Monday, 30 January 2012


My wife is religious and so we read a "daily bread" book most mornings, with a Bible passage and then some words of wisdom to explain and apply it.

I am no longer religious, but did read the Bible from cover to cover some years ago (how many is something to be remembered in due course). I went through a conversion experience and was later baptised. But the more I learned of the Church's teaching, the less I could accept it and eventually had to reinterprete my experiences.

Often it strikes me in the readings with my wife and listening to preachers, how the less obvious message is drawn from scripture to try and fit it to Church dogma.

So it was this morning with a reading on Genesis and the entry of sin into the Garden of Eden and the fall of mankind.

When I read this at a time of what I will call spiritual awakening, it seemed a very clear metaphor for the emergence of self awareness in the human species.

In the beginning we were unaware that we were naked and, like all other animals, not troubled by concepts of good and evil. Like the hunters and the hunted, we followed our instincts without wondering why.

At some point in the evolution of primates that led to homo sapiens, or perhaps as a result of cultural development, we became self aware. We gained knowledge that we are like others of our kind, and like those we saw die, would one day perish. Ever since, we have seeking a way to live with that knowledge and turn the curse into a blessing, by seeking after a higher purpose.

If we are inherently sinful, it is because it is the nature of life to preserve itself and that can conflict with what is good for other individuals or even wider groupings. But it does not require religion for people to do to others as they would be done by.

What is this to do with remembering? A great deal. On an individual level, my very world view has changed over time, and shaped my perceptions and actions accordingly. In my more distant past, there are not only events to recall, but a different way of thinking, of being.

More generally, how we, as people and societies, remember the past - and the stories we tell about it - influences the present and so the future.

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