The sequence of the restored posts isn’t what it was in the prior version of this blog. I wrote “Women Are Awesome” forgetting that I’d written this post, In Praise of Women.
I have plenty of company here. I am neither the first nor the last to plant my flag on crowded turf. I doubt what I’ll post here will be terribly original. The vast majority of popular literature is about love, about women in one way or another. Boy meets girl, blah, blah, blah. Or boy breaks up with girl, girl breaks up with boy . . . the same story retold a gajillion times in a gajillion variations. Women are amazing. Simple as that.
One of my tropes: that God made Eve for Adam as his helper. But . . . God’s idea of help and Adam’s idea of help are not the same. So there is some conflict between Adam and Eve. The whole apple & serpent thing as well. But this post isn’t about how Eve fucked it up. I’m not that guy. I’m not the one holding a faux grudge against women because the whole Bible narrative starts with a snake tempting a woman who tempts a man into eating an apple. I love women, maybe more than I should. The sin in Genesis was one of hubris, of crazy pride, of believing that we didn’t need God. Anyway, Adam could have said, “no.” He didn’t. Boom.
This post is me, vamping, because the whole post is a three word sentence, “women are amazing”. I keep being amazed at how God puts women in the lives of men who are exactly what that man, what I need, at that exact moment. It’s not orthodox or canonical–the Lilith story. It is telling, though that her story stuck around. Adam’s second wife is Eve, so the story goes. His first wife, Lilith, would not relent, to the point of uttering the unspeakable name of God and flying out of the Garden as an owl. Eve was 2.0, a little more docile, clever, smarter and checkmated him.
I’m ducking my premise. Women are amazing because they are beautiful. Women are amazing because they have a God given intelligence that seems perfect for what He needs of us. The curve of her hips, the shape of her eyes, the ways she moves, I know what goes here, the smile on her lips when she looks at me, it’s all amazing. I haven’t met my new soul mate. I thought I met her in Julie some years ago. But we broke up. I married a Triad Princess, so say some of my friends, not a soul mate.
And that’s my problem. I am so overawed by Eve, by what God did in making her, that all my crazy, passive agressive, hiding in obtuseness, comes out. I feel like I’m talking to God in talking to her. So I get weird, can’t write, can’t talk, cat has my tongue. I don’t know how this ends. Most of my tropes are here on this blog. I posted them. So, now, beyond post 200, in praising women, I’m blocked. I got nothing. Which, I hope, is where I’ll find her, find Him, and discover what else there is to say, awkward and all. Women are amazing.
The title pretty much says it. The next 700 words or so are really just a long winded way to say the three word title of this post. This month I posted a piece saying that Eve had her reasons. Then I had Adam in my head scolding me that I didn’t understand, that it wasn’t his fault, and that if God had just left him alone he’d have been fine. Adam wasn’t fine. Men, man, has not been fine for a long time. I can only imagine the sort of transgressive behavior Adam was perpetrating to cause God to decide that it wasn’t good for him to be alone in Eden. A trail of chewed animal bones, exploded stills, poorly buried dung, and scorched earth come to mind. I have a two word movie title to give you if you are still not clear, “Animal House“.
We all witness it. A young man, freshly emancipated from Mom & Dad, loose on the world, feeling his virility and strength, meets a woman. All that bluster & bravado, that willingness to do crazy shit just cuz, starts to diminish. He starts skipping 501st Legion meetings in his area. The guys call to ask him to come with them to the strip club and he declines, saying she wants to go to the ballet. They catch up to him at a college game and instead of tail-gating with them, he’s a couple parking stalls over with her and her sorority sisters. There are numerous selfies and wine spritzers. They try to rescue him and he demurs, saying she asked him to meet her sisters.
We know when it happens. Some time after the first date and before the engagement an archetypical conversation happens that can be reduced down to one question, “what are we?” The answer to that question sets the course for the relationship. It will either continue to flower into a ring and a date or die bitterly in all the spectacular ways that love burns cold.
