Fear of the unknown is a recurrent theme throughout the literary compositions of history and the media creations of our own day. Whether it is the bogey-men of children stories, the monsters of science fiction or the evil caricatures of the horror genre’, it is apparent that we humans are simultaneously enamored and terrified of the unknown. Torn between the adventurous spirit of the explorer and the controlling mind-set of superstition and practicality, we find it difficult to balance the dichotomy of our conflicting nature. The questions that haunt us include, “Can a shortcut to the Orient be found or will we sail off the ends of the earth?” or “Is it better to explore the dangers of space, or to be content believing the stars were created solely to light the night,”
The scene in the opening book of the Bible places Adam, translated as man, in a terrible dilemma. He is commanded by his provider to ignore his god given nature. Man, born with an insatiable appetite to know, is told to deny his intellect and bury his desire for knowledge. He is commanded to simply trust and obey, without question, the uncompromising command of his god.
Meanwhile, an object to pique man’s curiosity is placed right in the very center of his home. This tree of the knowledge of good and evil is given the most appealing fruit, begging for the man’s experimental investigation. Finally to complete the picture, the tree is given a voice to advertise itself in the form of a seductive and persuasive serpent.
The man is consigned the unbearable and virtually untenable position of choosing between the promised rewards for eternal blind ignorant obedience or the threatened dangers of experiential experimentation and education.
Mankind’s reasoning ability is only recent on the cosmic stage, with perhaps 10,000 years of written history to record the thinking patterns of our kind. We are newcomers to the life of the universe and pitifully ignorant of so much of reality. Our hunger for knowledge is perhaps our greatest asset toward providing some assurance of survival in an apparently incomprehensibly large, expanding, lifeless, universe. Our willingness to explore, experiment and test our boundaries is what has given us dominance over this planet. Many have stretched themselves and not a few have died reaching past the limits of our understanding, but those individual sacrifices have bought us the health, longevity, and technology we enjoy today. The world is a smaller place in our eyes, and this vision was built on the willingness of others to oppose the status quo by choosing knowledge over ignorance, regardless of the personal cost.
Had the deity in Genesis really desired that man never leave the security of the garden, why did it place the explorer’s heart deep within him? Why place an attainable mystery well within his reach, and make it so desirable? Why place an apologetic master nearby to lure the man and the woman across the line separating trust from experience?
Admittedly, the sin of Adam was not learning something new or acquiring knowledge. The sin of Adam was blatant disobedience to the god. Still, it is interesting to observe that in order to obey the deity, self imposed ignorance was presented as the only avenue of escaping the harsh consequences of disobedience.
The crime of Adam is the same trait that kills the cat – curiosity.
Rather than condemn the much maligned Adam and Eve of fable and myth, we should rather honor and revere them. Because of their courage to leave the comforts of a mindless garden of instinct, we now dwell in the wider and significantly more satisfying world of self-awareness.
What do you think?