Religion, Poems for Kids, and Choices

I really like this poem by Shel Silverstein. Sure, it is a children's poem, but Shel dives into some deep water here. In reading it, I am reminded of Rabbi Harold Kushner's insight into the Biblical Adam and Eve story.

According to the Christian narrative I had long heard, the story went something like this: Adam and Eve were created by God. They were perfect, without sin, and enjoyed life in the garden of Eden. Then, one day, a snake (Satan in disguise) came along and tempted Adam to eat an apple from the tree of "knowledge". God didn't want them to eat from this tree, however, Adam and Eve did so anyway. Humans had sinned, and everyone born on earth after that point was born into "sin", and thus needed saving from it  in the form of atonement (first in the form of sacrifices and later in the form of Jesus).

However, after reading some more about the Jewish tradition and it's take on the creation narrative, a few things became clear: 1) that the Jewish tradition always understood this story to be metaphorical, and 2) this story has nothing to do with sin, but rather human consciousness. The story is a profound acknowledgement that humans have the ability to make moral choices, to rise above the grind of daily existence, and to elevate the everyday into something sacred.

Instead of viewing Eve's eating of the apple as "original sin", how about "original virtue" instead?

After all, Adam and Eve were eating from the tree of "knowledge"-knowledge of good and evil. The eating of the fruit symbolized the birth of human consciousness. Obviously the story is not literal. . .but to take it literally would be to diminish it's power and its message. There's nothing supernatural here. The Adam and Eve story deals with reality. Just like Silverstein's poem. No need to look for something supernatural, mystical,  or "magic" to fall into our hands. This sacred work is accomplished by the choices we make. It's in the everyday.

“We totally misunderstand what it means to be alive when we think of our lives as time we can use in search of rewards and pleasure. Frantically and in growing frustration, we search through our days, our years, looking for the reward, for the success that will make our lives worthwhile, like the security guard looking through the trash in the wheelbarrow for something of value and all the while missing the obvious answer. When you have learned how to live, life itself is the reward.”  
-Rabbi Harold Kushner


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