Back to Eden?

I think it was Woody Allen who said 80% of success is just turning up. The same could be said about life. To really turn up is to be present and the quality of our presence determines our level of participation. Life is sacrificed if we have an over bearing need to control and determine outcomes. There is innocence in just turning up, gratitude in being invited. I think we are still suffering our loss of innocence in choosing the tree of knowledge over the tree of life, long ago in Eden. Unbridled pursuit of knowledge marginalises life. It does not engender healthy relationships between us and the earth. The irony is we are still naked. We just don’t know it. We have clothed ourselves with layers of knowledge giving us the illusion that we know what we are doing.

Knowledge without a living root begets fear. As a child, I wondered why Adam and Eve knowing they were naked felt fear and the need to clothe themselves. Did God expel them from Eden or did they expel themselves? What is sure is some serious disconnect took place in our development and perhaps it is time to reconnect. My own sense of it is that there has always been an open invitation to go back to Eden but that we have to acknowledge the truth of our nakedness. There is no place for pretence. This does not mean forgetting what we now know. We can never go back to what we were. But it does mean piercing the illusion of our knowledge and taking responsibility for the truth of who we are. Believing our own lies that the emperor has clothes is a major hindrance.

I think in our hearts we know the truth, but the reality is just too much to bear. As T. S. Eliot says, ‘Humankind cannot bear very much reality’. So we dilute it, insulate ourselves from it, tell ourselves stories that it is okay and that we are not really that naked. There are very bright minds all over the world working on solving problems facing humanity. The applied effort and innovation is tremendous but all this creativity is severely hampered by inadequate frames of reference. Do we really believe that depleting the world’s resources in an unrestrained manner and the increasing disparity of wealth is going to end well? Last month the world paid tribute to Nelson Mandela and an unprecedented number of heads of state ‘turned up’ to attend his funeral. They came to honour goodness and in so doing touched goodness in themselves. Why is it so hard for us to harness this very human of qualities? Does it not give us the courage to face our fears and reach out to the other? This goodness can change the world if we can learn to act from it.

Author: Simon Davison