The Wisest of All

Posted on: August 12, 2014

“We cannot eat of it. We cannot touch it. We will die if we do,” said the Woman.

The Serpent was puzzled.

He remembered the day when the Creator made him and brought him to the Man to be named. The Man marveled at the Serpent’s long body and scales, holding him with awe and delight. The Serpent wrapped himself around the Man’s arm, darting his forked tongue out to inspect the warm, pink skin.

“Your name will be Serpent, because you see all things, making you wise and prudent.”

The Serpent lifted his head and met the Man’s eyes.

“Ah, but you are also wise,” said the Serpent, “and clever.”

“And you talk too much,” the Man replied with a laugh.

The Serpent remembered the day when he lounged on a branch of a tree in the middle of the Orchard of Eden, so named by the Man because it brought him great pleasure. The Serpent watched the Man pruning the trees and picking up fallen fruit, for the Creator made him keeper of the Orchard. The Serpent wrapped his tail around the branch and lowered his head down to peer at the Man.

“Why do you not eat the fruit of this tree?”

The Man glanced up from his basket at the Serpent, then up into the branches.

“It is not like the other trees. Her fruit gives Knowledge of both Good and Evil.”

“Is that not a desired trait?” the Serpent asked.

The Man looked down into his basket, his brow furrowed.

“The Creator said that if I am to eat of it, I must let my ego die. I would bear the responsibility of Knowledge. I am not certain I wish to carry that burden.”

The Man met the Serpent’s eyes, smiled with one side of his lips, and resumed his work.

The Serpent remembered the day when the Creator made the Man sleep, and formed the Woman from his body with one of his ribs. It was a wonder to behold their similarities and differences, lying next to each other upon the grass beneath the Tree of Life.

The Creator said to the Serpent, “The Man should not be alone. The Woman will help him be better.”

The Serpent watched the Woman’s eyes flutter open, watched her turn her head to look upon the Man. He watched joy and wonder wash over her face in much the same way as it washed over the Man’s when he held the Serpent on the day he was made. The Man awoke, and beheld the Woman with his eyes.

“At last,” he whispered, taking her into his arms, “Flesh of my flesh, at last.”

As the Woman embraced the Man, the Serpent noticed something about her demeanor. She, too, was wise and clever like the Man, but there was a part of her that was like him.

The Woman was sensible.

The memories of those days flashed in the Serpent’s mind as he looked into the Woman’s eyes. She stood beneath the tree of Knowledge, wrestling with her loyalty to what she had been told. And the Serpent was puzzled because she did not speak the Truth.

“It is not so, Woman. You will not die. You will know. You will know as the Creator knows, the difference between Good and Evil.”

As the Woman wrestled with her uncertainty, the Serpent pondered the reason for her Lie. Like a firefly at dusk, the Truth revealed itself to him and it made him bitter. The Man told her a Half-Truth, but why? To control the Woman? To keep her from having the very thing he was too afraid to have himself? The questions raced in circles behind his eyes until he noticed someone behind the Woman.

The Man glared at the Serpent, and the Serpent glared back.

The Woman plucked a piece of fruit from the tree and said to herself, “Surely, if it will make us wiser and more like our beloved Creator, it is good for us to eat.”

The Woman ate the fruit, and plucked another for the Man as he came to stand by her side. The Serpent watched the glare fall from the Man’s eyes as he looked down at the Woman, his companion, his love and equal. He took the fruit from her hands as she beamed up at him, and he looked back at the Serpent. But he was not angry now. He was afraid, afraid of the burden of knowing Right from Wrong, Good from Evil. He was afraid of the responsibility that he and the Woman would carry now, more than just caretakers of the Orchard, but doers of a Law that would etch upon their hearts.

The Man ate the fruit, and their eyes opened, and they were afraid. Before, the Creator would tell them all they needed to know, all that they had to do. The burden was on the Creator if they made mistakes. But the change was tectonic. They knew all that the Creator knows, the responsibility placed now upon their shoulders to choose rightly.

The Man and the Woman were ashamed of the Knowledge. When the Creator appeared in the Orchard, they hid, already stumbling over the ability to choose a Good action, or an Evil one. And when the Creator questioned them, the Man blamed the Woman, and she blamed the Serpent. All eyes turned to the wisest and most prudent of all creatures, and everyone knew what was happening. Everyone knew the ache that comes from carrying a heavy thing. It either brings out your self, or you let yourself die.

The Serpent watched the Man and the Woman leave the Orchard as the Creator issued a guard to stand at the entrance.

“It will be all right,” the Creator said. “I will go with them. There will be moments when they forget they know what is Good, and I will remind them.”

“And what shall I do?” asked the Serpent.

“Tread lightly.”

Written by: Natasha Akery
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe

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