Fast forward a decade and his old college buddies find him wiping baby puke off his shoulder and testing a bottle to see if it is the right temperature. The legendary Boba Fett costume is splayed on the floor, dusty and forlorn. His oldest is bickering with his middle over whether Darth Vader or Darth Maul was more badass. Shrek covered this in his last movie. Marriage & parenthood changes us. Something dies to be replaced with all the crap that comes with kids and wife. The old buddy who would trampoline over the house after a couple beers now finds excitement in old Oprah reruns.
As a young lion I was going to be a Broadway star, foment a global socialist revolution so that there were no longer starving children in Africa, learn how to make moonshine from Popcorn Sutton, make fire from flint, walk the Appalachian Trail (all of it), and bring about world peas. How did I do? I walked some of the Appalachian Trail. That’s about it.
The thing that happened to me has a name: 常明華 (Ming-Hua Chang). She was born in the year of the dragon. My nickname for her is 皇后 “The Empress”. With all the bipolar and other mental illness in my generation some of my siblings labeled her as a sufferer of cyclothymic disorder. She was born to a prominent, Nationalist Chinese family that escaped to Taiwan and became nightclub owners in 北投區. My friends and I allege, without proof, that she is a princess of the 台灣民族主義黑手黨 Taiwanese Triad. She changed me. It was good.
Eve changed Adam. It is as God intended. Adam, single, was a big and not necessarily benign impact on Eden. He needed something he desired enough to be down with love, loving God, loving Eve, loving enemies & neighbors. He needed something to get him through yet another ten minutes fighting his way through stray Barbie dolls, doll houses and his wife’s lipstick used to draw Barnie on the kitchen walls. Aspects of Adam had to die so that he could become fully realized as the image of God he was created to be.
Eden before Eve was a wrecked playpen. If Adam hungered deeply for Eve maybe he’d come to his senses, maybe he’d grow up some. Teen, single, independent, feeling indestructible and immortal, able to conquer ten dragons before a breakfast of moonshine and Tex-Mex tacos, we fear what we believe will be a kind of death once we meet her. It is a kind of death. On the other side of it is a changed life better than our footloose days. It’s hard to see that, though, on a Sunday morning after getting released from the drunk tank. Right then our plan is a couple breakfast tacos washed down with a redneck bloody Mary and finished with a smoke. Then we get a text message from her with a lot of annoying questions.
She, some of them, is no less fearless nor less harmful to dragons. Then she asks and we answer and the torrential flame of our early glory fades into slow glowing coals baking soda bread in a Dutch oven. We become responsible. We [shocker] get a job and start paying our bills on time. Some of us have to go to meetings for a bit and learn how to contain our impulses. If you are confused, the movie, “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” will explain a lot of this.
Something in us does die once we say to her that we are a couple. In its place grows something new, and IMHO, better. Adam became a father and a farmer. We don’t know what the young Adam was like before Eve showed up. I sort of reckon he weren’t exactly a model son. Men & women need each other. We, together, are more than the sum of our parts. 900 words later, that makes women awesome.
Adam, the first man, is dead. He’s been dead a while. The Bible says, “Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.” Archbishop Ussher of Armgah in 1650 pegged the age of the world at 4004 years, naming Saturday, October 22, 4004 B.C. as the first day of creation. For this piece we’ll say that Ussher was right and it being 2016 A.D. as I type this, the world would be 6,020 years old and counting. This means Adam has been dead 5,090 years. Mitochondrial DNA studies putting the age of Eve at somewhere above 100,000 years? Yah Yah. Can we move on?
Ever since I posted the piece on Eve having her reasons I’ve had Adam in my head, pissed. He’s been scolding me, saying that I didn’t understand. It wasn’t his fault. God had gone to meddling twice, first with Lilith and second with Eve. Eve offered him a piece of a fig without telling him where she got it and if God and those two women had just left him alone, he’d be fine. He didn’t need to know of good & evil. He didn’t need help.
