Friday, June 29, 2012


A few words of qualification before I start:
a) This is speculation. This is not fact, not doctrine; this is speculation. I saw this connection; thought it was interesting, and it made me think.
b) This seems really long for a blog posting, but, I want to make sure everyone knows the stories I’m talking about. If you already know them, you can probably skip them, though I hope you could still enjoy the spin I put on them.
                Today, I have three stories to tell. The first is a story of the Greeks.
                 Long, long ago, our ancestors were created by the gods in a state of bliss and sufficiency.[1] It was always spring and the climate was always mild; we knew only happiness and never wanted for anything. Our only obligation was to worship and serve the gods, which we did happily, for we knew nothing else.
                Now it happened that a titan, named Prometheus, began to wonder about the lot the gods had given us. “This is not right,” he thought to himself, “these creatures may be happy, but their bliss is in their ignorance, they are only happy as the dumb beasts are happy. Why should the gods have given them inquisitive minds and capable hands if they are not to use them?”
                This thought burned in his mind until one day he went to Zeus, king of the gods.
                “Oh, great Zeus,” he said “Why have you condemned these creatures to dumb ignorance? We should give the humans fire that they might grow in strength and knowledge.”
                “What you call ignorance is innocence.” Zeus replied “What you call darkness is the shadow of my will. Man is happy now. Man does not have fire, true, nor the crafts which fire teaches. On the other hand, he does not know disease, warfare, old age, or that inward pest called worry.”[2]
                “But they are only happy as the dumb animals are happy in their stupidity;” responded Prometheus, “they are happy only because they do not know what all that they do not have. Why have you made these creatures ingenious and capable if you will not let them use their ingenuity?
                “Humans are ingenious, yes, but they are also easily contained and easily awed. They use their ingenuity to worship us, but their blissful ignorance keeps them satisfied with their service. This is their purpose; this is their lot; and this is how they must remain.”
                “But surely, my lord, if we give them fire, they would be able to worship and serve us better; and they might become interesting to us as well.”
                “More interesting, perhaps, but infinitely more dangerous. For there is this in man too: a vaunting pride that needs little sustenance to make it swell to giant size. Improve his lot and he will forget that which makes him pleasing – his sense of worship, his humility. He will grow big and poisoned with pride and fancy himself a god, and before we know it, we shall see him storming Olympus. Enough, Prometheus! I have been patient with you, but do not try me too far. Go now, and trouble me no more with your speculations.”[3]
                Prometheus did leave, but he did not stop thinking. He mulled and ground at his thoughts until finally he came to a decision. He took some dry kindling, made a torch, and lit it with fire from Mt. Olympus. With this fire he descended to the tribe of men and showed them his gift. At first they were frightened of the fire, but Prometheus took some meat and let it cook slowly over the flames. Soon the humans’ eyes were opened as the delicious scent of cooking meat flowed into their nostrils. They could not help but descend ravenously upon the meat, savoring every last bite.
                With their stomachs won to his cause, Prometheus had only to teach the humans about the dangers of fire and how to contain it. They could discover all of the ways fire could be used on their own. Soon they were cutting down trees to fuel their fire, then they discovered that they could use the wood to make houses and villages as well. They discovered how fire would make metal soft and began making better tools to do more work with. They began using those tools to till the soil and raise crops, domesticate animals, and make ships to ply the oceans. They even made swords and spears and went out to wage war in the manner of the gods themselves.
                Soon, however, Zeus noticed a lag in the worship and sacrifice he received, he looked down and discovered, to his surprise, all these human endeavors laid out before him. In anger he tracked down Prometheus and demanded an account. Hearing the story he chained the titan to a rock and condemned him in his immortality to be forever fed upon by vultures and eagles for what he had done.
                Returning to the humans he sat down and watched them, angrily at first, but with a slow sly smile growing across his face. “This isn’t all bad,” he thought, “the game has become a bit more interesting now, just as Prometheus said. The humans will chase their new-found powers and eventually turn it upon each other. I will take revenge on Prometheus and his pets simply by allowing them to keep what they have taken.” And so he sits, watching through hooded eyes, the twisted destiny of humanity.
                The End
                My Second story is from the Hebrews:
The Garden of Eden
                In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth and all that is. He formed a man out of the dust of the earth and breathed life into him. He formed a woman out of the flesh of the man and gave the man and the woman to one other. The man was called Adam and the woman was called Eve.
                He set Adam and Eve in the middle of a garden where they had plenty of food and water and would never want for anything. They would never get sick, never hunger, never thirst, never be cold, never feel pain, never suffer, never die. He set them in relationship to their environment, in harmony and order with all creation and with God Himself. And every day, in the cool of the evening He would come and sit with them, or walk with them, or even simply hold them and be their father. He gave them a plan.
                “All this will continue day after day for as long as you can imagine if only you will do one thing.” He said, “Eat of the fruit of the tree of life, but do not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If ever you taste the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die.”
                They agreed and continued to live with their father, God.
                All went well until one day the serpent, the craftiest of all creatures, came and tempted them. “Did God really tell you not to touch the fruit?” He asked slyly.
                “Well, no,” they answered, “He did not.”
                “So go on, then, touch it. Does it not feel smooth and ripe? Can you feel the juice just bursting to get out? Fruit that feels like this simply must be eaten. What a waste for it to taste the ground! Why does God tell you not to eat of such wondrous fruit?”
                “God said that we would die if we ate it,” they answered.
                “What!” the serpent exclaimed laughing, “He said what! You will not die just from eating a piece of fruit! I know why God has told you not to eat it. He’s scared. He doesn’t want you to be like He is; He doesn’t want you to have knowledge and wisdom, and He knows that you will gain knowledge from eating this fruit.”
                So Adam and Eve looked at the fruit, and they looked at each other, and they looked at the serpent, and they took hold of the fruit, and they ate it. Just as the serpent said, they gained knowledge with their very first bite; before the juice was even dry on their chins they looked at each other and saw that they were naked. They were immediately embarrassed and went to cover themselves with plants and leaves and whatever they could find.
                Later that day, when God came, He found them hiding in the bushes, wearing tattered and torn fig leaves. He knew what had happened. He knew that they had rejected his plan; that they no longer trusted Him; that they wanted to find their own way in the world. So, He said “If you will not follow my instructions; if you will not trust what I say, and trust who I am, then I will let you find your own way. If you will not bear my presence, then you will have to leave my garden; and if you leave my garden, you must leave the tree of life. It will be hard for you, you will have to scratch the dirt to make it bear fruit, and you will have to suffer pain to alert you to danger. You will die, but I will not leave you without help. Although the Serpent who has led you astray will now forever more hunt you and lead you to danger, I promise you that one day, Eve, one of your daughters will bear a son who will crush this serpent and lead humanity back here to me.”
                So the Serpent was cursed; and Adam scratched the ground, and Eve bore children in pain; and their days were numbered in sweat and blood.
                The End
Two versions of the same story
                A simple chart will suffice to make my point
Creates humans
Creates Adam and Eve
Humans are in ignorant bliss
Adam and Eve are in perfect harmony
Prometheus’  name means “forethought”
The Serpent was the wisest of all the creatures
The story casts doubt on Zeus, Prometheus doubts Zeus
The Serpent causes humans to doubt God
Prometheus tempts with cooked meat
Satan tempts with fruit
Gift brings knowledge, but also war and disease
Fruit brings both knowledge and suffering
Prometheus is punished
Satan is cursed

