Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The snake in the garden

When did things start to go wrong?

That's a common interest for a certain type of mind.

I remember my old Russian Orthodox hero, Alexander Schmemann, tracing the eventual separation of Latin and Greek churches back to the condemnation of Berengarius of Tours in the 10th century. He was required to sign a profession of faith which held the Eucharist to be Christ's Body and Blood non solum mystice sed etiam vere. Non only a symbol, but a reality as well.

For Fr. S, for whom reality and symbol were inseparable, this Western way of dividing things up was at the heart of dividing up the Church.

My first boyfriend, Jeff D, was a passionate thinker, although I came to believe that his thinking was mostly a rationalization of his passions. He had decided at one point that the snake-in-the-garden du jour for the modern world's problems, "the smoking gun" as he put it, was romantic love. I don't even remember why.

Politicos on the Right have variety of points at which The Fall took place: The Sixties, The New Deal, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, and for the serious Right, Abraham Lincoln. The French Revolution, The Enlightenment, The Reformation. For the Left it was the lost opportunity at the sexistracist Founding, or, popularly, either Jamestown, the Pilgrims, or back to Christopher Columbus.

And of course for feminists, it is the arrival of the Patriarchy into the paradise of the Mother.
Adam in conflict with Lilith

Compared to which fantasy, the Genesis story of Adam and Eve sounds like documented anthropology.

Pretty well any date or event in history (or pre-history if you're a Gnostic) can be somebody's Snake in the Garden.

I have my own suspects, of course, but even as I point them out, I am aware that the case is circumstantial. Not untrue, but circumstantial.

Long ago, at the beginnings of Western Civilization, in the 500's BC, Parmenides' prose poem On Nature laid out the contrasting ways of Truth vs Opinion. The world of Truth is unchanging and certain. In the world of Opinion, change and uncertainty define it.

Trouble is, it's the changing and uncertain phenomena which touch us most directly and about which we have to make decisions and act. Likelihood of error of much higher in this realm of passion and contingency and flaw, but so is the requirement for trying, and the concrete disasters or achievements involved.

They don't call it the human dilemma for nothin'.

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