Monday, March 16, 2015

The Fall

As I have mentioned previously, to mistake a myth for a theory is a terrible error. Genesis I is not a scientific theory of how the world was created, nor is it an historical account. It is a myth about creation: it expresses a mystery that we can't capture in scientific theories or historical accounts, but that we can hint at through poetry such as, "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."

I was prompted to think about this again tonight when one of my online friends was circulating an inspirational poster telling the reader, "There is nothing wrong with you accept what other people tell you is wrong with you."

Of course there is something wrong, and fundamentally wrong, with each of us! That something is expressed again and again in myths: in the Biblical story of the Fall, or Plato's myth of the originally perfect beings that split in two, in the tale of Prometheus, in the Buddhist idea of samsara, and even in the work of a deep existentialist like Albert Camus. (Camus would not have been sympathetic to the idea that man's existential crisis could be solved by a few Tony Robbins pep talks.) These myths express our sense of brokenness, and may point us towards a path of healing. It is a complete misunderstanding of the mode in which these stories operate to ask them to give a double-entry bookkeeping account of just why someone eating an apple thousands of years ago makes a baby born today guilty of something.

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"If your approach to mathematics is mechanical not mystical, you're not going to go anywhere." -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb