Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Man of Red Clay: A Novel of Adam" by Jonathan Hooper, Chapter 18

Chapter Eighteen

Beloved Seth, stay with me this last night. My breath is almost gone; my heart ready to die. I did not think I would come to Horeb for this: to know that we truly are accursed. What value my plan for you now? If endless division is the fate of all, every action of man is futile. I cannot help but think this punishment, made clear to me in these final days, too much for man. To be mortal, to return to dust, is the lesser part. Harder it is to suffer, and to see manifest evil in this division. I am sorry I sought more. I wish, Seth, that you remain content with knowing that you toil. Better to know nothing, to suffer, embittered but strong.

I am dying. What is mortal death, next to the knowledge that was imparted to me in this final hour? My eyes are wide open to the consequences of my fall, to things greater and more appalling than I wished. Were these actions His will, part of some perverse plan for all - my taking the fruit from Eve, the angels' hopeless rebellion? I had thought us loved, there in impregnable, immutable Eden. Just punishment I can accept, though hard it is to be separated from His love. Still, I would not reproach Him; I would be willing to endure it, if I knew that my transgression, freely acted out, went against the maker who loved me. And so too, though all my children suffered, I would not question His just will, because He made me, and placed me in Paradise, and kept me with love. Most bitter of all it is to remember His love, He who favoured us above all created things. No human love bears comparison.

But this new thought, so cruelly disclosed! How could I serve such a God, who created evil in the first place? Then why was I made to suffer this mortal life? End it now and end all; had I known, I would not have sought this final portion of knowledge; so too, the fruit would not have tempted me, had I known how far reaching death was.

We were free, Eve and I, in that place, with knowledge of naught else but love. No ambition, frustrated desire, no knowledge of pain, and everything everlasting - no great expanses of mind to fill, no need to search for happiness when so freely given, more than mortal happiness, love so much greater than human love, knowing no bounds. Paradise, true paradise, was in our relationship with God - Eve, second in His favour, yet still blessed by her father more than any child of this generation. The Garden itself, a lesser paradise, though in features too perfect for Lemekh's mortal senses; unfallen nature, impossible to forget in a world so widely fallen, beyond the understanding of my sons. Yet even this, so dearly missed, was but a poor second to God's love, given unconditionally, with exception of this one interdiction.

No love for man or woman, for daughter or son, infuses man like this divine love. Despair I now know, because it seems this love was tempered by some other thought, by a fate decreed before the world was made, Paradise never meant to be infinite; made of clay, not made for imperfection, we were created with the desire for knowledge of good and evil already planted.

That final morning in Paradise, I was taken apart from Eve by Gabriel (perhaps his intent becomes clear at last), to talk of the things I had sought, the mystery of the clay, the secret of my creation. Having told me that such knowledge was forbidden, nevertheless Gabriel related how God formed me from red earth, His breath making me man, impressing shape on raw clay, and then setting me down in this Garden, giving the animals as my companions, until He, seeing my life somehow incomplete there, put me into a deep sleep without dreams; and while I slept, wrought some miracle, so that, upon waking, I found a woman made of my own flesh, to be henceforth my companion always, for eternity.

That same morning, returning to find Eve, I sought her until I came to that most sacred place, the centre of the Garden, where the tree of the knowledge of good and evil grew fast by. Satan spoke through Eve, I understand now; eating of the fruit, she incited me to do the same, because it would make us like gods, she said; it would give us knowledge equal to our maker. Perhaps, because my questions to Gabriel had led me to seek origins, I too took the fruit in my mouth and ate. And our eyes were opened: knowledge of evil, at once obliterating the paradise within us, drove us away from where the angels usually sought our company, into the deep shadows of the wood, ashamed at our nakedness, feeling the first pangs of some unknown desire.

Ashamed and remorseful, aware that our happy state had ended, we were brought by the seraphim out into the sunlight, there to hear God's sentence upon us, for the warning, at least now, was not forgotten: to eat the fruit of the tree was to taste death.

I have tasted death, and its slow poison, for nine hundred and thirty years. Paradise was lost, and our labours began, as you have heard. But now, as I face my fate, I regret that I sought to know these final things, because before now, I have never despaired, nor questioned this harsh punishment; but now I can see no reason to be exiled rather than destroyed. The wilderness is inside me, and the last havens of paradise have been claimed by it. Better to have died, in the end, to have paid the price of transgression, cruel sentence though it was, with immediate, obliterating death.

My time to say goodbye to you all has come. Yered, the meek shepherd, who, perhaps, would never have sought what knowledge I did if given Eden in my place. Enosh too: temper your heart, for Horeb will give you no answer as to why you lost your children; the answer, finally, is bitter.

Seth, I would not make you labour to unite my people in vain. Better remain a man of clay, and return to the Jordan, and seek not God. It is my time now: tell my wife I have paid the price, though long delayed, here at the end.

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