The attack on America came as a complete surprise-though in retrospect we might have expected it. The planes, flown by pilots prepared to commit suicide by flying their planes into their unsuspecting targets, came in two horrendously destructive waves hitting the first target at 7:53 a.m. and the second at 8:55. By 10 a.m. it was over. The date lives in infamy–December 7, 1941.
The attack on Pearl Harbor set into motion a chain of events we call WWII ending with the defeat of the attackers after the dropping of two atomic bombs. The United States emerged as a super-nuclear power, and a super target.
Sixty years later the planes came again, flown by pilots prepared to commit suicide by flying the hijacked planes into their unsuspecting targets. They came to New York in two horrendously destructive waves hitting the first target at 8:46 and the second at 9:03.
Two other planes were in the air, one would hit the Pentagon and the other would be taken down in a field in Pennsylvania.
The events of September 11 appear to have set off a chain of events, but in some ways September 11 is part of the ongoing, evolving (if you will) unfolding human history in which you and I are intimately involved.
The casualties of 9/11 include the loss of religious faith. Many people reported a loss of their earlier belief in God. The powerful documentary film, Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero is a moving memorial to that loss—a loss of innocence which occurs with the confrontation with evil. “Where was God?” they asked.
What about you? What’s your notion of God? Where did your idea of God come from? Has it changed since September 11, or some personal tragedy? What’s your understanding of the God depicted in the Bible?
Most of us move through various stages of belief—from the early childhood idea of God as a superman-like father figure who lives in the sky; childhood, after all, is the age of credulity. In his famous letter to the Corinthians Paul said, “When I was a child I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult I gave up childish ways.”
During my first year of seminary (I was twenty-nine, having spent seven years as a high school teacher) I took a course in the Philosophy of Religion with Professor Peter Bertocci at Boston University. It was a large lecture course with a couple of hundred students. At the end of the first day of class Professor Bertocci said, “I’d be interested in your idea of God; this is not required, not for credit, but I’d like to hear what you think of God.”
Two of us wrote something and gave it to him at the next class. A couple of days later he said that he had read what had been submitted and he returned the short paper—mine was four pages. One of the first things I said in that little paper is that I didn’t believe in God. Professor Bertocci wrote in the margin, “Which one?”
I engaged him in a conversation and he said, “Okay, tell me about the God you don’t believe in.” I said, “You know, the bearded old man in the sky—if you say the right words you get ‘in,’ and if you don’t, you’re ‘out.’”
He only half-smiled and said, “Is that as far as it goes?”
From that awkward beginning we developed a friendship I continue to value. During our first encounter he invited me to his office, which was a couple of blocks away. As we walked up Commonwealth Avenue—it was a beautiful September day—he stopped walking, turned to me and said, “What do you think of the mind-body problem?”
“The mind is a function of the brain,” I said. “When the brain dies, the mind ceases…”
He nodded his head, slowly and began to walk again, then he said, “I used to believe that, too.”
We got to his office and he took a book from the shelf and handed it to me—The Individual and His Religion, by Gordon Allport.
In the preface Allport thanks people who influenced him and said: “Professor Peter Bertocci of Boston University was a vital source of encouragement and in a friendly way endeavored to repair my inexpertness in dealing with certain philosophical and theological issues.”
I cherish the book, not so much for what it says about the emerging field of ‘the psychology of religion,’ (which was my major area of study in Seminary) but because that book holds a prominent place as a symbol—it’s an icon, representing the value of what Allport, referring to the influence of Bertocci, called ‘a vital source of encouragement.’
Dr. Allport chose his words carefully. He used the word ‘vital’ to describe the encouragement he got from Dr. Bertocci. The word vital is rooted in the Latin word for ‘life,’ vita, from which we get words like survive and revive.
Now I’d like to invite you to look again at the Biblical God, the God described and worshiped by Jews, Christians and Muslims, referred to as the Abrahamic religions. What does that Biblical God look like to you?
Just as our own personal notion of God moves through what we might call ‘stages of evolution,’ so does the notion of God in Genesis and Exodus ‘evolve.’
The Biblical story begins with these words in the opening lines of the book of Genesis:
“In the beginning God Created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said ‘Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw that it was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day and the darkness he called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.”
(This is why the Jewish day begins at sundown: ‘and there was evening,’ comes first. Shabbat begins on what we call ‘Friday night,’ but for Jews sundown on Friday is the beginning of Saturday, the Sabbath.)