The first mistake was God deciding that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. The second and third had names: Lilith (bitch) and Eve (wife). From day one with both, it was nonstop nagging and judgement. He had to wipe his ass. He had to smell good. He had to work to hunt for food. The garden of Eden was nice, but most of the plants that she liked to eat had thorns, so gathering what she liked was fustrating. There was no pleasing either of them. He’d gather figs and she’d ask for greens. He’d gather greens and she’d ask for nuts. He’d kill a turkey and she’d say she wanted fish. It was just endless.
He was happy finding a tree that had a nice overhang and some mostly clear ground. The rain didn’t really bother him and he never minded the cold. He hunted small game, fished and otherwise ate what he could find.
She. She worried about the cleanliness of the water. She wanted a shelter. Shelters took hours to make. Before the women he could just kick aside the worst of the offending thorny plants in a nice spot and catch some sleep. Not with her. No, every day included a couple hours of work on the shelter, sometimes an old one they’d had for a few days, sometimes building a new one. She didn’t want to be wet. Her skin busted out in red pustules all over her every time she got one little bug bite. She didn’t like sleeping on the ground because of the bugs. She wanted to sleep under covers. She wanted walls. She asked for animal furs to sleep on. She was incredibly annoying.
God kept on about life being better if Adam would just learn to love and trust him. Why? What had God done for Adam? Create him? Thanks for nothing. Alive in this bug infested, cackling, miserable jungle called Eden? To do what? To help her, help the ex-bitch and #2, who was somewhat better but still a huge pain in the ass. Love? What’s love? Love God? That fat lazy bastard who is always hungry and full of ‘spose to’s? Yeah, right. Sure. I’ll get right on that.
Probably the best day of Adam’s life is when he discovered that quinoa left in a gourd with some water would ferment into wine. Hala-frickin-luia. Second best was God showing him how to make fire. Beer & BBQ made her a lot more tolerable. God, drunk, was way more fun than God sober. Her, though, drunk, was a reason to leave for a few days and hunt. She was meaner than a honey badger coked out and psychotic.
And then. And then . . . God shows up and wants to know why he and Eve were covering themselves. Adam didn’t know. Eve insisted on covering her crotch and chest with leaves. She wouldn’t look at him unless his crotch was covered also. Whatever. Happy wife, happy life, right? Stupid wife. Well . . . it turns out that wasn’t just any piece of fruit. It was fruit from that tree, the one God told them not to eat from. Adam really didn’t care. There were plenty of trees that had good fruit. One less wouldn’t make any difference. She cared for some reason. Like it would really be better if he peed out of shouting distance instead of right in front of the shelter. Like her piss didn’t stink. They lost their home in the garden.
Life in the Savanna was harder. Now he had to farm. The edible plants in the savanna were nowhere near as good as what they could get before. There was less water and of what they found a lot of it was spoiled with animal piss. When they planted seed the birds ate most of it. What the birds didn’t eat the rabbits would get as it sprouted. Later the deer would feed on what they planted without having the good grace to hold still as he drew his bow.
It wasn’t fair that my piece about Eve’s reasons painted him as the bad guy. How is it his fault that God decided to meddle and create Eve? Why is he to blame because she decided that he should eat a piece of fig from the one tree he was told not to eat from? Lilith flew from Eden and he had peace and quiet for the first time in a long time? Why not let Eve slither out with the serpent?
Still, he could make beer and that made things better. Then God talked to him about children. He was cool with the part where you laid down with Eve to start the process. The rest of it, though, sucked almost as bad as hoeing a muddy field. If he could just have the sex without all the rest . . . God saying it was part of the plan he had for Adam–thanks for that, yeah, just great. Oh for the days of a meadow full of snorting wild boar and a quiver of arrows . . . It wasn’t fair that I had posted a piece saying that Eve had her reasons. He felt I should give him equal time. I needed to understand, he said. He said this as he walked away to help Eve skin one of their rabbits. Happy wife . . .
