Little Pink Spoon #14 from The Wheel of Creativity
This post is part of a series of excerpts from my forthcoming book. You can read them all in the Little Pink Spoons category. You can get advance notice of the book by subscribing to my Creative Adventure Journal over there to your right.
Turning on Opposites
Years ago, in a television interview with Bill Moyers, I heard the pioneering mythologist Joseph Campbell interpret the biblical story of creation in the context of archaeological evidence across cultures, throughout the ages. Throughout my 18 years of biblical training and Christian education, I had never heard such an interpretation—and a light went on for me then.
Enter the World of Opposites
Genesis 3 tells the story of what Christians call the Fall of Man, but Campbell describes it in very different terms. The moment when man “ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” Campbell describes as humanity’s entry into the dualistic world of opposites. Innocence is lost in the physical world. Humans live life in the realm of opposites, where the infinite gives way to the finite, measured against opposing sides: good and evil, light and dark, male and female, here and there, etc. Campbell’s interpretation opened my mind to the idea that an eternal spirit lives between these opposites and encompasses them both.
Why Say No to Bliss?
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil stands between heaven and earth, and by eating its fruit we fall from the eternal bliss of heaven into the finite and often painful experience of earth. But why? Why would eternal souls floating in unending bliss want to leave that perfect state? Why would anyone choose endings, limitation, restriction, suffering, and pain? There are probably as many answers to those questions as there are souls, each of whom expresses some aspect of the Divine in the world. The first answer that made sense to me was, “Because it’s interesting. It’s entertaining.”
Angels Among Us
One of my favorite representations of this idea is found in Wim Wenders’s cinematic masterpiece, Wings of Desire. The infinitely better basis for the Hollywood film City of Angels, Wenders’s film contrasts the intimate sufferings of postwall Berliners with an army of angels who keep continual watch over them. The angels can neither touch nor be touched by anything. They are eternal, always standing by, giving comfort, observing.
This causes great sadness for lead angel Cassien, for he longs to become human. He longs to hold a pencil, to have fingers dirty with newsprint, to love, to bleed, to hurt. He sees a woman and falls in love. He longs to do more than watch her and comfort her from afar; he longs to touch her; he longs to feel. He longs to enter the physical world of opposites, where he can no longer be everywhere at once but must be either here or there. He longs for the exquisite experience of being human. Since the first moment I saw him, I have been moved by the way Cassien’s hunger dignifies the human experience, all that we have and take for granted, whether we consider it good or bad.
This dualistic experience of life appears again and again in explanations of life with very little else in common. Having rejected the one-answer-fits-all exclusivity of evangelical Christianity, I find freedom and dignity in this inclusivity. For me, it is in this understanding where The Wheel of Creativity begins to turn.
Q: How do you make sense of your life’s mysterious twists and turns? What did you come here for?
Start where you are. Share your valuable story. Leave a comment.
Continued next Monday…
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