Paying Attention
Bill McDonald’s Website Newsletter
November 2008 - Volume 08, No. 11
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The Apple

Yes, The Apple - the one Eve ate.

For over 30 years I’ve been listening to women, my clients, seeking to understand them. And for the same amount of time I’ve held far in the back of my mind the question of Eve eating the apple in the Garden of Eden. What does that story in the Book of Genesis really mean?

Some months ago, I purchased Neil Diamond’s new CD, Home Before Dark . The fifth track is the song “One More Bite of the Apple” - and something woke up in me. [You can Google the lyrics.] The song itself is about the desire of a man to return to a particular woman.

….tastes as sweet, it's the nectar of life, and you know that it's right...

God told Adam and Eve to not eat the fruit of that one tree. And any story-teller (as any parent) knows that once you tell someone not to do something, they’ll of course want to do it. Then comes the blaming - Eve blamed the serpent, Adam blamed Eve. The upshot being that they all three were banished forever from the Garden - where everything was perfect and in balance - at least until God said “don’t.” Should he have known better? Of course. And since he set it up - he must have known all along. So there’s more here than simple temptation and disobedience.

It’s common in old religious art to depict an angry God punishing Adam and Eve, driving them, cowering, out of Paradise into the desert of suffering and pain. In chapter 3 of Genesis, the outcome is clear. The Woman will give birth to her children in pain and suffer for her desire of her husband. The Man will get their food from the earth in pain and by the sweat of his brow. (There’s more, look it up.)

Yes, this is our story now. The delights of Eden are only a vestigial memory, to which there is no return - only a difficult journey forward. That’s the Bible - between Paradise and the Kingdom, it’s our story. We’re smack dab in between.

So why does the Apple so fascinate us (me)? For thousands of years of human history, men have been afraid of women. All three major Western religions have persecuted them - and to my mind, basically out of fear. Why didn’t Adam take the apple? Or was he just laying around passively waiting for Eve to do it? (Sound familiar?) And when Eve offered it to him, why did he offer no word of complaint?

It sounds so opposite of the Neil Diamond song. And yet I feel a fascinating connection. What is it that

….tastes as sweet, it's the nectar of life, and you know that it's right...?

Someone once pointed out to me that when a woman makes herself up, especially her face, the secret model is her look during orgasm. And the red color of an apple (scholars say it was actually a pomegranate) is our primary color here.

Consider it this way. God (the transcendent divine) and the serpent (the deep earthly) are considered more closely connected in the woman. That’s why we men often fear and distrust them. And so she takes the apple (forbidden) and ‘gives’ it to Adam, as if giving from herself what Adam cannot otherwise have. That’s why he willingly takes it - also the (forbidden). God initially said “you will die” - but the serpent was more accurate. They did not die, but lived with “the knowledge of good and evil” - which is to see/know as God sees/knows. Not exactly a blessing! None of the other creatures have (or desire) it. And so life comes to involve suffering, and a hunger for that which we can never fully have.

But - the Genesis storyteller has something else up his sleeve, if we’re willing to look between the lines. The apple, as containing the full knowledge of God, is taken by the women, and she eats . She then presents herself to the man with the beauty of the apple, and the man has desire for her, and he eats. They don’t just look at it, they ingest it. It becomes a permanent part of them - together.

The Eastern Orthodox Church has within its theology an awareness that the inner nature of The Holy Trinity (the full nature of God) is pure eros . What He has in singularity, we have in duality, the duality of erotic desire. This can no longer be contained within the Garden of Eden, but only ‘out in the difficult world.’ Eve will suffer with desire (often unsatisfied?) for her husband, and Adam will feed her and their children in turn by his hard labor and the sweat of his brow. Even childbearing will be painful. The great secret is that it’s worth every minute of it! The angel with the fiery sword barring their return to Eden, also serves to protect the sacred knowledge of eros now held in the man and the woman. (If they returned to Eden, it would die.)

The story parallels many couples who come to me for counseling. Often the early “paradise” of their relationship has been broken, perhaps by betrayal, or it just wore out. But in the mutual struggle that ensues - when each is willing to enter that ordeal - there emerges something new . Perfection and innocence have been lost irretrievably. And the grief can be tremendous.

But what can emerge, is often much richer. From the suffering of loss can begin to grow a new honesty, a mature desire, and a deeper passion. Men can begin to fully receive that union of the divine and the earthy that women carry - their gift to us. And women can finally find fulfillment in their desire for their men. [A homosexual couple can carry the same knowledge .]

God can be more fully known. And I can finally understand my own hunger for just “One More Bite of the Apple” - which

….tastes as sweet, it's the nectar of life, and you know that it's right...

pay attention!

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Bill McDonald
Fenton, Michigan

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