My fellow blogger Aubrey Eicher posted an essay on Eve and the apple.” She writes, “When we love, we do not want to do anything to hurt the heart of the person, or in this case, God.” Which are fine words from a young Christian woman writing in 2015. So many have said it’s Eve’s fault without considering her predicament. We have at least five millennia of experience in what is and isn’t out of bounds behavior. If you doubt this, do something out of bounds to a woman and see what happens. Actually, don’t. There is enough out of bounds behavior without my encouraging it.
Neither Adam nor Eve had knowledge of how you love, what love is/was, and what is and isn’t out of bounds behavior. *Everything* is new, a first, including what it means to be a partner to someone. Aubrey says, “Surely, myself included, we would love to go back to the garden and slap the fruit out of Eve’s hand, and give her a piece of our mind, ‘What ARE you doing, you dumb broad, didn’t you hear what God said?
Yes, Aubrey, she did. Eve didn’t have the benefit of a few thousand years of hindsight. Worse, not knowing of good and evil, she had no way to express nor process events and behavior that felt out of bounds. Adam could and probably did, do things that caused Eve duress. But it was all good (right?) because without knowledge of good and evil there is nothing that is out of bounds. Last, a word from us, the malcontents, we know, she knew and it wasn’t enough, isn’t enough.
I find it beyond reason that the purported prior-fall Eden was entirely sunshine and lollipops. God created a world in which free will exists. This includes the freedom to use his creation for ill as well as good. C.S Lewis, in his, “Problem of Pain“, talks about a baseball bat being a tool for sport as well as a weapon.
God made the baseball bat. Man makes a choice and it is either used for sport or for a crime. He leaves it to us to decide what to do with His creation. I find it hard to believe that the lack of knowledge of good and evil would obviate the possibility of ill will. Either he made an Eden where free will was impossible and thus made a couple who were not completely in His image, or he made an Eden where they didn’t know what was and wasn’t in-bounds behavior but could, out of innocence, still behave in ways that were transgressive. You could slap the fruit out of Eve’s hand and she would still be stuck with an impossible to understand feeling that some of what Adam did was not right. Enter the serpent. Eve had her reasons.
To recap: the serpent tells Eve that if she defies God and eats of the forbidden fruit she will gain the knowledge of good and evil. She ate and fed some to Adam as well. In all the sermons I’ve heard and retellings of this tale I can’t remember any time spent in the run-up to her choice. It’s narrated as a series of disconnected events, the serpent talking to Eve, then Eve eating, then Eve feeding some of the fruit to Adam, then feeling shame at their nudity, then clothing themselves, then hiding from and being found by God, then banishment and consequences. It is beyond reason to me that Eve was not talking to Adam through all this. On many Sundays, in the sermon, I’m told that Eden before the fall was a paradise where evil was impossible. A paradise for whom?
A Box of Rocks
The bible is conspicuously silent on what Eve was going through in her early days. Or that Eve wasn’t processing the events of her life and trying to figure out (a) what it all means and (b) what she should do about it. It was all new to Adam as well. He had no frame of reference, save what God had been telling him, of how to live on God’s good side. Not knowing of Good and Evil, without the law, he had a hard time with Eve, who was not as rebellious as Lilith but was still crazy-making. There was no one he could commiserate with, no parents to talk to, no fellow newlywed men to joke about married life with. He had to bootstrap all of this himself. Eve, younger than him, didn’t know either and for all it mattered, was dumber than a box of rocks.
There is another discredited narrative lurking about in Jewish folklore–Lilith. She, it is told, was the first woman, created of the same soil as Adam, and banished from Eden because the fight between her and Adam got so severe she fled to the desert, spewing threats and curses the whole way. One more element. We don’t have a story that connects Lilith to Eve. Lilith exists in Mesopotamian folklore and predates Judaism. If folk tales of Lilith and Eve exist they have not survived.
Suppose these two women were alive at similar times, are we sure they never spoke? We can’t say because we don’t have anything to connect the two. But . . . this space is the realm of the bard. This is not a limitation here. This blog can say it, taking the privilege of the storyteller, and proceed from there. We’ll say Lilith was able to fill in the details of the dispute over a salad of smoked rattlesnake, sunflower seed, and kale dressed in lime, cilantro, and peanut oil vinaigrette served with a nice Riesling. Eve would hear that she wasn’t the first, and why Lilith lived in the desert, shunned.