The God who is introduced to us in the first chapter of Genesis creates everything with a word. He simply says what he wants. “And God said, ‘Let there be light; and there was light.“
In the New Testament, which is essentially a retelling of the Hebrew Bible, the fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, opens with that famous line: “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God… all things were made through him…in him was life.”
A summary of the creation story in Genesis says, “And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also.’ And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures.’ And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle.’ So God created man in his own image.”
After each day’s work God looks at what he accomplished that day, as any creator would. He assesses his work and the story says, “And God saw that it was good.” He does that for the first five days, but on the sixth day, after he creates humans, it doesn’t say ‘and God saw that it was good.’ He told them to ‘be fruitful and multiply and have dominion’ over the rest of creation.
The rabbis suggest that God’s pronouncement that ‘it was good‘ after each of the first five day’s work means ‘it is finished.’ Or ‘it’s done; complete.’ But after he created ‘man’ he didn’t say ‘it is good,’ because man wasn’t done—not yet ‘finished.’
Chapter two of Genesis reviews what God did in chapter one, the first six days. God rested on the seventh day and hallowed that day ‘because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.’ He’s tired. He needs rest. That’s an interesting characterization of God; a very human character–he gets tired.
The Sabbath, then, is a time to stop trying to alter the universe, to be in it, to look around, and to appreciate this amazing creation of which we are an evolving part.
An interesting thing happens in the second chapter of Genesis. This is what it says, ” …and there was no man to till the ground. Then God formed man of dust and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.”
God had created man in his own image in Chapter one, but Chapter two says ‘there was no man to till the ground.’ How could that be?
The second creation story has God take some of the dust he created in chapter one and form the dust into a man. Then He breathes into the dust and ‘man became a living soul.’
Then God plants a fascinating garden in Eden. He brings the man into the garden and tells him to take care of it. Then God says to the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 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 die.”
Later in the day–presumably the eighth day–the story says, “Then God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” That’s when God brings the birds and beasts to the man to ‘see what he would call them.’
The man, not yet named, gives names to every living creature. “But for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.” That’s when God puts the man to sleep and takes a rib and forms a woman, whom the man names Eve. Genesis says: “And the man and his wife were both naked and they were not ashamed.”
Shame comes only after the loss of innocence, after they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Notice: Eve wasn’t around when God told the man not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Right away the serpent arrives: “Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'”
Genesis begins with a Creator who makes things simply by saying the word, and, bango, it’s done!
Spoken language precedes written language. The child’s earliest attempt at language is a mimicking of the sounds he hears—a kind of babbling linguists refer to as parasyntactic. For most of us, the word God is like this: at first we’re simply repeating what we’ve heard; but I’m jumping ahead of the story.
By the third chapter of Genesis, God changes significantly. This all-powerful God created the sun and the moon with a word, He created all the plants, fish and animals with a single word, then he creates humans, he tells them what to do but they don’t do what he told them. He expected them to obey. Obviously he was an inexperienced parent–he had not idea about all those stages a child must go through, especially adolescence!
In the third chapter of Genesis the portrait of God begins to change, or to evolve. We begin with an anthropomorphic, all-powerful God, and very quickly his power is limited.
The humans he created disobeyed. Why did they disobey? The story says they disobeyed because they were tempted.
Didn’t this omniscient Creator know they would be filled with temptation? He put the forbidden tree–the tree of the knowledge of good and evil–smack in the middle of the garden. In fact, it’s the only tree he points to: ‘see this tree with the nice big red apples? Don’t touch it!’ If you touch this tree you will die.’
Now let me say at this point that this is a wonderful, powerful piece of mythology; it’s a creative way of describing the reality of our existence. That’s what makes it a Truth story, as opposed to a true story. It’s not about what happened. It’s about what is happening. That’s good mythology.
My purpose in telling it again is to try to get you to notice how the portrait of God changes, how God evolves in the Biblical story in Genesis, and continues to evolve in Exodus when he finally uses the written word on the stone tablets, carving out the commandments.
The evolution of God in the Bible stories is a like the changing, evolving concept of God each of us must go through. ‘When I was a child I spoke like a child, I thought like a child…’
After September 11 we heard people say, “America lost its innocence that day.” On the first Sunday after September 11, during our service, I asked if anyone wanted to say anything, taking the portable microphone down the aisle. A ten-year old girl took the mike and asked, “Why do they hate us?”
