Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I've always been fascinated by the Mother of all Life, whom the Church Fathers caricatured as a temptress. Here she is--the most beautiful EVE I've ever seen. Most depictions of her are of white women--some skinny white women. I like to imagine her as a stunning African beauty.
Eve and Africa
Some scientific theories would seem to indicate that God has been interested in Africa for a long time. That's where human life began, so the story goes.
Mitochondrial Eve, Ancient Human
* Born: 200000 B.C.
* Birthplace: Africa
* Died: c. 200,000 B.C.
* Best Known As: Possibly the genetic 'mother' of all modern humans
A 1987 article in the journal Nature suggested the existence of a single ancient woman from whom all modern humans inherited mitochondrial genetic material. The primary author, Rebecca Cann, called this woman Eve and said she lived in Africa around the year 200,000 B.C. (Carr did not suggest that Mitochondrial Eve was the first human woman -- only that all later humans shared her genetic material.) The theory has been disputed by other scientists and continues to be explored.
But the truest picture of Eve, I believe, is found not in the scientific findings. Nor in the Renaissance paintings, but in the . . .
Song of Songs
Here we find woman and man in a garden. As the book opens, we seen a visual animated portrait of Eve:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine. . . . I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem. . . . Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun that looked upon me. . . . I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters. As the apple tree among the trees of wood, so is my beloved among the sons. . . . For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing of birds is come. . . . The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. (Song of Songs, 1-2)
In "eve thinking," Lucille Clifton presents an Eve impatient with her "clay two-foot" mate, who has not caught on to the most basic facts of life:
it is wild country here
brothers and sisters coupling
claw and wing
groping one another
while the clay two-foot
rumbles in his chest
searching for language to
but he is slow
tonight as he sleeps
I will whisper into his mouth
In another of Clifton’s poems, Lucifer himself pronounces the results of his foray into Eden, recognizing the tremendous change that human sexuality introduces into creation. Without Eve’s sin humans, like angels, would not enjoy the intimacy of sex:
oh sweet delight
if the angels
hear of this
there will be no peace
Eleanor Wilner's poem "Candied" takes another approach, placing the blame for Eve's action on the limitations of Eden itself, rather than on either of the humans. The poem seems to begin singing Eden's perfections, but by the third line, hints of what will drive Eve out of the garden appear. Eden was too perfect. Eve was a true Midwesterner. Ice and snow build character, we all say. So did Eve.
In Eden it was never winter, the ground
stayed wet and spongy, the sun as yellow
and as overripe as a Persian melon, the streams
gummed up with honey, and the apples mushy:
how things had got so soft it is hard to say. (38)
Wilner's characterization of God raises a possibility that Eden is an experiment. Thus Eden
... had to be sweet as grass, the kind of stuff that's habit-
forming, like all things half-conceived:
Adam is anesthetized, and God, in his creation of Eve, is part surgeon and part
cosmic dating service.
But Wilner's Eve is not satisfied with the experiment:
Eve got up and walked out
on Adam, their tacky Eden--sick
of honeysuckle, of trees stuck up
with signs to state their meaning,
and nothing to stick to your ribs
but apples--she'd had a bellyful of those
Here is a bit of humor from Anisha:
God And Eve In The Garden Of Eden
One day in the Garden of Eden, Eve calls out to God.
"Lord, I have a problem!"
"What’s the problem, Eve?"
"Lord, I know you created me and provided this beautiful garden and all of these wonderful animals and that hilarious comedic snake, but I’m just not happy."
"Why is that, Eve?" came the reply from above.
"Lord, I am lonely, and I’m sick to death of apples."
"Well, Eve, in that case, I have a solution. I shall create a man for you."
"What’s a man, Lord?"
"This man will be a flawed creature, with many bad traits. He’ll lie, cheat, and be vain; all in all, he’ll give you a hard time. But he’ll be bigger, faster, and will like to hunt and kill things. He will look silly when he’s aroused, but since you’ve been complaining, I’ll create him in such a way that he will satisfy your physical needs. He will be witless and will revel in childish things like fighting and kicking a ball about. He won’t be too smart, so he’ll also need your advice to think properly."
"Sounds great." says Eve, with an ironically raised eyebrow.
What’s the catch, Lord?"
"Well ... you can have him on one condition."
"What’s that, Lord?"
"As I said, he’ll be proud, arrogant, and self-admiring ... So you’ll have to let him believe that I made him first. Just remember, it’s our little secret...
"You know, woman to woman."
AND MORE HUMOR?
In the Garden of Eden as everyone knows,
Lived Adam and Eve without any clothes.
And in this garden were two little leaves,
One covered Adam's, one covered Eve's.
As the story goes, I’m sorry to say,
A wind came along and blew them away.
At the sight of this woman, Adam did stare,
Here was Eve's treasure covered with hair.
Eve blushed and trembled and lowered her eyes,
And Adam's thing just started to rise. . . .
That is the story of how it began
Just two of them—and here I am.
EXCERPTS from EVE'S DIARY by Mark Twain
SATURDAY.--I am almost a whole day old, now. I arrived yesterday. That is as it seems to me. . . .
NEXT WEEK SUNDAY.--All the week I tagged around after him and tried to get acquainted. I had to do the talking, because he was shy, but I didn't mind it. He seemed pleased to have me around, and I used the sociable "we" a good deal, because it seemed to flatter him to be included.
