Curiosity Killed the Cat (though boredom may have killed him sooner)
Getting the boot in Sunday school is less radical than expulsion from the Garden of Eden, aka “Paradise,” though, curiously, each event begins with curiosity, that natural expression of Free Will. In other words, each is a different rendering of the same human story. Adam is told he may eat the fruit of any tree in the Garden except for that one which, as I point out in the first chapter of Original Sinners, makes that tree “the most interesting thing in the Garden.” Likewise, in Sunday school, there was an unspoken, inviolable, rule that we students were to accept what we heard as though it came from God’s own mouth. Some of my classmates seemed born for that atmosphere of true-believerism—and I should confess that I envied them a little, and that I’ve often pondered how much simpler life must be for those whose programming allows the sort of easy acceptance I’ve never been able to manage.
The tree in question appears in the second creation story, which begins halfway through the 4th verse of chapter 2 of the book of Genesis. I find it interesting that in a patriarchal culture like the one in which the story was written, it is Eve’s curiosity, not Adam’s, that gets the ball rolling. Like Einstein said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reasons for existing.” One of Curiosity’s reasons, it seems, is to stir things up.
A Few Notes About My Blog
This is not a religious blog, because Genesis is not religious, not in the way we tend to think about religion—that is, belief in a formal or informal set of beliefs about a Supreme Being.
What you will not find in a reading of Genesis:
- Anyone trying to convert anyone else;
- People praying together. Yes, Jacob did pray. Twice. The first time was the morning after the dream about the ladder, the second, twenty years later, on hearing the scouting report that Esau was bringing 400 armed men to their reunion. This, the brother he’d cheated, who, last he’d heard, was "consoling himself by planning to kill you";
- Anyone whose personal presentation—i.e., manner of speaking, vocabulary, the sort of real and false piety now ubiquitous in the media—signifies him or her as a "religious" person.
What you will find in a reading of Genesis:
- Characters who occupy a deeply ironic, unique place in the human imagination. On the one hand, their moral/spiritual DNA is embedded in the foundations of Western civilization. On the other, but for biblical stories and commentaries, no proof of their existence is to be found in the vast archeological record. They are probably fictional creations, yet they have and continue to shape us as a society and as individuals, those of us who are religious and those of us who are not;
- Three thousand year old stories achingly human in their narratives of stupidity, greed, bravery, cunning, courage and the rest. In other words, stories and characters that are universal, that, if the reader wants, can be a conduit into the self, and into the deeper matters of being human. In fact, I would say that anyone who does a close reading of Genesis, who looks deeply into the characters, will find reflections of his/her own best and worst selves.
One last thing: Because these stories and characters have shaped us all, they belong to us all, the unreligious as well as the religious. Think of them as property held in common.