In Genesis, Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden not so much as punishment for eating from the Tree of Knowledge (granting them knowledge of good and evil) but out of fear that they might become immortal.

Genesis 3:22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

I've always found this very interesting. Why must not Adam be allowed to live forever? If this is something to be avoided, why was the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden at all? Is God's immorality dependant upon the fruit of the Tree of Life?

Of course, Genesis is largely allegorical so it might be more relevant to ask what the symbolic connection might be between knowledge and immorality. Does it refer to gaining a soul through understanding good and evil and thus gaining entrance to heaven? Or does it mean that the true things of value come with the "higher" funtions of our being?

Either way, I still want to know why God would be displeased with this.

In the Jewish Context

A small and simple Jewish saying called, Eitz Chayim. Translated into English it goes like this:

She is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it, and all of its supporters find joy.

Many a Rabbi have followed this with, "its ways are pleasant, and its paths lead us to shalom."

The Jewish Campfire Song

Ah, the memories. Good or bad, they are there of us little tykes singing this tune:

Shalom, shalom (clap-clap!)(4x)

Eitz Chayim hi lama-cha-zikim ba
V'tom'chem-ha m'ushar (2x)

It's the tree of life to them that hold fast to it
And all its supporters are happy (clap!) (2x)

I've looked for it several times but have only found it twice, when someone was with me who knew where it was. The first time, I was riding on the back of a scooter with this Goth guy who worked with me at the restaurant as a waiter. David must have been almost seven feet tall and impossibly bony, with long stringy, dyed black hair and a penchant for wearing dresses, makeup and nail polish more frequently than I did. Seeing him on his scooter brought to me the theme song for the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz, but with me on the back of it the sensation was more liberating.

We came to it at night. He brought a candle and wine. I turned cartwheels in the moonlight. We lurked under the canopy of leaves so well that we were invisible. Two weeks passed before he came up to the office to hand me a card in which he had written his acknowledgement of my recent distance, his sad eyes peering in the florescent overheads lights from behind blood red shades. I was sorry that I couldn't be his soft vixen, and waited until after he'd tromped downstairs to punch in before I tore the card in two and threw it away. This was during the time when I was allowing myself to be a bitch, to turn the faucet in my heart off and let the pipes freeze over for what became almost two years.

After this two year hiatus, I met Chris, a wayward member of my church in the Quarter. He, like myself, is what I considered a "baby Christian," so new to a lifestyle that he didn't always know how to act. He's the kind of guy who when he meets a girl that goes for him even mildly, he sets the trap for a full on commitment within two weeks. Ironically this increment of time has typically been my cutoff limit for any guy I was interested in.

Altogether, our time spent together aside from being on the phone culminated in one long weekend, where we walked pretty much everywhere in the city. I had asked him to be my escort for the Christmas party at work later in the month, but I was not yet comfortable even holding his hand. We found the tree in the afternoon and I watched him climb to the thick lower branch that ran parallel to the ground before it crashed down to the grass and ebbed up again like a frozen spout of champagne from the bottle. All around the base of the tree were knots the size of small picnic stools, worn soft from stepping.

"Come out here with me." Chris reached out his hand to me as I tried to walk up the ascending branch that was more that a foot around in circumference. The tree loomed in front of me so large I thought it would either gobble me up whole or hurl me into a bloody heap on the ground. How would you like it if someone came around and picked something off of you?, it asked.

"I can't do it. I'm scared." He pouted for a few minutes then lumbered back out to where I was frozen and helped me down. A crew of hippie kids were laid out on a blanket a few yards past us, and their dog sauntered up the other side and managed to attain a height even more impressive than Chris was capable. We were both shunned and returned to the car.

Maybe a week had passed, and my interest in Chris waned as his insistence on my being some heavenly gift sent to deliver him from his loneliness wore me down. But he was still taking me to the Christmas party. On the walk to the hotel where it was hosted, he tried once to hold my hand, by putting it in the crook of his arm like you do at prom. I stiffened. Later on, I walked him to the end of the street and watched him cross it, then returned to the party alone, watching the merry couples dance like marbles on a shiny hardwood floor.

I go to Audubon Park every night now, to walk the track. Sometimes, I will still go there on Sundays with a bag of bread bits to feed the ducks. But I still have yet to find that tree. Maybe it will find me, when I am ready to take someone to it again.

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