It was clear to this ten-year old that there are people out there in the world who hate America. Her question cut to the heart of the matter, and it indicated, first of all, her own loss of innocence.
I responded that it is an important question that we all need to take a closer look at.
The evolution of God in the Bible is, of course, the story of human evolution, which began with the loss of innocence in the famous Garden. The paradox is that the knowledge of good and evil is what distinguishes us as humans; one could say it’s what makes us human.
Before Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the story says, ‘they were naked and they were not ashamed.’
Innocence was lost that day.
For many, their previous religious faith came tumbling down with the towers; their sense of security went up in flames with the pentagon, the ultimate symbol of military power.
Then there was the notion that the terrorists were on a religious mission: they believed that they were doing the will of God, and the God in whom they put their faith was this one–this God whose portrait is painted in Genesis.
For many, this was a double whammy: first, their God allowed this to happen; then to add insult to injury, the perpetrators believed that God–this same God whose picture is painted in Genesis–was going to carry them into heaven, a paradise where virgins were waiting for them and would welcome them as conquering heroes rather than the horrible criminals we know them to be.
Let’s return to the story: The serpent convinces Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which she does. Then she convinces Adam to eat. They don’t die, as God told them they would, but an amazing thing happens: they are ashamed of their nakedness, and they hide from God, and cover their genitals.
The story says that God is walking in the Garden of Eden, and the man and woman hear his footsteps and they hide from him.
Here is a decidedly anthropomorphic God–he’s walking in his garden. They can hear his footsteps. God says, “Where are you?”
How could it be that this omniscient, omnipotent God doesn’t know where they are? Hello! “Oh, God, it’s chapter three, do you know where your children are?”
Just a few days ago this God could create everything with a word. He got an idea for world, he says the word, and bango, everything is created.
What a difference a week has made. By the second week he’s not able to get his children to obey. This story must have been written by the parent of a teenager!
God, the all-powerful creator and absolute ruler, loses it. He goes into a rage. He doesn’t stop to think about it. He doesn’t consider the consequences. He overreacts. He punishes the man and woman by evicting them from Paradise; he tells the man to find a job.
Genesis puts it this way: “…in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life…in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Death is a punishment.
There’s no mention of the word ‘sin’ in the Genesis story. The first human decision is an act of disobedience. They are punished for using the free will their creator gave to them by being evicted from the Garden—they’re now, and from now on, they’re on their own. Condemned to freedom; this is the beginning of human history.
But let’s get back to the story of the evolution of God in the Bible:
God realizes that he goofed–the humans he created are wicked. Cain, the first naturally-born human, kills his brother, Abel, the second naturally-born human.
By the seventh chapter of Genesis God decides to destroy his earthly creation and start over. But he doesn’t do it with a word, he does it with forty days and nights of rain. Enter natural disasters, which insurance companies call ‘acts of God,’ to distinguish them from man-made disasters.
God looks around and finds a good man, Noah, whom he calls ‘a righteous man in his generation.’ In other words, Noah was a relatively good person—compared with the average person at the time.
God tells Noah to build an ark. Noah doesn’t question God. He doesn’t ask ‘why should I build such a big boat when I’m miles away from the water?’ He simply obeys. God likes that.
Then God says, “Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate.” The clean animals are for food for Noah and his family to eat.
At the end of the great flood Noah offers burnt offerings to God. God smells the cooking flesh and is pleased, just as he had been pleased with Abel’s flesh offering. He smells the burning flesh and God does an amazing thing: he repents!
God promises Noah that he will never go to such drastic and destructive lengths again. He puts a rainbow in the sky as a reminder of his promise. He ties a string around his celestial finger so he will be reminded of his promise. Isn’t that interesting? God doesn’t trust his own memory!
The text in Genesis has God say, in part, “I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall (I)…destroy the earth.”
We’re looking at the evolution of the concept of God as described in Genesis as a way of taking another look at our own ideas about God, no matter what we think or believe.
God establishes a covenant with Noah–a partnership with humans. The idea of making a covenant is a major step in the Biblical evolution of God.
Erich Fromm, in his wonderful book ‘You Shall Be As Gods,’ says, “The idea of the covenant constitutes one of the most decisive steps in the religious development of Judaism, a step which prepares the way to the concept of the complete freedom of man, even freedom from God.”
