8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Of all the metaphorical backdrops available with which to present the genesis of mankind, why is it that the garden was selected by the ancient author that penned these words? There seems to be something particularly captivating about gardens.
They seem to represent an ideal connection between man and nature. Indeed, Adam was placed in the garden to “work it and take care of it.” The garden also contained trees that were “pleasing to the eye and good for food.” There is an aesthetically pleasing reciprical relationship between the man and the garden. Perhaps this relationship is reflective of our relationship with the Divine.
God, like the garden, both is a beauty to behold and something that sustains us. There is interaction between the Divine and man just as there is interaction between the man and the garden. Moreover, the initial betrayal of God’s will is reflected by a casting out of the garden by God.
(Of course, this metaphor that I’m exploring that is foreign to the text breaks down rather quickly. We do not take care of God like we take care of a garden.)
What’s interesing is that there may be yet another (more modern) connection between how we treat our environment and how we understand our relationship to the Divine. It would be a mistake to claim that there has been some sort of recent paradigm shift in how man understands nature. It seems like man has always sought to dominate and control his environment. Similarly, it seems like we often try to dominate God and to reverse the statement that Jesus made. “Not Your will, but mine be done.”
Interestingly, this has left man with a desire to escape the world that he has created. The construction of idyllic landscapes and green gardens seems to indicate that we want to live in a place where we exist in a more harmonious manner with nature. Indeed, these mythical spaces of ecological harmony are often constructed so that the traces of our involvement are undetectable. Is this also reflective of a desire to seek a more harmonious relationship with the Divine?
There is another interesting connection that can be made here: in actuality, nature is not all fun and games. It is often harsh and “gross” and destructive. It is untamed. We want the ecological harmony and aesthetic qualities of nature but we don’t want its “untamed” qualities. My heresy essentially consists of eshewing the “untamed” and “destructive” aspects of God and replacing them with the idealized stuff.
Is it possible that I am deluding myself here? Perhaps my heresy is as untruthful as someone’s attempt to conceive of nature in this idealized manner, without all the “bad stuff.”