If He Knew
This means that if she was to get along with Adam she could not merely defy him. She could not plant her flag on equal liberty with Adam and expect to gain his assent. There had been too many words between the angels, Adam and Lilith, too much done, to make that reasonable. Eve needed a new way to be with Adam. Could it be that if he knew what he’d done wrong, if he could be made to see the error of his ways, that there could be rapprochement in Eden and the strife of the past could remain in the past, leaving Eve safe?
Consider Eve’s position. She is newly made of Adam’s rib. She is physically a woman, fully capable of everything God expects of her. Adam has all these “should’s” and “spose-to’s” from his disastrous relationship to Lilith. He’s still seething at the mention of her. He feels entitled to being treated a certain way, full of rants about being respected and the proper place of a 妻. Though she is physically mature she is still young to this life and so much is hard to sort out. Knowing the right thing to do isn’t straightforward. She has no history to refer to, no older kin to speak with. Her only source of reference is God, who is at a turn loving and paternal in frustrating ways, and Adam, who isn’t helping.
Eve has no friends save for these two men, one her father, the other her husband. They are men. They try when she wants to talk. But . . . guys are not girls and though they mean well, it’s not the same talking to them. Lilith is banished so getting to speak with her is extremely difficult. Eve and Lilith had that lunch but since then God has had angels watching her so getting out hasn’t been possible. Adam and God have no clue what it’s like to be a woman in this paradise. Instead, there are legion expectations and pompous, chest puffed, chauvinist ideas about what an ideal woman should be. Into this comes the serpent, who is wise enough to know when to shut up and let Eve talk.
Hope for Change
God’s call to Eve was to be Adam’s helper. God keeps talking about children and that’s just disgusting. Adam has a lot to say about this, much of it conflicting with her conversations with God. God wants Adam to love him more dearly and wants Eve to help him with this. Adam seems to want sex (which, btw, could not have gone well at first, “You pee with that thing. You want to put it inside me and pee inside me? That is so not happening ever.” hot meals, a willing ear and someone to clean up after him.
No mention of loving God in that. No shortage of what God owes Adam, though. So, here she is, newly made, newly married, to this creature who is inconsiderate, stubborn, resentful, angry at his ex, loudly declaiming that God owes him, and demanding of her. The serpent says that if Adam knew the difference between right and wrong maybe he’d understand the error of his ways and stop being such a prick.
Keep things the same in the garden, tolerating Adam and his anger toward women, toward Lilith and by extension, Eve, trusting God to work it out, or . . . disrupt, defy, and in the defiance maybe get this lug head to come to his senses. Yes, the price was death but as in many of these broken relationships, physical death may be threatened but it is the spiritual death long ago initiated that has destroyed the souls of those involved and made physical death seem comforting. Plus, the serpent kept telling her that she would not physically die, not really. She would know from Lilith that the price was more probably divorce from Adam and banishment. So, it became a choice miseries.
Maybe Tomorrow is Better
Eve chose to eat of the apple and lived to suffer another day. Adam, it seems became a farmer and settled down enough to father Cain and Able. For Eve, good enough. She could live as a farmer’s wife and let the raucous early days of her life fade into fond family stories. For the rest of the story, you can read your Bible. It’s all there.
Eve’s sin is still the sin of hubris. Though, not the sort of pride I’ve heard in so many sermons on so many Sundays. No, the old lie the serpent tells us and that we still fall for that we are alone, that no one else understands our problem the way we do, and that we have to take care of it ourselves. It is a pride that comes from fear overtaking our trust in God and in turn letting Him open our eyes to the hidden love and solutions possible once we stop being so scared and proud. Eve was young, thought she had to figure it out for herself, and listened to the serpent as he talked her into feeling isolated and desperate. It doesn’t justify her sin. It’s maybe like Chris Rock said about OJ Simpson–it isn’t right but you can understand.