Thursday, March 25, 2010

Marilyn's thoughts about "Eve and the Choice Made in Eden"

I finished the Eve book last night, so now I'm ready to post some thoughts.  Well, not ready as in "I have a nicely thought-out essay to present", but ready as in "I liked the book and took lots of notes so let me ramble on about that for a while."

I really liked the Hebrew word meanings it presented---transgression being to pass into a new state, command being a warning possibly temporary in nature, beguiled implying an intense emotional/spiritual experience, etc.  Those translations really helped open up the meaning of the story for me.

I also liked the point that Eve (women) carry not just the breath of life but the breath of LIVES inside them.  I liked the emphasis on how Eve's choice was made with US in mind---a selfless choice in many ways, since she herself had the chance NOT to experience death and pain, but that would have left all of us stranded.  I knew that that was the case but I guess I hadn't thought much about it before.  It makes me relate even more to Eve, as a mother---the fact that I, too, have sometimes had to subordinate my own comfort/security to the greater good of bringing another life into the world.

Another symbolic idea I loved: that Adam AWOKE when Eve was created.  Beautiful symbolism there, of how husbands and wives awaken each other; how we become aware of and able to do so much more than we can alone.  That is, TOGETHER (in a celestial marriage, of course) the world can be so much lovelier, clearer, more real.  I love that.

Here's a question, though.  One quote in the book (and someone else mentioned this) says something like "the knowledge of the absolutes of good and evil give us power like God."  Yes--page 40--"Satan wishes to blur our knowledge of the absolutes of good and evil" . . . he tries to diminish our sensitivities in this regard . . . etc.  Okay, so I understand that and agree.  People always talk about how it's bad to have "relativism" where we don't acknowledge that there is actually RIGHT and WRONG, and how we in the gospel know that there is GOOD and EVIL and not just "everyone can do whatever they feel is the best thing and all philosophies are basically equal."  Fine.  BUT---
in other parts of the book, there's an emphasis on how women have a special gift for "discenment"---being able to tell the difference between ambiguous choices, to see "beyond the literal to the divine essential." (p. 42)  This is exactly what Eve did---and it mentions it several times---she chose the "greatest good for the greatest number" etc.  And again, in the last chapter, we learn that women make decisions based on interrelationships, how others will be affected, deciding "which, of conflicting statements, is paramount."
So doesn't that conflict, in a way, with the idea that our knowledge of ABSOLUTES gives us the most power?  Women acknowledge, and navigate around, ambiguity---and they KNOW that not all choices are "black and white"---and they have to OFTEN choose which, of many good or acceptable things, is BEST.  I'm not saying there are no absolutes---but I definitely think there are fewer than I used to believe!  I think when I was younger, I saw so many things that way---this person is bad because he smokes, this person is bad because she got pregnant before she was married, etc.  Not that I thought those people couldn't repent, but I thought that they were somehow "lesser", in some indefineable way, and "I never want to be like that!"  As I've gotten older, I see so many more complexities.  AND, I've learned that we ALL need the atonement---just as much as anyone else---someone who breaks the Word of Wisdom doesn't need it MORE than someone who doesn't.  Very few people ever act because of an "absolute motivation," if that makes sense.  Our reasons for sinning---and for choosing not to sin---are often motivated by many factors, and while that doesn't make the sin less wrong, it does make ME more hesitant to judge others.

I guess what I'm saying is, I understand that God can see RIGHT and WRONG in an absolute way.  He can look at someone, weigh all the millions of different factors in their choices, love them for exactly what they are, and come up with the perfectly just and also perfectly merciful judgement for that person.  But . . . NO ONE else can really do that.  How can I ever say, in an "absolute" way, whether someone is good or bad?  And how could it possibly be beneficial for me to even TRY to do that?  It rings much more true to me to say, like she did in the last chapter, that we make better decisions when we DO weigh all the ambiguities, the complexities, the "shades of grey" (if you will---I know that phrase has bad connotations).  Not that we don't acknowledge that there IS evil, but that we don't claim to always know exactly what it is or where it is.  Because we're humble and we know only God can judge that.  Right?

Help me out here.  I'm sure I'm missing something.  Maybe the problem comes when we label PEOPLE as absolutes of "good" or "evil", because people are complex?  But it's fine to label ACTIONS as absolutes of "good" and "evil"?  But again, that doesn't totally hold up in my mind.  Because sure you can say, "adultery is always, totally, unequivocally wrong."  "Murder is always totally wrong."  But there are so many other issues that aren't so clear.  "Abortion is always totally wrong."  Well . . . maybe nearly always . . . but not always.  So not an "absolute."  And what about "divorce"?  Or "birth control"?  Waay more room for complexity in those choices.  So that statement she makes, that God-like power comes from knowing the ABSOLUTES OF GOOD AND EVIL---I'm just wondering how that's true.  What does she mean by that?  How did such knowledge help Adam and Eve?  I welcome your ideas! :)

Tons more I liked in this book, and lots more connections it sparked in my mind, but I guess I better stop now.  THANK YOU for recommending it!  I loved reading it, and found it really helpful---I can't wait to get to the temple and do some more thinking about all the things I learned.

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