Then the Lord God said, “See!  The man has become like one of us, knowing what is good and what is bad!” … The Lord God banished him from the garden of Eden … and he stationed the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword to guard the way to the tree of life.

Gen 3:22, 23, 24

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This, of course, is an excerpt from the beginning of our religious narrative. Banishment from Eden, from a place of intimacy and ever-lasting life, an exile into the world where we will know death and difficulty.

But what more does this story mean?  Well, it shows us the birth of human consciousness.  By eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, man and woman became like God, saw what was good and what was evil.  We became, in the violation of this fore-warned prohibition, self-conscious and our very first act of self-consciousness was to hide, to hide from God, indeed – hide who we were by masking our nakedness.

What can this story and our immediate reaction tell us?  Ah, something very, very important: that people hide – that they hide from growth and for reality, the world as it is – and life as it is.

Hiding from growth?  Yes, it is quite common.

Growing in the world means suffering from uncertainty of the mystery that is human existence, and from the pain that is mortal existence.  The former (mystery) requires depth of thinking and facing the implicit and ever-present unknown.  As to pain, men and women try everything imaginable to avoid it.

M. Scott Peck, M.D., the esteemed psychotherapist, tells us that “a great deal of human psychopathology, including the abuse of drugs, arises out of an attempt to get back to Eden.”

His view, as it mine, is this: most people resist growing and that resistance causes all sorts of individual problems that are readily off-loaded to others – to spouses, children, co-workers, neighbors and, indeed, even to communities and the culture at-large.

Lest anyone think that this is not so, avoiding growth is quite present even in “safe havens” like religious communities.  We are as humans, sadly, disposed to avoid the hard work of growing, and the pain and work it requires.

Many who avoid growth take on a rather pathetic and childish aura of innocence. Others prefer to try the god-like task of total “control” of all people, circumstances and events around them.  For many others ideology replaces religious narrative as a way to bypass the pain and uncertainty that comes with growth.

As you can reason if you think about it: no growth requires no faith, and growth requires faith.

As Peck says of those who avoid growth – people “find what looks like a safe place, burrow into sand, and stay there rather than go forward through the painful desert” with all its challenges and hardships.

Human existence and a healthy life, as our narrative tells us, requires our prolonged commitment to psycho-spiritual growth.

Think about it: banished from Eden is bad enough; discarding faith, as we are in the present age, is even more damaging – for without faith and religious narrative applied to life, there is virtually no chance for psycho-spiritual growth and either individual or collective well-being.

Growth.  Faith.  Religious narrative.  Each are required if living well is your goal. Hiding simply brings sickness and destruction.

Shalom.

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