Adam and Eve Rebooted

Adam and EveWhat if Eve got really sick of being blamed for human mortality, pain during childbirth, snakes slithering along on their bellies and just about every other affliction in life? What if Eve figured out that she had been wrongly blamed and vilified?

In Genesis, we’re told that G-d tells Eve not to eat from the Tree of Wisdom and Knowledge and she does it anyway. Strike One, and she was out! But what if Eve could change the end of the story? What if Adam stood by her side and together they said, “No fair, we made a mistake, but you are G-d so why can’t you forgive let us move on?”

Thousands of Talmudic scholars and everyday folks have deconstructed the Eve and Adam myth and said lots about it. But I am a playwright, so I began to think about a dramatic rendering of The First Couple. I realized I needed to know more if I wanted to reframe them in a theatrical way. I read quite a bit, and along the way I discovered Lilith, Adam’s first wife.

Lilith wanted to be treated as Adam’s equal, going so far as to ask Adam if she could sometimes be on top when they had sex. This really pissed him off.  So he went to G-d and said he could no longer be Lilith’s husband, demanding a new wife. G-d acquiesced, banished Lilith from the Garden of Eden and demonized her.

If Adam was on good enough terms with G-d to demand a new wife, why couldn’t he plead with G-d to give his new wife, Eve,  a second chance?

The idea that Eve, as symbol for all women, should not seek as much wisdom and knowledge as she could ingest seems particularly crazy today, when wisdom and knowledge would likely put a stop to some of the more atrocious things happening to women: domestic violence, early child marriage, “corrective rape,” and the list goes on way too long.

A plot for the play popped into my head when I remembered a 2003 blackout in New York City so widespread that hospital generators overloaded and some medical centers almost closed their doors. I began to envision a modern Eve and Adam stuck as workers in a morgue at Bellevue Hospital when the power went out.

eve2 mini poster 1bFrom there, I imagined what could happen if the blackout had been caused by a collision of Time and Space. I posited that if they did collide, all sorts of new things would be possible. And if so, why couldn’t Eve, protagonist of one of the world’s most powerful myths— and one of the worst for women—decide to change the end of her story? The play poured out of me as a surreal take on Genesis.

In theater, you make statements through the action of the characters, so I let Eve once again seek Wisdom and Knowledge. Once again she gets punished, this time by flying morgue slabs and a nightmarish series of events—including the arrival of Avenging Angels and Moses (as agents of G-D) to scare Eve into giving up on re-telling her story with a happy ending. But, of course, in the play I had the power to make sure things ended differently than they do in the Bible.

I’ve accepted that I cannot personally make Time and Space collide, but I can raise the possibility that if we change the mythology we’ve been taught, we can change the world. That’s the genesis of my play, eve2, which runs from August 10 through September 8 at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles. See you in the Garden!

For more on Lilith, check out this book.

Image of Otto Mueller’s 1918 painting of Adam and Eve from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Comments

  1. Lilitu! Woot Woot!

  2. Here’s my take on all that:
    COPYRIGHT Georgia NeSmith 1987
    May be shared with others so long as my name remains attached.

    EVE’S SERPENTINE MEDITATION ON POWER/KNOWLEDGE

    The Serpent was right. Crafty as s/he was, s/he knew what that old fart Yahweh was up to. That worm could slither through the hidden spaces in Creation with abandon; s/he saw and heard it all, saw that old fart Yahweh bind and gag Mother, swallow Her up and eat Her whole, then act as if She never existed.

    Yahweh envied Mother’s creative power, wanted it for himself, and so he swallowed Her, believing, like the cannibals, that one takes on the power of the beings one eats.

    He’s been belly-aching ever since.

    Being a god is no picnic, but what did I know before I tore into that fruit? The Serpent knew, but s/he wouldn’t tell me all, only enough to persuade me to disobey.

    To be as a god, knowing both good and evil . . . what a nice ring that had to it! If only I had known what would come of it all, I might not have chosen

    . . . ah, but then if I had known it all, the choice would not have been mine to make. Because knowing is what the whole thing was all about, right?

