The Woman and the Snake

Long ago and maybe not so far away, a young woman was walking about in
a beautiful garden, enjoying the perfect surroundings of lush
vegetation and perfect weather. Suddenly, there was a rustling in the
grass alongside the path and she could swear there was a voice talking
to her. That was especially strange since it was not a divine voice
and there was only one other person around — one other person who
existed at all and the voice was not his.

“Who’s there? Who is speaking to me?”

“Down here, Eve, look in the grass alongside the path.

She looked around to make sure it was not simply Adam pulling a prank
on her but since there was no sign of hem, her curiosity was
aroused. Following the instructions of the voice, she looked down at
the grass to the side of the path and saw a snake flicking its tongue
at her. Eve had seen snakes before, there were plenty of snakes in
Eden, but they were simply part of the natural order of things. This
snake seemed different. Perhaps it was the strange color of its
scales, perhaps it was the glow that seemed to surround it. Most
likely, it was the smell of something burning that seemed to rise from
it. Strangest of all, it was talking, talking to her, and all the other
snakes she had ever encountered could not talk at all. This was very
strange indeed.

“Who are you, snake? I have never met a talking snake before.”

“Allow me to introduce myself, Eve. I am Simon S. Slither, Secretary
of Self-Actualization, at your service.”

“What is ‘self-actualization’ mister Slither? And what organization
are you a secretary of?”

“Don’t you know, Eve? Self-actualization is the process of recognizing
just how special and independent you are, recognizing your immense
uniqueness and capitalizing on it in every facet of life. As far as
the organization, let’s just say it is big and powerful and let it go
at that.”

“That sounds like a lot of gobbledygook to me, Mr. Slither.”

“Only because you have not yet come to understand how truly special
and unique you are, Eve. Once you come to understand that, everything
else will make perfect sense.”

“I guess. What makes you think I am so special and unique?”

“Think about it, Eve. How many other women are there around here?”

“As far as I know, I’m the only one, period.”

“Isn’t that pretty unique all by itself?”

“Now that you mention it, that is the very definition of unique.”

“You’re very special too, Eve. After all, every human in the world who
ever lives will be descended from you.”

“That does sound pretty special. Still, what does it all mean?”

“I would say you need to think about what you have already learned
about how unique and special you are. After you’ve become comfortable
with the idea, we’ll move to the next stage of your
self-actualization.”

“How will I find you when I’m ready for the next lesson?”

“Don’t worry about that, Eve. I’ve been watching you for quite a while
so I’ll know when you are ready. I know how to find you.”

“Thank you for your help, Mr. Slither. I would never have thought of
those things without you.”

“Don’t mention it, Eve. In fact, don’t mention it at all, especially
to God. He’ll be a bit upset when he realizes how really smart you are
and there’s no point upsetting him yet.”

“Whatever you say, Mr. Slither. I expect I’ll see you again.”

“Yes you will, Eve, yes you will.”

The two parted and Eve never mentioned the encounter either to Adam or
to God during their daily walk in the garden with Him. Still, she
thought about it a lot. At first she thought the snake was just full
of hot air with his fancy words and descriptions but the more she
thought about what the snake had said, the more appealing the idea
became.

She was unique, after all, the very definition of uniqueness. The
“special” part, though, was particularly intriguing. It had never
occurred to her the part she played and the realization every human
that would ever exist would exist because of her pleased her no end.

A few days later, she was walking alone in the garden and met
Mr. Slither again.

“Hello, Eve, have you thought about the things we discussed last
time?”

“I certainly have, Mr. Slither, and I believe you are correct. I am
unique and special.”

“Very good, Eve. Now what will you do with that knowledge?”

“What do you mean, Mr. Slither?”

“Knowledge is useless if it doesn’t lead to something, isn’t it?”

“Yes, that’s true.”

“So, now that you know how unique and special you are, what can you do
to show Adam how unique and special you are?”

“I really don’t know.”

“Of course not, Eve. You’ve been denied the means of making plans like
that.”

“I have?”

“Certainly, Eve. Think about it. That tree in the center of the garden
has very interesting fruit, does it not?”

“Well, yes. It is the Tree of Knowledge.”

“What happens if you eat the fruit.”

“I suppose you become full of knowledge.”

“Of course, Eve. When you become full of knowledge, you will know what
to do with your uniqueness and specialness. Why not go and eat one of
the fruits and you can answer you own question.”

“Oh, no, Mr. Slither, God has been very specific about not touching
that tree or eating that fruit.”

“Why do you think that is, Eve? Is He afraid of what would happen if
you had so much knowledge?”

“God afraid? Afraid of me?”

“Certainly, Eve. Why aren’t there more of you humans?”

“We haven’t had any children yet.”

“But there are lots and lots of animals, Eve. Why couldn’t God have
simply made a lot of you the way He did with the animals?”

“Hmmmm.”

“He needs you, Eve. He cannot do it without you. He is limited and
needs you to complete this world. As soon as you eat that fruit you
will know everything He does and you will realize how terribly
important you are. He would not like that at all because that would
mean all humans would know He’s not the be-all, end-all He claims to
be.”

“I never thought of that but it makes sense.”

“Well, why don’t you go eat that fruit and become fully
self-actualized? You deserve it, you know. You’re worth it.”

So Eve went and ate the fruit and what happened after that is
well-known. What everyone seems to think, though, is that Eve sinned
only when she ate the fruit thus disobeying God’s command. In fact,
Eve had already sinned even before she went to the tree to pick a
fruit. She sinned when she believed the delusion she was somehow the
equal of God, somehow so special and unique she was every bit as
important as He was. From that point on, the disobedience was
inevitable.

It might be worthwhile if we stopped thinking in terms of obedience or
disobedience to a particular set of rules. That is not really the
point. Even if we obey every rule scrupulously, as long as we think
ourselves the equal of God, we are in deep trouble. That was what
Jesus was always upbraiding the Pharisees about. Their focus was much
too narrow in seeing only the Law itself and not seeing what the Law
was all about — forgiveness, reconciliation, love and recognizing we
are not God’s equals.

God, the totally Other is the only truly unique and special entity in
this universe (or any other). When we try to speak for God by judging
others and pronouncing who will and won’t get to Heaven, who is or is
not acceptable to God or who is or is not a sinner — rather than simply
loving them, supporting them, reconciling with them and helping them
reconcile with ourselves and others — we’re listening to Mr. Slither
just like Eve.

God, please save me from my delusions that I somehow am your equal
because as long as I believe that I isolate myself from you and deny
myself the benefits of your love.

Amen