Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
Knowledge is power
I’m aware of the frustrations that can unfold after reading Genesis 3. We read the plight of Adam and Eve and wonder why did there have to be a tree there that is also set off-limits. We wonder why it is so bad for them to come by knowledge. But, with humility, we might be able to see where these questions come from and understand the powerful motive that flickers in each of our hearts.
But before speaking to those points, let us consider the consequences of Adam and Eve’s actions and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil itself.
Adam and Eve are expelled from paradise. Most of us tend to focus on this expulsion in terms of the act of eating. Yet, there are subtle details that follow, which are also important. Adam and Eve choose to flee from God, to hide from Him in their shame. Let’s stop here first. If God is the creator of life, would it not seem detrimental of us to attempt to hide from that source of life? This act of hiding and covering up invites death as Adam and Eve learn to do something out of their shame: get away from God.
As we continue to read, we will find matters get worse. Adam realizes the futility of attempting to hide from God, and so God asks him a rhetorical question…something He is already privy to. There is utility to this question, however: it invites repentance for Adam. God asks Adam how does Adam realizes his own nakedness and if he has eaten the fruit–God is omniscient, so this question isn’t for His behalf. Adam’s answer is a troubling one. Adam does not own up to the act, but instead prefers others should be responsible for his actions: he blames Eve, and he blames God “this WOMAN whom YOU gave me.” Adam is looking to save his own skin when instead, this is a moment where he can return to God, ask forgiveness, own up to his mistake, and draw near to God and even to Eve. When we blame God for our own weakness, again, do we not invite distance and therefore death?
what of the tree?
Because the description of the tree is a bit cloudy, most of us find ourselves scratching our heads as to what it really gave Adam and Eve, what the fruit really was, and how it could have been bad for humanity. There’s lots of speculation as to what the tree really represented. I myself found the interpretation as “knowledge of vulnerability” to be rather compelling; when we are aware of our own vulnerability, we can act in goodness, but we can also act in self-preservation, and when we are aware of someone else’s vulnerability, we can either care for them or we manipulate them. This interpretation of vulnerability also plays into their realization: we are naked, we are vulnerable.
But let’s zoom out from the particularities of what the fruit of the tree DOES, and rather consider what the tree represents. The tree represents power, a power that the serpent–fun fact, a seraph, the highest-ranking angel, means fiery serpent, so that’s where we get the interpretation that this is the devil speaking–says will make Adam and Eve like God. aIt’s a privileged power of understanding, or simply put its power well beyond Adam and Eve’s scope. This power is no different than an electrical outlet, a gun, or some other thing we would have around the house that we need to keep our children away from. This might invite us to wonder, “why didn’t God child-proof paradise”. There are a few ways of answering that question. Perhaps the tree is still important to have been there perhaps for existence’s sake. Perhaps it teaches Adam and Eve restraint while also teaching them that it will be of value to them later–many theologians believe we were always destined to partake of this fruit, but that we did so prematurely.
But I’d like to offer one further explanation of why this tree was there without any harder boundaries being put up: because there was no way to cover that tree up.
The tree of knowledge of good and evil, perhaps, is a physical manifestation of things each and every one of us already partake of, low-hanging fruits that we crave, devour, and celebrate—intimate knowledge, fueled by unhealthy curiosity.
Manifestations of forbidden knowledge
We need not look much further than our grocery store magazine rack to see what fuels human imagination. The lives of our idols are splayed before us, totally violated of any sanctity of privacy. So too are the bodies we print on our magazines of scant models and actresses who after hearing their voices and faces would find something pleasing to seeing “the rest of the picture”.
We live in a culture of gossip and pornography.
There is coveted knowledge in knowing the dirty laundry of our family, of our friends, of our celebrities…and when one scandal comes up, we can’t get enough knowledge, and we devour said people in our own teeth as we speak scathingly of them.
