The best and brightest wear themselves out and drive themselves mad, picking at that backlash of knotted contradictions, hoping in vain to answer the very thing promised to our ancestors in that primordial lie. What is good? What is evil?

2 Trees—Knowledge, Life, and A Celebration of Dependency

2 trees-a celebration of Depency
There were 2 trees in the garden. There still are. (Shuttestock Image licensed to Author)

# 87 on my 99 Life Tips–A List is: There is nothing more magnificent in creation than a tree in a forest. I learned this way too late.

Here I simply refer you to Richard Powers’ excellent (Pulitzer Award winning) book, The Overstory. Read it. Digest it. Believe it. Embrace it. Practice it. Live it as if your life, your kid’s lives and the planet’s life depends on it. It most likely does. This story is a celebration of dependency, because life is better than knowledge — life is dependency.

2 Trees

The story of creation begins in a garden. In that garden are two named trees. This story tells how the lie’s promise went unfulfilled and how life is better than knowledge.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and The Tree of Life.

The story juxtaposes these, one to one another, making them antagonists. Black hat and white hat. The distinctions between these 2 trees set the stage for a marvellous story and yet they do no combat against one another. There is no arboreal clash of branches. They do not fight and sway. They simply exist. The two trees are saying something to us through the reach of literature if not from the literal nascent moments of our species and our shared race as humans. The battle is within ourselves.

The one tree has gotten all the ink through the years, but there were 2 trees our first parents could have eaten from, only one of which was forbidden. There was also the tree of Life, about which no prohibition had been made.

The Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil story is fundamentally a story about independence. The tempter offered something he could not give to fill something they could not have and did not need. This is the nature of temptation—to overpromise and underdeliver. Always. The temptation to Adam and Eve was to become “like God—knowing good and evil”.

This is a lie of Trumpian proportions, the first Big Lie and mother of all Big Lies. For God is more than knowledge, and God is more than the arbiter of good and evil. God is that Supreme Creator who determines whether a thing, a thought, an act is good or evil in accord with that wisdom and love only God possesses. 

Good? Evil?

What man or woman has ever attained to such heights as to know conclusively what good is, independent of God?

Was crucifixion good? Or was it evil? Was the discovery of North and South America by Europeans good? Good for the natives, the aboriginal peoples on those continents? If good, for whom was it good? For God? For all?

Questions of these kinds are indecipherable entanglements. The best and brightest wear themselves out and drive themselves mad, picking at that backlash of knotted contradictions, hoping in vain to answer the very thing promised to our ancestors in that primordial lie. What is good? What is evil? And in our history, have we arrived at any satisfactory, mutually agreed upon, non-controversial decisions about what is good and what is evil? I trust the reader to recognize a rhetorical question when you read one.

Like Begets Like

As fruit contains its seeds within itself, so it is with lies. Like begets like. Apples produce apple trees, not cherries, or pears, or ferns. A lie’s fruit contains no seeds of truth. Accordingly, we see the fruit from that ill-fated tree was a deadly poison in proportion to the worthlessness and uselessness of the knowledge sought. Because that knowledge could not and cannot produce what the lie purported it could, and neither could that lie or the knowledge it claimed accessible to our ancestors, produce—Life.

We may admit that the eating of the fruit gave them knowledge of good—as memory—the sacrifice of their original manner of life killed on the altar of independence. Likewise, it gave the knowledge of evil—as present and future — the now inability to keep and reestablish that level of Life-receiving dependence so foolishly sacrificed. In that, the tempter lied the truth, but so craftily as to make even this outcome veiled and hidden in that initial lie, “your eyes will be opened…”. And what an opening of the eyes that was. The knowledge wasn’t in the fruit! The knowledge was in themselves!

The history of humankind

The history of what happened at that tree is written in blood and pain, and murder, and war, and black charcoal ash scrawled on cave walls, and choking, teeming clouds of black ash smoke caressing skyscrapers, and in striped, torn skin, and in blood-stained bayonets. It is the sky teeming with rockets unleashed by the “good” to exterminate the “evil”. Oh, God! What a damned misery unleashed on the planet and the race from the belief in that Big Lie that by knowing “good and evil” the created would become as the creator. 

And here we are, still in the dark. Still not knowing what good is. Still unable to tell what is evil. Still needing to be led by the hand. Still needing to be told. And still too damned proud and stupid to admit our blindness, our need, our destitution and stretch out our hands to Life, for as it says in another place, “knowledge puffeth up” but “love edifies”. 

Those 3 words are the most concise history of humankind ever penned — “knowledge puffeth up”.

There is another tree, also fruit-bearing. That 2nd tree remains, because the idea of it remains. Regardless of whether it is a physical, tangible tree, I believe it is the source of all trees, which may be the residual source and the sustenance of all biological life on this spinning ball we ride through Space. It may be a heavenly tree, possibly metaphorical, or hidden in ineffability. But a more magnificent creation, I cannot conceive. This tree of Life exists in the myths of numerous cultures and peoples. Myths this pervasive exist for a reason. There’s usually something real to back them.

Life is better than knowledgeLife is dependency

The fruit of that tree of Life is of 12 different kinds — its leaves have potency to heal the nations. (Is it any wonder we look to trees and forests for medicines?) Fruit is both food and a seed pod. In combination with medicinal leaves, everything the Tree of Life symbolizes implies dependency. Life is a series of dependencies — truth no created thing can capture so fully as a tree, which creates its entire mass, not from itself, but from the very air, exactly in the pattern we are to “in Him, live and move, and have our being.”  And nothing gives of itself more fully than a tree, either.

I can find and infer and reasonably patch together knowledge within myself. But I cannot find life within myself. I cannot grow my food from within myself. I cannot, from within myself, create the air I need for my next breath. I cannot manufacture my own medicine from within. For Life, I am dependent. I am in need. And I’d rather acknowledge, even celebrate my dependency—for I would far rather live without knowing, than know without living.

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