Tag Archives: education

The REAL serpent in the garden


 

C'mon, you know you want to.

C'mon, you know you want to.

So the holidays are (sort of) over, and my 12-year-old and I are the only ones up and around, clunking about, kicking around holiday debris, enjoying some quality(?) time together, here, on this Saturday morning, around 10-ish, after Christmas.

 

I’m losing a little bit of patience, however, because I kind of thought we were past the baby-talk stage. Never did I talk to my kids in baby talk. I wanted them to learn to actually say “bottle,” not “bah-bah,” so that’s what I would say to them.

Therefore, they learned to speak, not babble, except for my youngest, who persisted in calling her older sister “Bluh-luh” for the longest time – a sound which doesn’t remotely resemble her true name, which begins with a vowel. Still, it helped – and I felt far less like a fool as I chatted endlessly and hopefully at strollers with belted-in droolers. Yeah, I’m really not a baby person. I just had them, and as I tell them both, I like them better and better the older they get.

I take my duty seriously, though, to teach them. Them, at least – not the whole world. The rest of the world, I simply catalog as stupid, smart or somewhere in between, and I tolerate both with equanimity and relative good humor. The stupid make good fodder for this blog. The smart entertain and teach me – though as I often remind my kids, anyone, however stupid, can teach you something.

Today, however, I felt obligated to teach my 12-year-old.

“Mom, where does ‘I’m not my brother’s keeper’ come from?”

Aghast at my own failing to instill any kind of background in the study of religion, however comparative, I was momentarily speechless. Doesn’t EVERYONE know that? Doesn’t everyone somehow assimilate the story of Cain and Abel?

Apparently not.

Having yanked the poor child out of religious education after she attempted to throw herself from a moving car, rather than endure the misery of Roman Catholic Confession, I realized my child was suffering from large gaps in her education.

“Honey, I’ll tell you what one of my favorite professors in college told me. No educated person has NOT read the entire Bible.”

“WHAT?” she gasped. “The whole THING?”

“Not at a single sitting, goof,” I laughed. “But fear not. It’s just a clump of small books, strung together. You don’t even have to read it in order.”

“Moooom…”

I turned stern. “It’s shorter than ‘Twilight.’ ”  Then I softened. “Come on. I’ll read some to you.”

We read the story of Cain and Abel, and then, for background, we started on the Creation story, which led to some trouble before I even cracked the first “Let there be light.”

I began to mutter something about “Creationists” equaling “lunatics,” forgetting completely that I was talking to someone I’d indoctrinated to have tolerance for all beliefs.

My lack of kindness for folks who ignore the colossal body of fossil records and massive scientific evidence in favor of a version of an earth being created that has trees springing up “bing-bing-bing” in a day really pissed her off.

That is, until I started reading it.

“Wait, Mom – a dome? God created the sky as a dome? So, what is that saying about the earth?”

“That it’s FLAT, honey.”

“So, how big is it supposed to be? And what’s beyond the dome?”

I pointed to the first paragraph. “The abyss, honey.”

We went on.

“A basin? Wait, Mom – the sea is a basin? Like a big bowl?”

I nodded.

“Wait, Mom – sea monsters?”

I nodded.

“Wait, Mom – Adam named all the animals? What, in English?”

“Well, no, wait, I don’t know. Maybe Aramaic.”

“What’s Aramaic?”

“An ancient language.”

She did get excited when the geography part started – when the river in Eden is described, and the Tigris and Euphrates are named. (She’s good at geography.)

The temptation of Eve, however, was unsettling. You see, a lot of misconceptions abound regarding that little tale – but if you read the book, as we did this morning, you learn a lot about who the snake really is.

Sure, it’s Eve who does the talking with the serpent – but it says right there in the book, Adam is with her the whole time. Does he speak up? Say anything like: “Eve – babe – is this really the best idea? Didn’t God say cheese it on that tree?” Does Adam step in front of her and say, “No thanks, leave my wife alone?”

No. The wuss does nothing except grab the apple and munch when it’s his turn.

It gets worse. When God, like an angry dad, comes strolling through the garden, where Adam and Eve are hiding behind a plant (literally), and says: “Hey! You kids, get out here. Who told you that you were naked?”

(At which point my daughter inserted: “Our EYES.”)

Adam, the rat, the snitch, the stoolie, the coward, puts his weak-ass little hand on his wife’s back and shoves her right under the bus. “SHE did it. She ate the apple, and SHE gave it to ME.”

So the Old Testament God, who is, if you notice, a rather moody thing, short-tempered and VERY big on vengeance, doles out THIS punishment:

You: woman – childbirth is going to SUCK.

You: man – no more plucking from the trees. Now you have to sweat and farm.

You: serpent – crawl on your belly, and everyone is going to hate you.

And He locks up the garden of Eden – because there’s one tree left He wants to make sure NOBODY gets a hold of: the Tree of Life. Eat that, and you’ll live forever.

God puts a revolving fiery sword and a band of cherubim at the gate. Nice. Keep in mind, when you hear cherubim, don’t think sweet little cherubs. Every single time an angel appears in sacred texts, the first thing they say isn’t what you see on the Lifetime Channel: “Hey, let me solve your problems.”