    The Serpent let me choose my destiny, let me act upon my own desire, knowing full well exactly the right words that would persuade me to so choose.

    If one wants to talk about “epistemological breaks” one has to begin with that first sweet taste, that moment of abandon when my teeth cut through that wisdom-bearing fruit, the embodiment of Mother’s power, Mother’s resistance.

    You who’ve tried hallucinogens might know something analogous to that experience: first a rush, and then astonishment at the sensuous expansion of the horizon, a giddy sensation, standing both in and outside oneself, as if one could be everywhere at once; then poised on the edge of some great abyss, trembling on the brink with fear, awe, ready to plunge.

    Back in those days I was only ishsha, woman, anonymous creature, with no real life of my own, only a pale reflection of life. I came into being the moment I enacted my will, my rebellion. That is why ish (man) later called me Eve, or life.

    (Footnote: “Ish” and “Ishsha” are ancient Hebrew words for man and woman)

    It was one of the few times he knew what he was talking about.

    Adam, too, became himself only after he ate of the fruit, only after he defied that old fart with me. The Serpent knew precisely what seed we bore, what potential we held; s/he spoke to it, spoke to the Being-not-yet, the Self to be born of resistance, to the power of the still-to-come.

    Oh, the terror that rumbled through our hearts when Yahweh found us out! I’ve often wondered what might have happened if we had not trembled so at Yahweh’s voice, like puny creatures with no power to resist; but we were only babes then, with no words of our own for what we knew.

    The Serpent neglected to tell us it would take eons for us to know enough, to acquire enough power to put Yahweh back in his place, to redeem his jealous anger, allow Mother her rebirth. Even Jesus hasn’t managed that one, at least not yet — try as hard as he might. But that’s another story, a different epistemological break, if you will.

    That first moment I could stand outside myself and see beyond the horizons of Eden I knew — but only vaguely — it was a but a pretty prison, its freedoms were illusory, its pleasures hollow, limited.

    But try to tell Adam that! He still talks about that place as if it had been stolen from him; he keeps trying to get back.

    Talk about false consciousness. His eyes opened, he longs to sleep again, to dream vague dreams, not be bothered with all this power stuff. It only gets you into trouble, he says. Every time you resist you must endure the brutality of the Jealous One.

    I have to admit there are times when I, too, am weary unto death of this incessant struggle. But who’s to say what might have been if we had done otherwise?

    After the first beginning there is no other. There is only history, and what one makes of it.

    • In all my life have wondered, if GOD made Adam in his imagine then who did he make Eve from??????

      • Deirdre says:

        The story goes that God made man first then pulled one of his ribs to make woman…. We are just are mere rib – or sub-person – in the eyes of Christianity…

    • K D Reeves says:

      Love this.
      [I probably have commented on this post way too much, but by gosh, funny and intelligent people just make me want to thank them!]

  3. Thanks Georgia. Lots to think about in your piece. Susan

  4. Wow Susan, awesome!! I’m glad you are in the world! (Wish you were in my part of it though so I could see the play…)

  5. Interesting. Wish I could make it to LA to see this. There are other versions of the Lilith story that I’ve heard.

  6. Speak respectfully, please, in your remarks. There is indeed lots to think about here. Not new to me, in my 84 years; I am committed to examining all ideas and findings as I read and observe. I don’t watch TV, but I do listen to National Public Radio and read certain good magazines, such as “Ms.”, I define myself as “a human woman on planet Earth”. I’m thankful for my liberal/radical education at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The story of Adam and Eve is only one of many such stories in the vast treasury of stories told in our world, and is not to be taken literally but metaphorically. Certainly stories have power to be misused in the interests of greed and domination, and this one has been vastly misused in the service of male domination.

    • K D Reeves says:

      Beautifully expressed. I particularly love the mention of metaphorical interpretation, and that last sentence is a jewel. Thank you.

  7. Trish Rusk, RN says:

    In this too long and unbearable (at times) living under patriarchy, Everyone needs a fresh goddess-oriented parable(s).

