I was restless the entire day and knew that the source of my discomfort lay in my confusion. Had I been fastened out of mere rib? How did this happen? Could it be true? The questions bewildered me as I leaned against the tree and observed the fruit abundantly dangled from its outstretched branches. The smell was sweet and the color rich in orange hue. I kept one in my right hand, tugging gently at the bulbous shape. The leaves shifted with a disturbance, and I detected a more deliberate movement just beyond. A snake slid eagerly towards me as I held onto the fruit—its tongue flicking up lightly towards its nostrils—its eyes locked upon mine with intention. I let go of the fruit—the branch returning with a shudder, the sweet smell vanishing with my surprise. The snake moved down the thick trunk of the tree and pulled along in its coils the fruit of another kind, which it deposited in front of me before moving past and disappearing into the thick grass. The incident did nothing to assuage my current state of agitation and only served to increase my fear of snakes. I bent down to have a closer look at the serpent’s gift and found the fruit to be bruised and slightly rotting. Not at all appetizing, I left it to its decay and worked my way back towards the stream where my companion sat meditating on a large rock by its banks.
“I hate to disturb your reverie,” I said, “but I have some questions I would like answered.”
Clearly not hiding his annoyance at my intrusion, my companion let out a deep sigh, changed his position to accommodate a long stretch of downward dog, and then rolled over onto his back to look up at me.
“What would those be?” he asked.
“I’m just not sure about my origin or even yours for that matter,” I said and sat down on a mossy hill nearby.
“What do you mean exactly?” he asked, rising up on his elbows.
“I mean that I do not understand exactly how I came to be or how it could be that I was born out of a rib. Isn’t that rather absurd?”
“That depends on your mode of thinking,” he said and sat up fully to engage in the conversation. “Anaxagoras once said ‘…Nothing exists apart; everything has a share of everything else…it is equally impossible for anything to come-to be out of not-being. In everything there is always a multiplicity of ingredients; and there are as many ingredients separable from the lesser as there are ingredients separable from the greater.’ Hence the rib.”
“So I’m an ingredient…”
“Yes, sort of.”
“…from a rib which is lesser an ingredient than the lesser ingredient of the greater.”
“I resent that.”
“It’s just part of the plan I suppose.”
“To be a derivative twice removed? I don’t think so. I still have my doubts.”
“How so?” He asked.
“Well, what about the ’Greater’s’ greater? What about creatio ex nihilo? What about the atomists?”
“You know the ones that attribute the physical with particles that comprise the whole of being? The ones who believe that nothing can come out of nothing and therefore must be a part of something smaller. Epicurius, Demetrius…”
“It’s the same thing,” he said, chewing thoughtfully on a small twig.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked.
“Reductionism. Everything is a component of something else and therefore broken down into separate ingredients, or, as you might say, ’atoms’.”
“But what about God? Was God then created out of nothing? Wouldn’t that be a rather Heraclitean view of God, that he is the creator of everything and yet He, himself, has been created out of nothing? Who or what then is God a sub-ingredient of? If my existence can be traced back to a rib, what can I trace God’s existence to? Maimonides writes about the concept of creatio ex nihilo in which all things created by God have been produced out of nothing. What can we attribute to God’s creation if we see Him as a “living” entity? He is the creator of all things, including the universe, but certainly He could not have created himself! If the atomists are true in their belief that all matter or substances can be reduced to particles, can we not do the same for God? Wouldn’t something have to exist before nothing? Clearly, the concept of ‘creation out of nothing’ cannot be applicable to me.”
“Why is that?”
“Because I was born out of rib! It’s something isn’t it? What about Plato?”
“What about Plato?”
“He said ‘…God made things as far as possible most fair and good out of things which were not fair and good.’ What does that say about us? What does that say about Him? Is He not ‘fair and good’ if we were made in His likeness? Are you the good and I the fair? It would seem so since I am predisposed to be the weaker of us both. Or perhaps I am deemed less good because my creation stems from a rib that could obviously be described as something fair. Or worse yet, the rib could be less fair than you who could have been made fair instead of good as well!”
“I take it that’s not good,” he said and settled back down on one elbow.
“It’s not fair,” I said.
We sat there for a long while in silence. I listened to the running of the stream and the occasional disturbance of the water’s surface from the small pool nearby. Dusk was settling in and the fish were beginning to find their supper. Adam sorted through a collection of small pebbles he had gathered in front of him.
“Well, I guess I’ll be heading back now,” I said and stood up.
“Mmmmm,” he murmured not looking up. He stretched his arms wide above his head, did a few neck rolls and then laid back, his head disappearing into the tall grass.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” I said, brushing the earth from the soles of my feet.
“Why?” he asked, his voice slightly muffled from the thick blades.
“Snakes,” I said and turned to go.