So God decides to give up the job of absolute ruler; the idea of covenant creates a partnership between God and humankind. A covenant is a sacred agreement; a partnership; a commitment. The idea of making a covenant, an agreement between people, is the source of human dignity, integrity. “His word is his bond.”
God promises to have respect for all life. There are no Jewish people on the planet, yet. There are no Christian or Muslim or Hindu people on the planet, yet.
It’s important to note that the first covenant God makes in this mythological explanation of Life applies to all of humankind, indeed to all life on the planet. This kind of universalism is built into our American declaration of independence: ‘all are created equal.’
The later covenants between God and humans become the source of divisiveness, separating the chosen or the saved from the others…the damned.
But this covenant was made with all of humanity, indeed all of the natural world. Albert Schweitzer said that his religion could be summarized in the phrase ‘reverence for life.’
Later in Genesis God makes another covenant, this time with Abram, telling him he will make a great nation of him and his descendents. Abram’s name is changed to Abraham.
In the 12th chapter of Genesis God says to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse.”
Shortly after this promise is made to Abraham God tells Abraham that that he ‘s going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. God confides in Abraham? How does his partner respond?
Abraham protests, challenging God. He says, “Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous men within the city; wilt thou then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
God says he won’t do it, if fifty righteous men are found. Abraham haggles with God: ‘suppose five of the fifty are found to be lacking.” God agrees. Then he goes to forty and thirty and twenty, and God agrees not to destroy the great city if even ten righteous ones are found. This is where the idea of the minyan comes from: in Orthodox Judaism there must be at least ten men in order to have a religious service, ten being a number that constitutes a social entity, a community.
The first chapters of Genesis paint a picture of God as creator and absolute ruler over Creation. If he’s not pleased or satisfied with His Creation He can destroy what He has created, and he does.
Notice the difference between Noah and Abraham. Noah does what he’s told. Abraham protests, he argues with God, he demands justice from God. God has ceased to be the absolute ruler. Man is free to challenge God by referring to God’s own promises–the covenant.
God referred to Noah as a just man in his generation. But Abraham marks the beginning of a new generation, moving from blind obedience to God, to a partner who challenges God and demands justice.
The stage of the evolution of God in the Bible comes in the book of Exodus, when Moses encounters God at the burning bush. Though there are still elements of the old anthropomorphic God who ‘speaks,’ and ‘dwells on the mountain,’ a radically new notion of God emerges. When Moses asks God to tell his name he says, “I AM WHO I AM.”
That’s a strange name. I AM (or Eheyeh) is the first person of the imperfect tense of the Hebrew verb ‘to be.’ It means, “I will be what I will be.” This strange name suggests that God not complete, but a process. This makes God a verb, not a noun.
The Biblical portrays a God who is evolving.
I was interested to learn about the animated film, The Prince of Egypt through an interview with Nick Fletcher, the supervising editor. He talked about the process of making a decision about the voice that would come from the burning bush. He said, ‘The challenge with that voice was to try to evolve it into something that had not been heard before. We did a lot of research into the voices that had been used for past Hollywood movies as well as for radio shows, and we were trying to create something that had never been previously heard not only from a casting standpoint but from a voice manipulation standpoint as well.’
‘The solution was to use the voice of actor (who was the voice of Moses) Val Kilmer, to suggest the kind of voice we hear inside our own heads in our everyday lives–as opposed to the larger than life tones with which the Creator has been endowed in prior celluloid incarnations.’
In the book of Exodus, the burning bush God does not have a name, and this is extremely important. My seminary professor, Harrell Beck said, “The Old Testament is one long warning against the dangers of idolatry.”
Fromm says, “This God who manifests himself in history cannot be represented by any kind of image, neither by an image of sound–that is, a name–nor by an image of stone or wood. This prohibition of any kind of representation of God is clearly expressed in the Ten Commandments, which forbid man to bow down before any ‘graven image, nor any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Ex. 20:4)
This commandment against making a graven image, against idolatry, is ‘one of the most fundamental principles of Jewish theology.’ Observing Jews will not pronounce the name God nor write it. They will write G-d, as a way of referring to that which is nameless, the sacred, the holy.
Talking to God (as) in prayer is encouraged, but talking about God is not; it becomes argumentative.
