Friday, August 31, 2007

Comparative Storytelling II: Jupiter’s Lament

This is a continuation of yesterday's topic, "Comparative Storytelling I."

The Fall of Man, or the End of the Golden Age

Due to the persuasiveness of a talking serpent, Adam and Eve eventually gave into temptation – or curiosity – and ate a fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They disobeyed God’s command and were subsequently expelled from paradise, to live away from the presence of God. Furthermore, man was cursed to labor for his food, i.e., grow plants. Women were also cursed to have painful childbirths.

Although life outside of the Garden of Eden was pretty crummy – thistles, thorns, and clothes – God hinted at some revenge against the serpent, which was punished to slither like a snake. Depending on your theology, this hints at a savior for mankind and a subsequent return to paradise.

After narrowly escaping Saturn’s homicidal paranoia, Zeus (or Jupiter) returned to overthrow his generally good father and the rest of the generally good titans. Thus ended the Golden Age. Humans no longer lived among the gods, as Zeus and most of his pantheon settled in Mount Olympus. Soon after, Hades kidnapped Demeter’s daughter Persephone, who eventually has to spend half the year in the Underworld (to create winter and the cold early spring and the cold late autumn) and half the year with the rest of the gods (to create the warm late spring, summer, and the equally warm early autumn).

Anyway, the humans of the post-Golden Age had a hard time getting food, and they were freezing cold at least half of the time. Out of pity for humanity, one of the surviving titans, Prometheus, tricked Zeus into accepting cattle bones as a proper sacrifice from humans, so humanity can keep the meat for food. Prometheus also smuggled a bit of fire from Mount Olympus and shared the knowledge of fire to humankind. In turn, with food in their bellies and fire for warmth, human civilization began – farms, city-states, and the wheel – all thanks to Uncle Prometheus.

This displeased Zeus, so he punished Prometheus to have his liver eaten and regenerated daily. He also punished the human race by sending Epimetheus, who was Prometheus’ brother, a gift in the form of Pandora, who had a box (no double entendres, please). The Greco-Roman Eve could not resist opening the box, and all sorts of human misery escaped. Afterward, Epimetheus and Pandora had a daughter named Pyrrha, who married Prometheus’ son Deucalion. We’ll meet them again in “Comparative Storytelling IV.”

Several thousand years later, a son of Zeus named Hercules released Prometheus from his punishment.

Typically, the first chapter of any generic world history book talks about how civilization popped up in various fertile parts of the world around 10,000 years ago. Then that generic history book focuses on the Near East, where agriculture was developed in an area dubbed the Fertile Crescent. So begins the Agricultural Revolution.

According to the two and two-thirds Daniel Quinn novels I’ve read so far, this was the moment one culture of Homo sapiens out of thousands decided to leave the hand of the gods and take the knowledge of good and evil – which species lives or dies – into their own hands. This was the beginning of totalitarian agriculture, in which only human food would be allowed to grow, and all other food and other competitors would die.

More importantly, food that was otherwise free to eat in the Garden of Eden and during the Golden Age was no longer free. Food was now a product. Food needed to be guarded and kept by a newly created upper class. In turn, the novel working class had to labor to get access to food. Like post-Eden Adam and Eve, agricultural humanity has to labor for its food, since these agriculturalists no longer live in the hands of the gods.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please note: Comments are open only for seven days after publication of each blog entry.