Thursday, February 19, 2009

East of Eden ... Thou Mayest

I finished East of Eden this week and now I'm letting it slosh around in my mind for a while. Probably the one overarching theme in the book is that we don't HAVE to give in to either the angels or the demons of our human nature. We can make a choice. Thou mayest rule over sin, is what Lee reports back to Sam Hamilton and Adam Trask after his exhaustive study of the Cain and Abel story.

In that sense, the book is hopeful, even though plenty of its characters don't make that choice. Tom Hamilton. Charles Trask. Kate. Aron Trask. All of these people become a slave to their rigid view of the world in one way or another. Let me say a word about sin while I'm on the topic. The word sin carries with it the weight of its historical application in Western society. It is seen almost as a giant board of Do's and Don'ts. This is a sin. This isn't. Think this and you are sinning. Do this and you are a sinner. Consequently, over the period of a long life (or, let's face it .. a single day) we are all branded as sinners. To take this line of thinking to its logical conclusion, all sinners are in need of forgiveness and salvation so we can be cleansed and reunited with God.

That conception of sin doesn't work for me. I throw my lot in with Neale Donald Walsh, author of Conversations with God, who wrote that there are no divinely ordained Should and Should Nots. "Sin" is better described as failing to present That Who We Truly Are to the world. In that way, it is stripped of its judgmental quality and frees us from shame. God is not disappointed in us when we fail to be our Highest Self because it is a process. And the process of living is to continually give ourselves the experiential lessons we need so that we can continue to walk down that path to being who we really are - beyond the material, beyond the ego, and into the fundamental unity of all things.

By Christian standards I've committed a lot of sins in my life. If I were to handcuff myself to that theology I would either be driven to despair or compelled to ask for forgiveness to wipe away those sins so that I could be reconciled with God. In my mind, those "sins" were mere lessons. Who am I to judge - and much less condemn - actions which ultimately have put me on the path that I now walk? Those things I have done that don't represent the Highest Version of Who I Am taught me through experience that there is no respite or peace in the false shade they offer. I couldn't have learned that any other way.

I have a choice. I may rule over sin. How I'm choosing to do that today is to kick that term to the curb.

27 comments:

  1. I am a junior in high school and being only 15 years, my grasp of things is not always all that strong. I may read a passage from a book and not fully recognize the underlying idea as a whole. However, what much I do get, I latch on to and struggle with to understand its true meaning and the questions the author raises through it. Such is the case with East of Eden. For my AP English Language course, I was to read East of Eden over the summer. It has since then become one of my favorite books. Recently I was assigned to write an essay on a thematic position expressed by the novel—an important insight into human nature or experience—something I can relate to or identify with. With that as our subject, we needed to develop a position or argument about Steinbeck’s theme, analyze what he meant through his use of characters, and explain why Steinbeck’s meaning has power and relevance in our world. The topic of my paper is sin and how it is not determined by God or society, but by the individual. Sin is one of the most controversial and sensitive subjects to address, and Steinbeck’s blunt and practical approach to it suggests that he considers it something that will be interpreted differently by each reader. You attest to this.
    Your entry has given me a perfect example for my writing as well as a new concept to consider. Your position on sin is quite profound. I have never considered sin in that particular light. Now that the possibility has been raised though, it makes sense. To believe that sin is not being who we truly are is quite an idea. It appears so many people use sin as a self deception to make themselves feel better and more comfortable with their actions. They see it as something that can be, in a sense, undone. If they ask forgiveness from God, then all will be well with the world and they can keep living their life the way they had been. God did not limit the amount of times one could be forgiven for a particular sin, so in theory, you wouldn’t need to change the way you live. One could keep committing said sin, and be forgiven of it every time.
    I do apologize if I have interpreted what you have said incorrectly, but in an ironic way, it would only further my point. I do sincerely thank you and wish you well on your journey. I also apologize for the length of this comment, but some things simply must be said.

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