Conservatives and the Tree of Knowledge

While reading about Neil Gorsuch confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, I started thinking about the Genesis story of man’s fall from grace.  Mr. Gorsuch defended  a Christian family business’s right to refuse to comply with Obamacare’s contraception mandate as this impinged on their freedom of religion. And I started thinking, do conservatives think they are better than their God.

In the Book of Genesis, God tells Adam and Eve that they may eat from everything in the garden, except for the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  Notice, how God did not keep the tree away from them.  He just merely warned them against it.  If he truly wanted to control the lives of his creations, he wouldn’t have put the tree there.  After all this is the only way to make sure that Adam and Eve  would not partake in it.  But He didn’t do that.  He didn’t do that because He, according to those who believe in Him, gave us free will.  The same way, we as parents tell our children not to do something, and then they do it anyway.  Those children took their parents admonition and then decided whether they should follow it or not:  Free Will.

I’m sure, if there’s an equivalent of a God’s conscience, that having humans partake in the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, was against His.  However, He did not remove this option from his creation.  He simply admonished them to stay away.

Yet, religious conservatives do not follow this simple example from God.  If something goes against their conscience, they want to impose that view on everyone, denying  people the first right that their God gave to His creation:  Free Will.

So the lesson from the Tree of Knowledge, it’s not that it was bad or evil, but rather, that we as humans have choices.  Some good, some not so good.  God let us know by planting the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden, that we were free.  Free to make our decisions; free to live there forever without ever tasting the fruit; or taste the fruit and suffer for it.  But it’s up to us individually to make those choices and deal with the consequences from those choices.  If God did not keep the “bad” away from me, why should Father O’Rourke, or Pastor Campbell, or Sister Perez.

These religious leaders have it all wrong.  Their job is to guide their flock, not prohibit, or mandate their lives.

 

Life is Not Beautiful

Life is beautiful. I’ve heard this statement so many times, often nodding in agreement, because it seemed like it was the expected thing to do. To accept this statement at face value is to bring hope; to squelch my feelings of quite the opposite: that life is anything but beautiful. When someone tells me this, I look into their eyes to catch a glimpse of that sentiment. I want to feel for a moment what they are feeling; to see through their eyes what they are seeing, wanting to believe that it is me who sees the world distorted whose perspective misses the “beauty” who wants to deny the reality of what my eyes and ears perceive.

But is it really me who’s in denial about life’s beauty? I guess it all depends on how one defines beauty. Oh sure, life has many beautiful moments: the birth of a child, a sunrise, a sunset, a beautiful landscape, a blooming flower, falling in love and have it be requited and many other joyful, awe inspiring occurrences in a person’s life. Those are all beautiful moments, but they are individual moments enjoyed by the ego, or the individual. For me to grasp the beauty of those moments, I have to deny the existence of every other evil/ugliness that is occurring at that precise instant. While I hold my baby close to me and kiss his sweet cheeks and hold his tiny little finger and thanks the heavens for this gift, I choose not to acknowledge that another child in another place is suffering malnutrition, or abuse, or has lost a mother or father to war or disease or accident. I choose not to see that a mother has lost a child to death by whatever means. I choose to deny that almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. Or that there are currently fifteen African countries involved in some kind of war or that death by terrorism worldwide has increased 83% since 2013. While enjoying the miracle of my child, I do not want to know about, poverty, addiction, disease, decay, crime, wars, terrorism, pollution, natural disasters, accidents and every other worldly calamity. My mind refuses to go there and only sees the innocence of my child and my senses experience only joy when holding my child. And for a moment, I feel that life is beautiful. The experience of beauty in our lives acts as an emotional anesthetic, dulling the collective pain of the world.

But life is not beautiful. Life is chaos. Life is threatening. Life is a struggle. From the moment we are born, we are merely trying to survive. Some survive better than others. But in the end we all lose the race, for none survive. To live is to die. And no one makes it to the finish line unscathed. Some of us have more beautiful moments in our lives than others. So life may be the quest to experience as many beautiful moments as possible. But life itself is not beautiful.

What is beautiful is the human spirit. A spirit that since time immemorial keeps searching for beauty in its purest form. A child takes his first breath and like an addict taking his first hit, gets a glimpse, of what could be. And for the rest of our lives we are chasing that vision. Isn’t this what our founders intended when they gave us the right to the “pursuit” of happiness? That’s what we all do. We are in constant pursuit of that elusive, ephemeral beauty. We hold on to those beautiful moments life offers us and we cling to the hope of making those moments eternal, real, the norm rather than the rarity.

I think the movie “Life is Beautiful” expressed this excellently. While in a Nazi concentration camp, dad shields the child from all the cruelty, savagery and ugliness of the place and the humans guarding it. His love for his child created a fantasy world (a beautiful world) in which the child to live. He did not allow the ugliness to squelch his spirit his hope that while life was not beautiful for him, it may be for his son. He passed the dream/hope on to his son the way a relay racer passes the baton.   If we all keep on holding on and keep pursuing it, someday, we may win the race and attain a beautiful life.

relay race

Has a Single Life Ever Been Saved?

I  think is funny when people say, “you saved my life;” or give credit to something or someone when they were “saved” from imminent death.  First of all, no one saves a life. There has never been since the history of mankind a single life that has been saved. Someone’s inevitable death was just postponed, that’s it. That’s the best we as mere mortals can do and hope for.   So when the doctor cures your cancer, guess what, you’re still going to die eventually.  The people who were saved from Ebola, they’re going to die.  If you’re reading this, you’re going to die.  The biggest cause of death is not heart disease, or cancer, or even stress.  The biggest cause of death is life.  You can’t die without it.  That’s just the way life is.  Life is death.  The only requirement needed to die is to be alive.  The one thing that we as living creatures have in common, be it animal, plant or human, is death.  Even a cat with 9 lives, eventually dies. This is not being morbid. It’s just reality.   So if you find yourself in a situation where you surely would have died, and someone rescues you, please don’t thank them for saving your life.  Thank them for allowing you to live another day, for delaying your ultimate destination.

death_quote_5

Light at End of Tunnel