit, God tells her that she will suffer childbirth. This also appears to be different from Genesis 1, where God says to man and woman, “Be fruitful and multiply,” which seems to have no negative connotations. Again, it is my opinion that God created more than just Adam and Eve. I don’t know how else you explain where Cain and all his sons found wives. Plus what about the Neanderthals? Plus… ehhh we’re not going down that road.

I’m not trying to take this book literally. But there are people who do and I do not wish to insult or offend them. I believe these are stories with messages. As I discussed yesterday, narratives make us remember lessons; without the story, without the emotion, the lesson would easily be forgotten.

Back on track… Genesis 3:17-19 are interesting because they describe the advent of agriculture, it seems. Man has gained knowledge of himself, the understanding of good and evil. And he suffers for it. He becomes “like one of Us,” (Genesis 3:22, again with the first-person plural…) and he suffers.

The interesting thing to me is that in the archaeological record, human life gets worse after the advent of agriculture. God tells Adam that “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread/Till you return to the ground,” (Genesis 3:19) and it is bread or grain that appears to have caused mankind no end of trouble. Starches helped rot our teeth, and men and women both worked long hours in the fields and over grinding-stones to make flour. Backs became hunched, knees and joints arthritic. Mankind suffered from agriculture.

And, like being cast out of Eden, the free-spirited living off the land that early man enjoyed can never be returned to. There is no going back. Once a tribe or group can feed its members consistently, it grows, and can never again be supported by foraging. The way of life is lost, never to return. In a sense, this is Eden, an ever-providing garden that mankind will never again enjoy.

The interesting thing about Göbekli Tepe, which I mentioned yesterday, is that one of the men who discovered or wrote about it, believes that it is a temple in what was once called or referred to as Eden. Man ate of the animals and the plants. But by gathering together in large numbers, the people needed more food to feed themselves. They discovered agriculture; they could make plants grow on their own terms. But as I said, there is no going back. Their lifestyle changed, and they suffered for it. They farmed and farmed, not understanding crop rotation, or the nutrients of the soil, and they farmed the land to death. There is a reason there is  desert in that region of the world. So they cursed their fate, and buried their once-sacred temple. It reminded them of a past, of an innocence, of a forgotten Eden to which they would never return. An interesting theory to say the least. We shall never know the whole truth, but it is a hauntingly beautiful story.

Even in our disobedience, God shows Adam and Eve his love. He gives them clothing (Genesis 3:21), but he realizes that man cannot be allowed to live forever. So out from the garden they go. To me it is interesting, because even though this is seen as a “bad thing,” the Fall of Man appears to have been inevitable. People multiplied, and many lives were brought into the world, onto the earth, because of this Fall. Adam and Eve would bear children and multiply….

My life, your life, we are all here today as a result of agriculture, as a result of reproduction. There is an unbroken chain of life going back and back and back…. It seems to me that God knew this would happen all along. The world is not perfect, and man must be given suffering to rise above. Man must be given challenges to overcome. It is how we grow, how we strengthen our souls. Man, like an innocent child, cannot live in the garden forever. What would be the point?

Life is both means and end. Life is for living. We are here to have experiences, we are here to make connections, to live, to love, to learn, and to grow. We are here to make the best of this world, to make the best of the circumstances and the life that God has given us. What more could we ask for but to be alive?

This is one of the most fundamental questions a human being can ask. My favorite answer to this question comes from the movie Dogma. (Spoiler alert incoming)

At the end of the movie, the main character, a woman, Bethany, dragged into a universe-ending conflict, gets to meet a physical embodiment of God, played hilariously by Alanis Morissette. God cleans up all the mess with a blink of Her (His?) eyes, and before leaving, Bethany asks, “Why are we here?”

God thinks for a moment, and boops Bethany on the nose with Her finger. Bethany looks confused.

We are here because we are here. It is both as simple and as complex as that. Life is for living, learning and experiencing. I believe it should be about doing good, building bridges with other humans rather than burning them, bringing people together rather than pushing them apart. But we all have our own God-given paths and circumstances. Life is about finding the purpose, finding the good that one can do amidst those circumstances, or in spite of them.

I am already filled with joy and purpose from writing this. I feel better already. Thank you, God.

To anyone and everyone reading this, I love you. Thank you for joining me on this wonderful day.

Peace be upon you.