· Vatican City ·

Different ways of seeing

From the voice of Eve

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06 March 2021

Genesis, chapters 2 and 3 recounted by a writer


The origin story has the richness of opportunity, for reflection and imagination, that myths have. In recent years, more and more theologians and biblical scholars are going to the source, to see what the story has never ceased to tell us from below the stratifications and the encrustations. In this wake, with the means proper to literature, I have tried to narrate the chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis by giving the word to Eve.

I was so new. And, he was as new as I was, or at least he felt that way: it was not as if he did me the honors, down there in the Garden of Eden.  We were made of earth mixed with breath, we came from there like newborns, we were creatures. Already everything was life, four rivers surrounded and irrigated Eden, there was Pison that flowed around the region of Avila, where gold is found, and perfumed resin and onyx stone. There was the Ghicon that flows around Ethiopia; there was the Tigris and the Euphrates too. Did I know those names then, or did I learn them later? I do not remember him saying welcome to me. You were born to me in my sleep, as if to a mother asleep after a caesarean birth. We knew nothing about a mother, father, son, or daughter. Welcome, I will show you the water that makes the earth moist, the garden, the birds of the sky, those, animals of the earth, and the fish that swim by their shining scales. I do not remember him enumerating them to me, one by one, naming them, he did not say hare, or lion, he did not say wolf or snake.

When I was so new before him, my partner sang. He did not sing to me; instead, he sang exaltedly about me, he sang because I was there. He sang that I had been drawn to him, and yes, he said a name, a name that united us. However, we were not united, there was space between us. The space between us, he did not name that. However, the space was there. That space was a party, it was where we played, we threw stones at each other that drew parabolas and ended up in my hand, in his hand, hands clasped and left, the space was beautiful, but it was also a stabbing pain, a question. And he, like me, sensed it.

Meanwhile, life dragged me along, I looked, I touched the trees and fruits, stroked the fur of the beasts, I drank water from the hollow of my hands, and felt the coolness on the soles of my feet. I liked to run, to jump, and to feel the warmth grow in my body after the effort; I also liked the coolness, the breeze that hit me drying the sweat. Sometimes I would discover my partner looking at me, but I did not always give weight to his gaze. I would greet him, smile at him. My body and the garden seemed to me to be a perfect match, of joy. With what gusto I pronounced that word, joy, oh I really did like names. Maybe I already knew those names, for they jumped cheerfully to my mind as soon as I needed them because I had invented them, we had shouted them when he and I were one, when I had not yet been formed from the side, from the part of the earthly whole. Therefore, I knew what to call the finch, the wolf, the turtledove, and the caterpillar, but also the shrub, and even the grass. Sometimes I played with them, invented adjectives, and lullabies that I thought I would please the newborn garden. Then, yes, sometimes we would be together, he and I, and I would help him. If a mallow plant happened to be too far from the river that it was struggling for lack of water, we would show each other ways to dig a furrow, a small, thin river that would bring refreshment there. Working was joy and discovery, and not a burden.

At times, when the shadows fell and the trees no longer shone, the darkness grew -at first sweetly and welcome-, then stranger, and I would tremble. Nevertheless, always in my mind and heart was the Creator. I knew that we were not alone, I knew that all the joy, the life, our bodies, the whole of us were a gift from Him, who came and went in the garden. Only when the shadows fell did I feel the question grow in my heart. How much space was there between the Creator and us? Sometimes it seemed to be an intolerably distant space. Then I would look for my companion and together we would shout out question words and words of love to the Creator, we would ask him to come with us to the garden and he would come down. That was the happy childhood of the world. We felt the space thicken, become smaller between Him and us. I cannot forget the space that tightened because of the words we hurled, because of His proximity. Then our eyes were grateful and the questioning creased our necks and contained no anxiety, only awe. In addition, we danced in front of each other because God was there, in the garden, with the night birds, their sweet song, the haunting chirping of the crickets, the backwash of the water. What could upset us? We celebrated, then the separation that allowed the song the dance, the momentum, the devotion, the presence, the questions.

