Saturday, May 3, 2014

Differences and Oneness

 May Day

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When God created everything, God said, "it is good." And God put God's own image in the creatures that walk on the earth. In the midst of the create there was a wonderful garden. It was God's garden. Everything was there, but everything was so close it was all together. God was with the rocks and plants and animals, and they were with God and each other.
All the people were also together in one person who was called "Everyone", or in their language, "Adam." Eve was there, too. She was always there, for she came from Adam. She and Adam were a kind of AdamEve.

In the middle of the garden grew two trees. God told AdamEve that they should not eat the fruit from those trees. One tree was about difference and one tree was about forever. If you ate the fruit of the tree of difference, you would know about differences, and if you ate from the forever tree, you would live forever.

Now the serpent was more clever than any other creature that the Lord God made. And he suggested that AdamEve taste the fruit from the tree of differences. And they did. AdamEve ate from the tree of differences and things fell apart for them. They became Adam and Eve. The difference between them and God also came apart. And the difference between good and evil did, too. 

God called for them and they hid, but God found them. They did not know how to be with God anymore, because of all the difference. There were: good and evil, close and far, high and low, God and people, Adam and Eve... and many more. 

The differences also did something wonderful. Now Adam and Eve could take things apart and put them back together again. They could be creators, almost like God. The couldn't make something out of nothing, but they could make something out of differences.

After the differences, Adam and Eve could not go back to when everything was all together in the Garden. They could only go forward and they did. God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden. An agel and a sword was put at the edge of the Garden so they could not go back, but only go forward. God went with them on their journey to help them be the best creators they could be, and to be with God in a new way, and to stay one with God.

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This is the story of Genesis 2 as told in the Godly Play curriculum. My Quaker church uses this story based Sunday school curriculum because we know that sharing stories and talking about stories together is the best way to talk about god. The Godly Play stories are always followed by a set of wondering questions where those who heard the story can think together, out loud and silently, about what is important and meaningful in the story. Word fail us when we try to talk about god, but the pictures and metaphors in stories help us express what we know and what we are learning.

When our amazingly gifted story teller gave us this story at West Hills Friends last weekend, most of us brought with us baggage about this story. In the Bible as it is usually interpreted, this story is a story of bad news - deceit, falling from grace, being cast out of the garden, the pain of childbirth, original sin. In Christian theology Genesis 2 is usually seen as a set up for the redeeming nature of Christ's birth and an explanation for why life is so hard. It doesn't feel very redeeming. But interpreting the story just a little differently, as this version does, opens the story up in previously unthinkable ways. Like a flower in May, the story unfolds, revealing layer after layer of meaning to each visitor. 

This week, the layer I am seeing most clearly is the story of differences. They ate from the tree of differences and things fell apart. That line resonates with me right now. When things are different, when you are separated, when you see the differences between this and that, thou and I, now and then, things feel like they are falling apart. But the story has redemption! Out of the differences Adam and Eve learn to take things apart and put them back together, to create something out of the differences. 

As I sat in church, literally on the edge of my seat, and heard those words "create something out of differences" my very first thought was about literally making babies. We just wrapped up a unit on heredity in my 7th grade class and we talked a fair amount about how organisms that use sexual reproduction need one of each sex and the resulting offspring are similar but different from their parents in vital ways. Organisms that use asexual reproduction create offspring that are identical to their parents with genetic variation happening in different, possibly slower and less responsive ways. Without that core difference of biological sex, humans can not create the new thing that is babies. AdamEve were together and they were together with God, but they could not create new humans in that state. 

I also thought a lot about what state of mind AdamEve might have had in the garden, before the differences. There is a spectacular TED talk by brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor recounting her experience of having a massive stroke. She says that when her left hemisphere, the side of our brain responsible for linear thought, categorizing, autobiographical memories and language (ya know, differences), went offline she was left in a state of timeless connection with the universe, of joy and love and energy. I wonder if this is what life was like in the garden for AdamEve. As Jill Bolte Taylor says, "in this moment we are perfect, we are whole, and we are beautiful." 

But being a whole, perfect and connected piece of the Universal Flow does not allow us to be creative. We just are. When she realized she was having a stroke and needed help, Jill Bolte Taylor could not effectively dial a phone or communicate her need. She was too busy feeling vast and limitless. Babies, in their sense of moment to moment pleasure, pain and wonder do not have the capacity to build or create. It is only when we step into the discreteness of ourselves, when we see the differences between Thou and I, between male and female, light and dark, good and evil, that we can make anything new in the world. 

My pagan theology holds at its center the sacredness of the ebb and flow of the differences in life. Lightness flows and ebbs into darkness, winter into summer, growth into decay and as these differences dance around each other life is created and sustained. In my creation story in the beginning there was One, one Goddess. She could do nothing but Be Goddess until she woke up and realized she was lonely. She, like AdamEve, tasted the fruit of difference, found her world lacking and went about the work of creating what she needed to be connected and happy.

Our job as humans is to dance the ebb and flow of differences. To know that sometimes we must feel differences, painful and separating as they may be, in order to know how to proceed in our creation of a better life. I continue to struggle with anxiety and dark emotions this spring as I work through realizations about my separateness and singularity in the world. The angel and the sword were placed at the entrance to the garden and we can not really go back, only forward. But the path forward also has room for us to dance back into that expansive, connected place of oneness with God and with each other. My walks in the woods this spring have left me more than one mouth agape at the sheer fecundity and beauty of nature. Flowers and leaves, flowing water and animals and compost. And I am a part of it! It is there in that place of connectedness that we can reclaim a memory of Eden and know what we are trying to create out of the differences. 

What differences are you dancing with this May Day?

What stories do you know or can think of that might explain how AdamEve lived in the garden?

What are you working on creating out of differences right now?

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May Day 2012: The Dauntless Youth of the Year

May Day 2010: Glory Days

May Day 2009:  May Day