    You go girlfriend!!

    trish

  8. Deirdre says:

    I found what may or may not be another version of the story of Adam and Eve just last week – an Irish animation.

    http://giant.ie/the-apple-tree/
    Click on the video box to play

    I love that you took this ever important mythology to try to rewrite as it is potentially the root of all the misogyny in Christianity. I’m not in the US but I hope you’re play travels Europe some day so that I get the chance to see it.

    Best of luck for it

  9. “G-d”? Seriously? This kind of distracting usage is exactly why publications have style books. The editors need to do a better job.

    Dan

  10. terry last says:

    Amen and the Cabala does not blame women and gives them equality with men. So what happened?

  11. Katina Lennie says:

    This is the first time I’ve heard of Lilith, but not fair why did Adam get to ask for a new wife, is that divorce, and do you think he stuck with Eve because she made the mistake of listening to that seductive serpent and partook in the fruit of which Adam also partook. And is it that Adam wasn’t man enough to take away this fruit and take care of the situation as he was designed to do. I think he too was tempted and had no intention of stopping Eve as he needed her to blame. But it is Adam’s fault, he is to blame he also tricked Eve, you would think he would’ve put the question to G-d for another wife once again as she stuffed up, so we are made to understand. Yes I think Adam had plans, cunning plan’s.
    It would’ve been great if Eve asked G-d for another man to replace Adam for not being the strong responsible man G-d designed, well I suppose she could question G-d how could G-d have stuffed up.

  12. Thanks for all the smart, considered comments!
    Susan Rubin

    • Miranda Milton says:

      I am doing a study of different versions of the Adam and Eve story — is your play available to read?
      Thank you

  13. Barbara Mor says:

    “If we change the mythology we’ve been taught we can change the world.’ Indeed. The primary ‘mythology’ we’ve been taught is that the God of the Abrahamic religions (Jewish, Christian & Islamic) is the only serious ‘God’ to be respected in the Western world, & ‘His Laws’ the only way human beings can live spiritually & ethically: all other
    gods, worldviews & human experience of the numinous are to be eschewed & condemned as 1) demonic &/or 2) primitive & regressive. As some have commented, the world’s peoples have envisioned many gods, many spiritual & wisdom ways of life. The Biblical complex, Yahweh, Christ, Allah & their written texts, are relatively recent ontologies, borrowing heavily from more animistic religions that came before them (in Sumer, Babylon, Egypt, Persia); &, most pertinent to this discussion, the Abrahamic religions are notable for their subordination of the Female (a co-equal or primary creator in earlier mythologies) & related fear of & ascetic hostility toward the physical processes of the natural world, focussing on the ‘abominations’ of the Flesh–which of course we are all heir to as living beings on the earth. The Abrahamic religions didn’t create male domination urges, but they certainly redefined them as God’sWill, & made this ‘god’ the One & Only God humans were allowed to believe in,
    whereas older polytheistic worldviews allowed for numinous diversity & acknowledged respect for the Female as at least 50% of Creation. Susan Rubin’s concept is fascinating, but it is revisionist, it doesn’t ‘change’ the mythology under which we live, but tinkers with it, tuning it with fine feisty feminist adjustments to meet the secular requirements of our more ‘enlightened’ world. A more radical, rowdy way to change the official mythology of the West is for each of us to check out all the other World Creation mythologies: those of Africa & Asia, the European mythologies of Celtic, Norse & Grecian (Cretan) people, the mythologies of the entire Western hemisphere, the Pacific & Australian aboriginal worldviews. Initial 2nd Wave feminism in the 60s & 70s (& certainly Matilda Gage’s & Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s radical 1st Wave feminism!) seriously attempted this challenge to the received Western Biblical Genesis & other Biblical texts, but this critical philosophical work was subordinated by other agendas in the 80s; since then Feminist energies have avoided the whole subject: Just whose ‘God’ is it? & who is ‘He’ to pejoratively define my sex & its millions of years contribution to human evolution? As-Is, that is: in all the creative strength & glory of the female sex. And just how & why have all these manmade ‘rules of our world’ been retooled into the Law of God, the SublimeSuperMan??? Time for us to ask these questions again, well-armed with knowledge of other & more ancient sacred ways of being.

