Thursday, April 24, 2008

Disobedience and Freedom

In "Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem," Erich Fromm writes of Adam and Eve:

"Their act of disobedience broke the primary bond with nature and made them individuals. 'Original sin,' far from corrupting man, set him free; it was the beginning of history. Man had to leave the Garden of Eden in order to learn to rely on his own powers and to become fully human."

Milton's Paradise Lost ends in an understated way; we've witnessed angels and demons and God and war and heaven and hell and all of creation, but at the end we're left just with Adam and Eve, holding hands:

The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and providence their guide.
They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow
Through Eden took their solitary way.

We end with Adam and Eve, alone but together (and still with "providence" as a guide), free to go out into the world. Before them is all of human history. It is not a tragic ending: it is quiet but noble, an appreciation of the goodness still in Adam and Eve and their freedom as they go out into the world to begin humanity.

My wife and I chose these four lines of poetry for our wedding invitations a few years ago. Those who recognized the lines found it rather ironic that we were marking our marriage with the final lines of a poem about losing paradise. But in these lines, I sense an understated sense of hope, a quiet recognition of humanity.

No comments:

Post a Comment