So it begins.
Perhaps Genesis is as good a place to start as any.
The metaphor is apt; though, our starting point may be a bit further along in the story than we would like. When we launch ourselves into these Biblical narratives, we tend to follow a construct where we are the protagonists seeking to identify ourselves with the heroes and distance ourselves from the villains. This is altogether reasonable, but perhaps not terribly instructive.
You see… what is “past is not prologue.” (Yes… Shakespeare will be referenced later on in this blog as well.)
The past serves as the root system and gives meaning to the present. Without an understanding of what has come before, there is no relevance to what exists now.
With this in mind, we are no longer left with the choice of turning away from the serpent and letting the apple grow on the tree. We have eaten it. In fact, we not only ate the damn thing, we planted its seeds in a hydroponic farm and are now mass producing apples with a sophisticated distribution system to get them to market.
Our story does not begin with a choice, you see. It begins after the choice has been made. Our story begins with what we now must do moving forward. It is, I warn you, not a pleasant story.
Our childlike wonder in Eden has been shattered. God and His angels have reconciled with the notion that we now seek to supplant them. For some of us (thankfully an extreme minority), they have decided that cosmological wonder should be abandoned to make way for their own deification. With the absence of God, they, themselves, have decided to fill the vacuum and become a god in their own right. This is beyond hubris; it is exactly what I have described: self-deification. Along with that comes moral relativism, hedonism, and a violent sense of utilitarianism that have resulted in human misery both at the micro and macro levels throughout our history.
The drama here is indeed complex and, in many ways, contradictory.
Lucifer (the serpent) has sought to undermine God by making humans self-aware.
God sought to protect humans by keeping them ignorant?
Yet… once knowledge was granted He now requires us to overcome that sin by returning to Him… but has created an infrastructure of religious thought and practice (across many, if not most, religious faiths) that require adherence to rituals and introspection (intellectual curiosity) to achieve true transcendence.
In a sense… the pathway to salvation has multiple off-ramps to damnation… and it would appear that it was specifically designed to be built that way. Perhaps faith is not just faith in Him… but faith that we are, in fact, on the correct pathway… and not one of the seductive off-ramps?
There is a broader camp, though, of human thought, and one that grows like a weed with each successive generation. They do not necessarily believe that God has been supplanted by science… (though some would fall in this camp simultaneously)… it is that God has been supplanted by an even greater entity: government control.
They are, indeed, religious. They have canons, dictates, rituals, and priests. They also believe that authoritarian control is the only solution for the human condition. Limited government suggests that individuals are responsible for their own salvation. Remove the guardrails of Constitutional limitations, then the State can provide a salvation that no mystical man in the sky could ever provide. They are as dismissive as they are misguided. More importantly… their track record sucks. The ivory temples of the State have been built upon the decaying bodies of those they have murdered and tortured (both metaphorically, as well as literally).
So… that brings us back to 2024 and another Shakespeare reference.
Where and how do we go forward from here?
The ultimate act of rebellion comes not necessarily in taking up arms against the State.
It comes with ignoring them.
It comes with an individual affirmative declaration that we are responsible for our own actions, our own decisions… and, most importantly, our own destiny.
This path also… inexorably… is the single most “human” thing we can do. Descartes told us, “Cogito ergo sum.” (I think therefore I am.)… that is only a partially true statement, in my humble opinion.
I think the Bard did a better job articulating it through Hamlet:
“To be or not to be… that is the question.”
Yes… we have all heard that quote before, and that is usually where it ends. The full version is far more instructive (with a bit of literary license to show how I would perform it…).
“To ‘Be’ or not… To ‘Be’… that is the question.
Weather it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows… of an outrageous fortune,
Or to take up arms against a sea of troubles… and by opposing… end them.”
We prove our own existence not by rejecting the serpent. That deal was done when Eve succumbed to his charm and when Adam succumbed to hers. We don’t prove our own existence by maximizing our material possessions and husbanding our financial gains.
We prove our own existence by acknowledging the presence of evil, by choosing a side in the great cosmological battle that exists in the universe, and by drawing a line in the sand that evil will not prevail.