Failure to observe this restriction results in people saying that they know what God wants, what God is thinking, who God likes better and best, who God wants destroyed, and so forth. You see where this leads. It leads to the insanity of a man killing a doctor in the name of God at an abortion clinic. It leads to the atrocity of September 11.
So the concept of God in the Bible moves through an evolutionary process beginning with God who creates with a word, moving to the angry God of Adam and Eve, the jealous God of Cain and Abel, the destructive God of the flood, then a God who forms partnerships with Noah and Abraham, culminating in the nameless God of Moses.
The all-powerful creator God of the first chapter of Genesis becomes a self-limiting God who forms partnerships with the people he has created..
God and man become co-creators, continuing the work begun in the first chapters of Genesis. It’s as if God says, “I can’t do it alone. I need you.”
There are some who suggest that the God of Exodus, who intervenes in history to free the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, promotes passivity. “God will come again and fix things for us, we just have to wait.”
But the story suggests that God chose Abraham as a partner; he chose Moses as a partner, suggesting, again, that he couldn’t do it alone.
God can send the plagues to force the Egyptians to let his people go, but he couldn’t liberate the people–he couldn’t make a decree that would make people free in the deeper sense. Democracies evolve, but that’s another topic.
Humans have a deep ambivalence about freedom, which prompted Erich Fromm to write a book he titled Escape From Freedom, and prompted Sartre to say, “We’ re condemned to freedom.” This is illustrated when the Israelites complain to Moses about not knowing where their next meal was coming from and they said, “At least in Egypt we had security, we had something to eat and drink.”
What makes the Bible Holy, or Sacred, is that it tells the truth about humans, it reveals deeper Truths about what it means to be born, to grow up, to struggle and to die.
The Biblical God is a very human-like God, as contrasted with the god of the Greeks. The Greeks painted a portrait of god as unchanging, eternal, not involved in human affairs. The Greeks couldn’t comprehend a God who has a relationship to humans, who needs to form a partnership with humans. Their god was perfection itself, completely self-sufficient, with nothing to do but think.
And what did the god of the Greeks think about? He thought about himself, thinking. God, living high atop Mt. Olympus, is ‘thought on thought on himself.’ The God in Greek mythology is completely and absolutely separate from humans.
The Biblical God, the God of Jews, Christians and Muslims, is vulnerable to man, which is why he seeks relationship.
God provides the Ten Commandments not to have power and control over humans, but to provide a way for humans to control themselves and thus to become liberated.
It’s interesting to notice that God forms relationships with particular individuals: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses. Intimacy requires particularity. God cannot have a close, working relationship with humanity, per se.
After the temple was destroyed and the people could no longer come to worship simply by offering burnt offerings on the altar and witnessing rituals, the practicing Jew did his (sic) religion by the way he lived his life. Everything he does takes on a religious quality-the dietary laws: what he eats, how the food is prepared and animals slaughtered, how he’s married and to whom, the circumcision, what he wears, how and when he prays, and so forth.
It’s interesting to note, however, that each practicing Jew is expected to read and interpret the meanings of the Bible stories for himself.
Last summer I heard Rabbi David Hartman say, from this platform, “The Bible is God’s first edition. It’s not final. It’ s evolving.”
He said, “We should read the Torah as if God delivered it to us today, like this morning’s newspaper. Receive it as if you are seeing it for the first time, and see how it fits into your life today, see the truths as they relate to all your experience to this date.”
In other words, it needs to be continually re-interpreted; meanings evolve. God is an evolving concept in the Bible because the concept of God evolves for each and every person.
Moses asked, “Who should I say sent me?” The voice from the burning bush said, “EHEYEH asher EHEYEH,” I am that I am, or I will be what I will be.”
It says ‘God is,’ but his being is not yet completed, like that of a thing. (Fromm) God is a living process, a becoming. Fromm says, “A free translation is, ‘My name is Nameless,” and he adds, “Only idols have names, because they are things.”
You and I will determine what God will be or ‘become.’
When asked about God, Buckminster Fuller commented, “I believe in God, but I spell it Nature.”
I share that intuitive sense of a deep, eternal connection to Nature—to the Cosmic Life Force, even though I acknowledge that I have no idea what eternity really means. I can’t conceive of endlessness.
For me, God is not a being, but the process of being and becoming; not a noun, but a verb.