It was not at night that the snake spoke to me. It was in the middle of a day that was fragrant and moist with warmth. The air felt like water. At that time, all the animals said something, and we understood them easily. The snake, naked and cunning, came to me. Nevertheless, it seemed normal to me, the inhabitants of the garden liked caresses, even just being close to us. So I thought he was like the others, he came for just that. I put my hand on his head; the snake was cold, despite the warmth of the air. Then he said to me: God has forbidden you to eat from the trees. I was indignant. Of course, we could eat from them, we could eat every fruit from all those trees, we could all eat from them - except one. We were not supposed to eat it or even touch it, I said, thus believing that I was better defending the Creator who did not need it to be so. I knew very well all along what the Creator had explained it to us. Now so much time has passed. The memory fades. Had the companion told me? Or, had I known it before, since I was united with him in another form? In the meantime, however, I knew it, not as a prohibition, or at least, I did not consider it a prohibition but a fact.  As if a mother tells you, do not go into the sea do not touch, do not jump into the void, and do not eat poison. So I knew, that there was that tree in the center of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that stood next to the tree of life, and that from that tree we should not eat; but, I had not really thought about it, until the snake told me that no, to die I would not die, but I would have the knowledge of everything. My eyes widened, my pupils dilated. That snake knew me. It must have spied on me in the garden, while I was running, jumping, climbing, it must have caught the crease in my neck, the blatant questioning in the widening of my eyes when I was alone for a moment, suspended. You know those moments that change the course of a life, to which you always return with dismay thinking: it would have been so natural to avoid it, so much more natural. For me, it is that. I still return to it today, but I no longer hallucinate imagining that I am reacting in a different way: my body moving away from the snake, my face disdaining it, changing the course of everything. Today, I would only like to take the creature that I was into my arms, to hold it gently. What an enchantment I was. Oh, if the serpent knew me. He did not propose castles, flying animals, carpets, he did not propose world domination, he did not even propose peace, or union, he knew that I loved everything, all of life, all of joy, including the space and the dense separation between us and the Creator, including the shame.  I had already said yes. I just wanted to know why. I just needed to know, and even in him, in the companion I had sometimes seen that question between one run and another, in the instant of silence or flight. Moreover, I thought, is it here, at the distance of a palm? So I had touched that fruit and then I had picked it and then I had eaten it, keeping the betrayal of God's voice deep in my conscience. Good to eat it was, die I did not. Not right away. I gave it to the companion. He ate it too (he too asked). Then what happened you know, if before we were protected by something sweet, a thinned amnios, the garden in Eden’s dense air, all of a sudden we recognized ourselves helpless, the separation accomplished of the whole, and we so exposed. The serpent had deceived me, the question remained unanswered, the space, abysmal, and in addition there was, new, fear. Nevertheless, God sought us out and spoke to us; and, then my companion said that it was I who had offered him the fruit, and I told him that the serpent had deceived me and that, it is true, I had eaten it. We knew pain, accusation, resentment. Here began the story of our toil. Then it happened that He clothed us, and only there did I feel the urge to weep, for comfort in the pain of knowing that, He was still ready for caring, for care. The companion called me by that name I still bear, Eva, your mother. Then, off we went, and now there was my need for the mate, how fragile I was, it was a new need, now I wanted to at least heal the rift that separated me from the mate, the rift in creation, and by denying the space between us I was bending/turning my head to dominance. Our thirst for everything drove us, the fatigue and the pregnancies, the pain, and the beauty that nevertheless did not hint at ending. You who in time have called me the door of evil, I would like a moment to lead you down there into the garden and show you the creature I was.

by Carola Susani

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I have been guided by certain books, most recently the collective volume Non sono la costola di nessuno – letture sul peccato di Eva (I am nobody's rib - readings on the sin of Eve) edited by Paola Cavallari (Gabrielli 2020). I owe much to a conversation with the biblical scholar Marinella Perroni (C.S.).