(Originally posted 28th May, 2004)
A few years ago, I received a copy of Sting’s Brand New Day CD. Like most albums, I quickly gravitated to a couple of tracks on it, and in particular, the second track, Desert Rose. As is my wont with such songs, I put it repeat on the stereo and just lay back on the lounge room floor, closed my eyes and soaked up the song’s atmosphere.
Now, those of you who are familiar with the song will know, it’s quite an atmospheric number. It didn’t take me too long before the song had my imagination picturing myself out in the desert at night, staring up at the stars with my arms flung out wide, as the “camera” just circled around and around.
That’s when one of the last lines of the song struck me as being particularly significant: it says, “the legacy of Eden haunts us all.” That one line intrigued me and got me wondering just what the legacy of Eden really is. It also brought to mind a revelation I had had several years earlier.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the story of the Garden of Eden in the Bible, and in particular the story of the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. We often hear of the “original sin” of how Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit that God had specifically forbidden them to eat.
Back in about 1995, I’d been mediating on this story for a while, looking at it not in its literal sense, but seeing if it was worthwhile examining it as a symbolic parable for the state of the human psyche. That was when I had what was for a startling revelation.
You see, if you look at the story before the serpent convinces Eve that it’s OK to eat the fruit, both Adam and Eve are blissfully happy in the Garden. If you read on a bit further after they eat the fruit, you find that’s when they develop modest and try to cover their nakedness and their imperfections.
The difference is because of the fruit itself: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen 2:17, emphasis mine). It’s the name of the tree that struck me as being the most significant part of the whole story. Before Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they had no knowledge or even understanding of the concepts of good and evil, but once they ate the fruit, they started to make value distinctions.
A person, when they are completely mentally, physically and spiritually relaxed, is able to roll with the punches easily and to accept whatever life throws their way without being fazed by any of it. They just adapt to the change of circumstances without worrying and just continue on without getting hung up about it. To my mind, this is pretty much indicative of what the mental state portrayed by Adam & Eve before they ate the fruit.
But as soon as you start putting labels on the experiences we have, and classifying them as either “good” or “bad”, that’s when you can start to run into trouble. You can tend to get blinded by your own beliefs, particularly when you’re in the middle of a negative experience, which can prevent you seeing any other way of looking at the situation.
The problem we all have is that the habit of evaluating everything as good or bad is so ingrained into our psyches that it may even be hardwired into the way our brains actually function. Being able to just accept everything that happens is an extraordinarily difficult thing to constantly achieve, and I think that the people who have actually managed to attain that transcendent level of though would normally be looked on as “enlightened.” While I’m not sure if it’s possible for most of us to ever achieve this in our everyday lives, it is possible to practice conscious awareness of what we’re thinking and how we can change our thoughts to change the way that we see the world.
So for me, the “legacy of Eden” isn’t so much the way the original sin is normally viewed as disobedience against god, it’s the ingrained habit we all have of evaluating everything as either good or evil.
And Sting was right; it does haunt us all.