It’s: “Be not afraid.”

You think Twilight vampires are scary, exciting reading? Try the Bible. Whether you’re a believer or not, it’s a real page turner, that’s for sure.

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I’m no valedictorian, but…


Add to Technorati Favoritesgraduate celebratingI practically fell asleep at both my high school and college graduations, not to mention the endless graduations I was forced to attend during my stint as a PR/web diva while employed at a local community college.

Why these institutions relentlessly opt for the most boring speakers, year after year, spouting the same, clichéd advice, I will never in my life figure out.

Do speakers honestly think they’ve hit on something original and fun when they approach the podium with Dr. Suess’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go?” For the love of all that’s holy – the book itself isn’t even that good. It just has Suess’s name on it, so the speaker thinks it’s got an automatic seal of “Aren’t I fun? Won’t this be the best speech EVER?”

Do speakers at roasting-hot graduations, facing crowds of hungover, soaking-wet individuals who are impatient to get back to drinking again, diplomas in hand, think that anyone – even the proud, ignorant parents – think anyone is really listening to a word they say? Especially if they say anything past three minutes or so?

Why these institutions  relentlessly opt for the  most boring speakers, year after year, spouting  the same, clichéd advice, I will never in my life figure out.I think they do. I think there’s something about a microphone that dangerously brings out the absolute worst in all of us. Get someone behind a mike – someone who most people see a few yards ahead, casually turn on their heels, hoping to avoid a “Hey, howya doing? Have you heard the latest about ME?” – and some people go simply MAD with the attention.

Now, they think to themselves, I get to say all the things that have been gathering in my heart for years. And I have all the time, under this blistering sun, to say it to a captive audience, clad in long, dark, hot, heat-gathering robes. And hats. Don’t forget hats. Which also keep the heat in.

I was once at a graduation where one professor with an axe to grind went on for over a half an hour, listing everything he thought was wrong with the world. Administrators wandered helplessly in the background, along with security, wondering if, in fact, they were going to need an actual vaudeville hook to remove him from the dais.

Not that anyone is ever likely to invite me to give a graduation speech, but here’s the one I’d give, in the event I were asked:

Very cool, folks. You graduated. Time for the touchdown dance. Guess what? Now that you will never be attending another mixer, no one will ever ask you again what your major is. No one will ever care. They only care that you graduated. Which you did. So yay, you. A lot of people don’t.

Now that you have, though, here’s what happens next.

You will not remember any of your Spanish, French, or whatever language you took. The quadratic equation? You actually WON’T ever need it; you were right – the unit prices in ShopRite are printed right there on the shelves when you’re trying to figure out which is cheaper, the big jar of peanut butter or the two little jars. That’s daily math for you. I liked math in college, but I’ve never needed the advanced calculus I took to live my life, and I’ve had more different jobs than Stevie Nicks has costume changes at a concert.

You will barely remember, in fact, much of what you learned. I recommend at some point in the future, actually, that you pick up a book called An Incomplete Education by Judy Jones and William Wilson.

Not to imply that you haven’t received a perfectly good and thorough education here at this fine institution – I’m just warning you. Real life – as in work, rent, bills, someday kids – has a way of driving from your ballooning brain things like philosophy, history, literary criticism, and all the things that have seemed so very important in the past few years.

This book? It’s a fabulous, one or two paragraph reference to catch you up at cocktail party time, so you don’t end up sounding like a picket-fence polishing, lawn-mowing, brain-dead, “I-gave-up” suburbanite.

I don’t know.You will hear, over and over, people asking you: what will you do now? I hereby give you permission to say: I don’t know. If you DO know, that’s awesome. Go for it. If you are all set for the next step – like medical or law school, and you put in a few years and hate it – I give you permission to quit and try something else. One of the happiest guys I know was a successful lawyer for years, then quit in his forties to become a broke high school English teacher.

You don’t have to know what you want to do with the rest of your life NOW. Try a bunch of things. It’s allowed. Don’t let anyone pressure you into the family business, or into one of the official professions. If you majored in finance, but your dream job is rodeo clown, go for it. The only person who actually lives your life is you.

The only opinion that really matters is yours.

You have an education now. That’s awesome. Now you’re off to the business off getting yourself some wisdom and judgment. That comes with experience. You can have a happy life if you follow your own path. Do whatever makes you happy, and the money will follow, trust me. You may have a few lean years, but if you stick it out, everything will be cool.

Believe in yourself, even if nobody else does. My aunt used to say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. And being happy is a lot better life than being miserable. Seems obvious, but it’s amazing how many people are so bent on pleasing other people that they forget that – for instance, pleasing the people who just paid for their education.

Still – the people that paid for their education aren’t going to be living that life of yours, are they?

So get out there. Keep your ears open. Your mouth shut. Don’t think you’re done. This is just the beginning of your education. What you really learned in college is how to learn. So get out into the world and start really learning. And don’t ever stop; that’s when you get old.

Now? The fun part starts. Now? It’s just pass/fail. The trick? There is no fail until you give up. So just don’t ever give up, especially on yourself.

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