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Adam and Eve

August 31, 2014

The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis is a story that is strikingly true of humankind. No, it’s not history or biography. But it’s an ancient story that must have been told around tribal fires, and it is as true today as it was then. Those early Semitic people recognized that their inner nature included feelings that had the potential for both good and bad for them as individuals and as a tribe. It is still a basic part of our being human even today.

We now know that we humans are part of a 13.7 billion year creation story that is still evolving, and that each of us still has many of the strong survival instincts within each of us that we share with all other life. Who has not felt that rush to strike out when threatened? Maybe we use words to hurt, but the news is filled with more physical reactions – we even kill. Sexual abuse is more widespread than usually reported. Those animal instincts within us are strong indeed. They come from those early evolved sections of our brains that we still share with reptiles and early mammals.

But our human brain evolved with frontal lobes (located right behind our eyes and forehead), significantly developed only in humans. One can say that it is the frontal lobes that make us human. Consciousness and self-awareness arise there. It is in the frontal lobes that we choose among the competing drives of our mammalian and reptilian sections of our brain to override and control their animal instincts. It is there that we create ideas, construct plans, make complex decisions. It is in the frontal lobes that we understand the difference between good and evil and make choices accordingly. Those early Semitic people recognized that the potential for evil is a universal imperfection within themselves, with resulting estrangement from God. This is the truth in the Adam and Eve story with its poetic apple.  Our new creation story of cosmic evolution is simply an updating of that old story. And it’s no less sacred.

Listen to a more recent poet, Carl Sandburg:


There is a wolf in me . . . fangs pointed for tearing gashes . . . a red tongue for raw meat . . . and the hot lapping of blood . I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me, and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fox in me . . . a silver-gray fox . . . I sniff and guess . . . I pick things out of the wind and air . . . I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers . . . I circle and look and double-cross.

There is a hog in me . . . a snout and a belly . . . a machinery for eating and grunting . . . a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun. I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fish in me . . . I know I came from salt-blue watergates . . . I scurried with shoals of herring . . . I blew waterspouts with porpoises . . . before land was . . . before the water went down . . . before Noah . . . before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me . . .clambering-clawed . . .dog-faced . . . yawping a goloot’s hunger . . . hairy under the armpits . . . here are the hawk-eyed hankering men . . . here are the blond and blue-eyed women . . . here they hide curled asleep waiting . . . ready to snarl and kill . . . ready to sing and give milk . . . waiting. I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird . . . and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want . . . and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chatanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes. And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a menagerie, under my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart – and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where. For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.

Carl Sandburg, Cornhuskers  (1918)

Loren Bullock
August 23, 2014

Note: Long ago, I had a recording of Carl Sandburg reading one of his poems. He read very deliberately, pronouncing each word distinctly, hissing a final “s,” stretching out a final “o ” or an “m.” He used pauses which I think are the meaning of the ellipses above (the . . .). So I hear that strong baritone voice when I read his poem. Maybe you can too.

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