Here is the last story, it is my own:
The Night the World Broke
                In the beginning, God formed humanity out of the elements of the earth. He crafted and shaped us out of creation. We were meant to love and be loved by God, and, through Him, with one another. These relationships were grounded in trust and knew no abuse. As long as there was no evil, we could trust with impunity. As long as we trusted God, we could never fall into evil (for evil is the antithesis of God). As long as the cycle continued, we held Paradise.
                Satan, for who knows what reason, despised this perfect society which we enjoyed with God and each other, so He came to us in the night. He brought fire. The fire was not magic; it was not special; and it brought no sudden epiphanies. It was just fire. But the fire was a symbol for something else. It was the symbol of a new way of life. It was a symbol of humanity’s attempt at providing for itself; of our turning our backs on God’s provision; and the beginning of our addiction to progress.
                Without fire, we had no need of fire. As long as we trusted God and allowed ourselves to be in correct relationship with Him, we had no needs that He did not take care of. But Satan knew that if He could get us to mistrust God, that He could break the whole system. We would leave God’s protection and become vulnerable to his machinations. Plus, by giving us fire, he could plant a myth in our heart: progress is always good, and more is always better. If He could convince us that we only needed new inventions and discoveries, or more money, or greater comfort to be happy, then we would never again look to God.
                So, he came.
“Hello,” he said gently, materializing out of the darkness with flint in his hand “May I join you?”
                At first, we were scared, especially when he piled up wood and started a roaring campfire; but his smile was easy and his stride was confident, so we didn’t try to stop him. He turned, surprised at our fear. “What, have you not seen this before? This is fire. It’s a wonderful tool.”           
                “No,” we said, “God has never even shown this to us.”
                Satan’s eyes grew large “Really? Wow, why would God keep such a marvelous gift from you.” Casually, he took a strip of raw meat and placed it over the fire. He stared into the flames for a moment, as if in deep thought, and then started and said “I wonder, has God told you what you are? Has He told you that you were made in His image, that you are gods?” Our looks of mystification answered his question. He stood “Why would God keep all this from you?”
                When he left, unnoticed as we stood fixated with the fragrance and flames, his words remained gnawing at our hearts. Questions turned to doubt, doubt turned to indignation, and indignation simmered into anger.
                The next day, God knew exactly what had happened. We believed the lie; we wanted to be gods. So, He let us. God is love, and love does not rape. Love does not force itself where it is unwanted. He tried to prepare us for the life we were choosing; He tried to warn us; He told us that once we left we could never get back on our own; that once mistrust is allowed to take root, you can never get it out.
Like a rebellious teenager, we ignored every word; and our story has been written in sweat and blood from that day to this.
The End

At what price do we progress?
Does my iPhone4 really make me any happier?
Did my ancestors smile, even through their sweat?
What has fire really brought us; and what has all our running around caused us to ignore?
Are we big enough to be our own gods?

[1] Herbert Spencer Robinson and Knox Wilson Myths & Legends of all Nations (NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1950) 123.
[2] Bernard Evslin, Dorothy Evslin, Ned Hoopes The Greek Gods (NY: Scholastic Book Services, 1966) 58. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are the author’s invention. The particular quote here footnoted is an exact quote from The Greek Gods.
[3] Evslin, 58-59. Exact quote.

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