Buddhism best expresses my idea of religion. Sometimes I call myself a Buddhist, but I do not identify with those who say they are ‘practicing Buddhism.’ I see Buddhism as a paradoxical religion similar to the nameless God that spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. The paradox of Buddhism, for me, is that it puts the responsibility for one’s theology or spirituality in one’s own lap.
I practice Buddhism by practicing being me, and moving into a new, changing, evolving self. I do not feel the need to have my beliefs validated by others. This is why I have a deep and abiding appreciation for the Unitarian Universalist approach: it encourages me to spiritual growth, and that growth must have something to with ethical work.
When I try to say to explain my beliefs I realize that the words fall so far short of the mark that I often wish I could take them back in mid-sentence, and almost always with I could try to explain myself again.
I have an affinity for mysticism while embracing a down-to-earth, practical and rational humanism. Now what about you? What do you think about God? Where have you been on your own evolutionary journey so far? I’d be interested to hear from you.
Reading: Adam’s Complaint, by Nicholas Biel
On the third day I was dust, ordinary common dust
like you see on a country road in a dry spell,
nothing expected of me,
me expecting nothing neither.
On the sixth day he comes along and blows.
“In my own image too”, he says,
like he was doing me a favor.
Sometimes I think if he’d waited a million years
by then I’d been tired maybe being dust
but after only two, three days,
what can you expect? I wasn’t used to being dust
and he goes and makes me into Man.
He could see right away from the expression on my face
I didn’t like it so he’s going to butter me up.
He puts me in this garden only I don’t butter.
He brings me all the animals I should give them names–
What do I know of names? “Call it something,” he says,
“anything you want,” so I make names up–lion, tiger,
elephant, giraffe–crazy but that’s what he wants.
I’m naming animals since 5 AM, in the evening I’m tired
I go to bed early, in the morning I wake up,
there she is sitting by a pool of water admiring herself.
“Hello, Adam,” she says, “I’m your mate, I’m Eve.”
“Pleased to meet you,” I tell her and we shake hands.
Actually I’m not pleased—from time immemorial nothing,
now rush, rush, rush; two days ago I’m dust, yesterday
all day I’m naming animals, today I got a mate already.
Also I didn’t like the way she looked at me
or at herself in the water.
Well, you know what happened, I don’t have to tell you,
there were all those fruit trees—she took a bite,
I took a bite, the snake took a bite and quick like a flash—
out of the garden.
Now I’m not complaining; After all, it’s his garden,
he don’t want nobody eating his apples, that’s his business.
What irritates me is the nerve of the guy.
I didn’t ask him to make me even dust;
he could have left me nothing like I was before–
and such a fuss for one lousy little apple
not even ripe (there wasn’t much time from Creation,
it was still Spring), I didn’t ask for Cain, for Abel,
I didn’t ask for nothing, but anything goes wrong,
who’s to blame?….Sodom, Gomorrah, Babel, Ararat…
me or my kids catch it,….fire, flood, pillar of salt.
“Be patient,” Eve said, “a little understanding. Look,
he made it was his idea, it breaks down, so he’ll fix it.”
But I told him one day. “You’re in too much of a hurry.
In six days you make everything there is,
you expect it to run smoothly? Something’s always
going to happen. If you’d a thought first,
conceived a plan, consulted a specialist,
you wouldn’t have so much trouble all the time.”
But you can’t tell him nothing. He knows it all.
Like I say, he means well but he’s a meddler and he’s careless.
He could have made that woman so she wouldn’t bite no apple.
All right, all right, so what’s done is done,
but all the same, he should have known better,
or at least he could have blown on other dust.
Closing Reading: From ‘Disorder in the American Courts’
The following is taken from transcripts by court reports in a collection by the above title:
ATTORNEY: What is your date of birth?
WITNESS: July 18th.
ATTORNEY: What year?
WITNESS: Every year.
ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.
ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget.
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?
ATTORNEY: How old is your son, the one living with you?
WITNESS: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can”t remember which.
ATTORNEY: How long has he lived with you?
WITNESS: Forty-five years.
ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
WITNESS: He said, “Where am I, Cathy?”
ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?
WITNESS: My name is Susan.
ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
WITNESS: We both do.
WITNESS: We do.
ATTORNEY: You do?
WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.
ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?
ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: Uh, he’s twenty-one.
ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS: Would you repeat the question?
ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?
WITNESS: Uh …
ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?
ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.
ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All my autopsies are performed on dead people.
ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?
ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him!
ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: But could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.
ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there.