ازيّكمBrief rundown of our last bite:
1) Between birth and death is a life lived in one form or another amidst others of our own kind, i.e. a community that shares some sort of identity.
2) It is the biological prerogative to procreate and for the community to be perpetuated.
3) In the search for meaning, interpreting reality, and determining action, it is a nigh unto being a universal constant that the creation, continuation, and extinguishing of life take on supernal significance, as do the physical substances associated therewith. In case the immortal virility of the Hill of Tera and Pharaoh's milkshake didn't make the point, this snippet from good ol' General Raker, who died in an effort to preserve American purity of essence, should:
Who hasn't had fluoridated water and felt a little more Red and a little less powerful, eh?
Anyway.. Our last serious thought left off at Death, a subject which we will hopefully approach in a more informed light some months from now. Related to it, though, is something more easily approachable, one of deaths cousins: scarcity. As the title suggests, it is scarcity that comprises the core of conflict. This is demonstrated by none other than The Jungle Book -
The bear necessities of life will come to you - if you have the tools. The prickly pear requires the claw, an evolutionary development that allows one organism to overcome another organism's defence mechanisms, giving Baloo a comparative advantage over the soft-skinned, short-nailed, nearly bare-assed Mogley who exists outside of his community, and therefore deprived of its tools. His community, specifically its expansion, comes into direct competition with neighboring organisms. King Louis recognizes this and wants Man's fire. Shere Khan recognizes this and wants to consume the Man-Cub. The story illustrates a zero-sum game of natural selection, comparative advantages, and scarcity. If not immediate, then anticipated scarcity. The dark-side of Disney goes far beyond their owning the copyright on the Sith.
..Will struggle with the competition for and division of limited resources... ha..ha..hAAaaa!"
This conflict exists both intra-communally and inter-communally, and the codification of expected behaviors within these social contexts are what make up so much of daily life. As in our first bite, the most pertinent cultural and religious roots rest in the Garden of Eden.
For as many Western sources as I will surely draw from for examples and humor, my primary academic interest is and will be Islamic in nature.
From the Qur'an, we learn that Adam and Hawa (Eve) lived an existence that had several key aspects (of which I will give the very short answer for each):
Adam was created from a clot of blood and Hawa from his rib. Humankind is one of four classes of beings - angels, created of light; jinn, created of smokeless fire; and animals, which similar to men, are created of earth.
Iblis (Satan, shaytan) is an angel. God commanded the angels to bow down to Adam. Satan refused, and was cast out and thereafter desired to mislead the children of Adam.
Adam and Hawa were mortal creatures living in a Garden of unlimited plenty.** The word used here is رغداً, intimating carefreeness and comfort.*** Unlike the Genesis narrative, the commandment given to them was only to forebear from partaking of "this tree," hadhihi ash shajjara هَـٰذِهِ الشَّجَرَةَ, i.e. the Tree of Immortality. Satan did tempt Adam, and they did eat the fruit. Instead of becoming immortal like the angels, they were driven out of the Garden (a land of plenty) and fell to Earth (a land of scarcity).
However, being cast down to Earth made no change in the relationship between Adam and Hawa (being referenced to before and after their sin as "anta wa zawjak"* - "you and your wife"), but it did between them and God. While not dictated by the same constraints as mortal interactions, we learn that actions of created beings have the potential to change our own status with respect to God. For Iblis, refusing to bow to Adam made him a disbeliever,^ and for Adam and Hawa, eating of the fruit made them wrong-doers.^^ Satan was cast out and Adam and Hawa were cast into a world of scarcity.
Since then, the children of Adam and Hawa have formed their own social codes with respect to existing and perpetuating themselves in this world of scarcity - finding better ways to pick the prickly pair, maintaining the upper hand on the tiger, and teaching and protecting the Man-Cub. However, as we see from both Genesis and the Qur'an, God is the One who dictates what those rules should be with which members of society govern themselves, and He has done so from the beginning.
Our next bite will probably deal with how mankind tries to live God's rules in a world of scarcity and social division.
I swear (mostly to myself as I have NO idea who is or would read this blog other than my family who I implore to do so) that I'm getting to "Paradigms & Intermediaries: the embodiment of social codes through heroes and myth."
Keep it cool and eat a prickly pear.
*as a random note, I'm using my own transliteration system that works around the lack of special characters and the fact that I don't want to take the time to cut and paste them in like I would in an academic setting.
**the Garden is an image which we will return to on a later date with greater emphasis. Like the symbols of procreation, this copious garden is a potent and frequently repeated image.
***The tafsir of al-Jalalayn for 2:35 adds, "and eat thereof, of its food, easefully, of anything without restrictions, where you desire; but do not come near this tree, to eat from it, and this was wheat or a vine or something else, lest you be, become, evildoers’, that is, transgressors."
^ وَاسْتَكْبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ wa-astakbara wa-kana mina al-kafirin, "and he aggrandized himself and was from the disbelievers," (2:34).
^^ the term being الظَّالِمِينَ adh-dhalimin, "wrong-doers," (7:19).