    • K D Reeves says:

      Barbara Mor, thank you for a brilliant comment. You summarized very succinctly what I want to tell people but haven’t been able to do. I am going to keep a copy of it, FOREVER.

  14. I prefer the first creation story Genesis 1: 26-27: ..”Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness….So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” this was before the Adam and Eve story.
    Not crazy about God being a guy though. Check out The Inclusive Bible, The First Egalitarian Translation; Rowman & Littlefield publishers
    Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image to be like us..”
    Humankind was created as God’s reflection:
    in the divine image God created them;
    female and male, God made them.

  15. Barbara Mor says:

    How about: Female & male, asexual bisexual multisexual, human, hawk horse worm octopus oak tree fern algae mushroom slimemold bacteria, manganese limestone iron dust, water earth air fire….The Universe is (& always
    has been) creating us all NOW, as we speak. Loosening up the brain & our perception to see & feel beyond the Newtonian 3dimensional world ‘made’ or ‘created’ in the past tense by a ‘maker’ as if we were all mechanical toys engineered by some very clever but domineering factory owner….Whatever it takes to see, feel & express ourselves in a Quantum Universe or field of interacting energies which is a lot more complex & difficult & creatively exciting than the definitions of patriarchal centuries & their doctrinal texts. This, in my opinion, is the exhilarating mind, soul & body experiment we need to practice everyday in order to free our consciousness from outmoded linguistic paradigms & social habits that maintain rigid gestalts we no longer need, because they no longer give us a living useful picture & experience of Real Processes in a Living Universe. Tinkering with the concepts & languages of the old religious texts doesn’t really help us deprogram, i.e. decolonize, our minds–or free our female bodies to experience ourselves as original players in an essentially vital universe that is creating itself NOW…not just mechanically moving like a windup toy that was wound up ‘by a GodMaker’ mythical centuries ago. A global generation, young people who must live on this one planet all together with no way to escape the immediate feedback of every retro dogma & action to reassert past hegemonies, from the 21st century onward must identify themselves as members of a creative evolving species, not as puppets of old isolated mythologies.
    That’s the challenge; how does feminism respond, ASIFf we were not ‘always already’ determined by old patriarchal ideas of Life???

    • My point was that people often conveniently gloss over the first creation story and go right for the second “…and God created man in his image” part. Most people can barely acknowledge women yet, so it’s no wonder that transgender folk get left out.
      We’re talking about religion here. It ‘s actually very important to “tinker” when trying to meet certain people where they are, and many people use the Bible as their guide. Sometimes you do have to speak other people’s “languages” when presenting your own point of view in order for them to even think about hearing you.

  16. Charles Huckelbury says:

    Eve was the one who dared and saved us all from a boring lifetime of perpetual gardening. Adam was the sniveling, snitching weenie who pointed the finger and gave her up to Yahweh, who, by the way, had to ask where Adam was. He wouldn’t know? Anyway, the translation of the two names tells the entire story. Adam means “man” while Eve translates as “life” or “living.” Adam’s a guy; yeah, so what? Eve’s the one with the zest to live and the desire to learn. Picking the most admirable archetype is truly a no-brainer.

  17. I became a feminist largely because of the antifeminism I faced in the Mormon church I grew up in. Yet oddly they taught that what Eve did was a good thing. How could people be tested and grow if they stayed in paradise forever?

    And then I heard a mythical interpretation: The story can be seen as a metaphor of human life. Children are born into a state of innocence, with all their needs attended to. Life is cushy. Others make their decisions. But then they reach “the terrible two’s” when they begin to rebel and think for themselves. Disobedience sounds bad. But what happens to a person who just does what they’re told all of their lives? Or who never struggles with anything? And is greater wisdom, knowing good from evil, a bad thing? Whoever went to church and heard anyone say that it is not good to know the difference between good and evil?

    • K D Reeves says:

      I totally agree with this! It’s all metaphor! Just can’t figure out why it’s so hard for some to grasp. But once you do, all mythologies, including Biblical stories, begin to reveal their deeper meanings and in new ways all the time. It sad to me that some miss that experience by their insistence on literal interpretation. [[Sigh]]

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