WEDNESDAY.--We are getting along very well indeed, now, and getting better and better acquainted. He does not try to avoid me any more, which is a good sign, and shows that he likes to have me with him. That pleases me, and I study to be useful to him in every way I can, so as to increase his regard. During the last day or two I have taken all the work of naming things off his hands, and this has been a great relief to him, for he has no gift in that line, and is evidently very grateful. He can't think of a rational name to save him, but I do not let him see that I am aware of his defect. Whenever a new creature comes along I name it before he has time to expose himself by an awkward silence. In this way I have saved him many embarrassments. I have no defect like this. The minute I set eyes on an animal I know what it is.
THURSDAY.--my first sorrow. Yesterday he avoided me and seemed to wish I would not talk to him. I could not believe it, and thought there was some mistake, for I loved to be with him, and loved to hear him talk, and so how could it be that he could feel unkind toward me when I had not done anything? . . . . had not experienced it before, and it was all a mystery, and I could not make it out.
But when night came I could not bear the lonesomeness, and went to the new shelter which he has built, to ask him what I had done that was wrong and how I could mend it and get back his kindness again; but he put me out in the rain, and it was my first sorrow.
SUNDAY.--It is pleasant again, now, and I am happy; but those were heavy days; I do not think of them when I can help it.
MONDAY.--This morning I told him my name, hoping it would interest him. But he did not care for it. It is strange. If he should tell me his name, I would care. I think it would be pleasanter in my ears than any other sound.
He talks very little. Perhaps it is because he is not bright, and is sensitive about it and wishes to conceal it. It is such a pity that he should feel so, for brightness is nothing; it is in the heart that the values lie. . . . I went away and sat on the
moss-bank with my feet in the water. It is where I go when I hunger for companionship, some one to look at, some one to talk to. It is not enough--that lovely white body painted there in the pool-- but it is something, and something is better than utter loneliness. It talks when I talk; it is sad when I am sad; it comforts me with its sympathy; it says, "Do not be downhearted, you poor friendless girl; I will be your friend." It IS a good friend to me, and my only one; it is my sister. . . .
TUESDAY.--All the morning I was at work improving the estate; and I purposely kept away from him in the hope that he would get lonely and come. But he did not. . . .
DEPICTIONS OF AN AFRICAN EVE
It's hard to find Eve as an African. Everyone wants to paint her as a white lady. Here is one I found--apparently depicting Eve. Is it an offensive portrayal of Eve? No more in my mind that that of Michaelangelo.
Here's how he portrays this white lady--our first mother. Indeed, I'm so embarrassed by his showing Adam in all his glory that I'm glad it (this photo, that is) cannot be enlarged!
Compare this white EVE with the depiction of the EVE at the top of this site. Which one would you want to be your first mother--the mother of all living?
Eve: A Biography Pamela Norris
The book stresses the ways that the story of Eve has been used throughout history to justify blaming and punishing females for bringing evil and death into the world. The view of Eve as untrustworthy and sinful vindicated men who oppressed and subjugated her daughters.
Norris traces how Eve's reputation worsens over time. In early Jewish tradition, the view of Eve is rather positive with primary emphasis placed on Eve's role as Adam's wife and "the mother of all living." Eve's reputation is soon influenced, however, by the related stories of Pandora and Psyche. Because of her female curiosity, Eve is held responsible for letting evil loose on the world.
Within early Christianity, there is an increasing emphasis on asceticism and on the relationship between sin and Eve's sexuality. As Norris puts it, Eve as sinful temptress became "responsible for all suffering and mortality, and eventually even for the sacrifice of God's son, Jesus Christ." A negative view of Eve influences some Christian views of women and sex to this day.
The second part of the book contains what Norris refers to as the "fantasies of Eve" found in popular literature and art. Especially intriguing are the complex and varied ways that Eve was linked to the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. Both were viewed as "Second Eves," the ones who got it right. Whereas Eve's sexuality and disobedience resulted in humanity's damnation, the obedient Mary's virginity undid Eve's damage and provided an alternative model of what women could and should be. Never mind that no average woman could remain a virgin and bear children! Even Mary's name has been linked to Eve's: When reversed, the Latin name Eva becomes Ave.
For other Eve fantasies, Norris mines such diverse works as Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Marble Faun," Ernest Hemingway's "The Garden of Eden," John Milton's "Paradise Lost," Charlotte Brontë's "Shirley," Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Aurora Leigh," Helen Dunmore's "Zennor in Darkness," and Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the d'Urbervilles."
She ends Eve's biography by showing that, although few and far between, there is a scattering of women's accounts throughout history that tell Eve's side of the story. One of the earliest such accounts is that of Abbess Hildegard von Bingen, a religious scholar during the 11th century. Hildegard viewed Eve's character, including her sexuality, as much more symbolic of the divine nature than Adam's, and as Norris puts it "offered women dignity and hope."
Norris's detailed telling and retelling of Eve's story is intriguing and enlightening throughout. She uncovers the countless ways that the story of Eve went wrong and sets the stage for our getting it right.
[Review by Peggy DesAutels, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of South Florida and co-author of 'Praying for a Cure: When Medical and Religious Practices Conflict.']
Daughters Of Eve, Mothers of Europe (And America)
By Steve Sailer
Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes, author of The Seven Daughters Of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry just might have what it takes to become another Carl Sagan or Louis Leakey - that rare scientist with both the scientific skills and genius for self-promotion needed to make himself a household name.
Sykes has many talents, as well as some useful vices. As this book shows, he's a fine popular science writer. He also has a sizable ego and a flair for self-dramatization that annoys other scientists but appeals to the public. He often tends to portray himself in The Seven Daughters as a Galileo single-handedly doing battle with the benighted masses of anthropologists and geneticists like Stanford's distinguished L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, who, according to Sykes' not exactly neutral account, just didn't want to admit the importance of his mitochondrial DNA research. For more.
MORE POSTINGS TO COME. . . . .
Posted by Ruth A. Tucker at 2:14 PM