And then there is the knowledge of the body, a knowledge of lewdness, a knowledge of something best kept within the sanctity of two consensual adults. We celebrate beauty in the movies and tv shows that we watch, and even a fully dressed actor or actress we covet and perhaps wonder what they look behind their garments. This appetite perhaps could be controlled or subdued with tasteful censorship and refraining of nudity, but instead, we have seen the business of filmmaking do the opposite. It seems for a show to make it it has a quota of nudity to be filled, a promise to the audience that it will disclose the sacred knowledge of a stranger’s body who we will come to know intimately through their role and performance. We are no longer satisfied with the performance of celebrities and able to chastely appreciate beauty. Instead, we crave their vulnerability, long for their famed sex scene, and they no longer remain as a beautiful icon to be respected, a real person we could treat with honor and dignity, but a utility of our imagination, of our craving, of our impulse: a sex object.
Unfortunately, the adult film business has partnered with deep fake technology, granting any individual hungering to see a person they know (famous or not) in a degrading role of lewdness. This not only transforms a real person with a real history and soul into an object to be used and forgotten but confounds our definition and ideas of sex. Is the nuptual joining of two consensual adults, a holy and anticipated revelation of love and act of trust–I’m showing you my whole body and trusting it into your embrace–now something we are simply entitled to because our curiosity dictates? Have we butchered the art of courtship? Have we forgotten the sanctity of secrets–secrets of intimacy and vulnerability, not indicting ones of crime and abuse?
The craving of “knowldge” for that which is “shameful” to be made public–nudity or gossip–is not far from the craving of knowledge of good and evil that Adam and Eve had. Will nudity of another body ever be disclosed to us in our lives–probably. Will someone ever disclose their secrets to us–most certainly. These things happen in the confines of a trusting relationship to address particular needs: intimacy and closure respectively. But it’s important we identity that impulse and hunger when it arises, when it quells us to look at and share that which should be saved for a loving couple, when it invites us to eavesdrop on a conversation, snoop on someone’s device, or dig for information of someone else that they were not comfortable with disclosing.
the blurry line of good and bad information
Before concluding, I think it important that we address the fine line concerning both knowledge and secrecy. A good secret is privileged information on the merit of intimacy and responsibility. We share a secret about ourselves because we feel confiding will bring catharsis for us. Even “the talk” is a kind of secret revealed to coming to age youngsters who will find themselves in need of being disclosed to something that before they were not able to handle; this analogy could even extend to disclosing secrets and responsibility of firearm safety or teaching the secrets of using a computer or something as simple as a lawnmower for someone who was perhaps too young to understand the danger involved in using such things. We do not disclose the information because we are afraid of what the curiosity and knowledge might do to that person.
That being said, secrets can damage society, relationships, and individuals. Keeping a secret about a genocide or a dark part of history damages a civilization’s integrity and the people’s trust in said organization. Keeping secret infidelity in a relationship and allowing that relationship to go on without knowledge leads to a devastating outcome when that information comes to light, and that’s just one of the dozen repercussions from such a secret. Even the keeping secret of someone’s growing edge, the “we don’t talk about their love for attention,” is a secret that we sometimes keep to be nice when someone could have really benefitted and perhaps appreciated a bit of truth.
To bring this all full circle, I think it important we reexamine how trepidatious we are with information and knowledge. The manifestation of knowledge is clear to us when we see what human curiosity could do by splitting an atom and the lives that have perished from such a discovery. We have a tendency in our western frame to place knowledge and discovery on a pedestal without speaking anything of responsibility, discretion, and ethical boundaries to what we are “capable” of coming to knowledge of. But in all curiosities, whether it be gossip, the naked body, or nuclear proliferation, we ought to give pause to this thrill we find when we encroach on some discovery that may not be meant for us.
Today, consider the following:
- When have you been asked to keep a secret? Was that challenging? How many people did you tell?
- When have you disclosed a secret to someone else? What compelled you to share that secret? What made you think you could trust that person?
- How do you see others? How do you especially see those you encounter on a screen?
- Who do treat as a utility or as a text book? Who do you see as a fellow human
- Who have you gossiped about today? Who ahve you heard gossiped about today?
If you’d like to learn a little more about this sensitive yet important topic of pornography and the commercialized objectification of people we see so much of today, click here to learn about the Fight against the New Drug.