The next story, one of Cain and Abel, and it plays on that because in a very interesting way because
It indicates what happens and I would say it it
What supports my general hypothesis about what the first story means because what happens with Cain and Abel?
Is that well, they're brothers, right? And...
so hypothetically the first two real human beings. And they don't really like each other.
Abel is a good guy by all appearances.
God smiles on him, fate smiles on him.
How about if we put it that way - everything that he does seems to work out. Well, he makes
sacrifices which the text insists upon and the sacrifices are rewarded by God. That's a very very very very
document because we already noted that men and women
had discovered time in
Genesis, they discovered the duration of their life and the existence of death and the
necessity for toil and by the time we get to Cain and Abel human beings have discovered in this dramatic manner that if they make
sacrifices in the present that
hypothetically, the future can be better and that's that's like, I don't know if that's not the major discovery of mankind -
it's certainly among the top one or two,
because it's very it's really something for a creature for an animal like us to notice
that if we give up something that we want right now -
we can sort of bargain with fate, as it were, to get something better in the future.
And that's really what you do when you work, right?
Because when you work,
by definition, you're doing things that you'd rather not do right now because otherwise, it wouldn't be work.
And the reason that you're doing that is because you think: "well if I give up what I really want to do,
impulsively right now, then over the medium to long term, things will be better."
And so you learn, you believe that making the appropriate sacrifices
propitiates God, let's say
Abel's sacrifices work, man.
Everything he touches turns to
sheep and camels, and women, and he has everything he wants. And everyone likes him, and everybody thinks he's a good guy. And
you know, that's pretty good for Abel, but Cain isn't doing so well and
sacrifices appears to have the proper effect and there is some idea in the story that maybe the
sacrifices he makes are a little bit on the half-hearted side. And
that God isn't all that thrilled at those sacrifices as a consequence. And that's really we're thinking about again for about 50 years
because it is
possible that if you're making
sacrifices and they're not working out that well that it's not so much that God hates you -
it's that your sacrifices could be of a somewhat higher quality, right? That you're playing a game
with yourself and with the structure of reality and you think you can get away with it. And
you can't, and the fact that you're not getting away with it and that you can't - makes you bitter and resentful,
and cruel, and vengeful, and
eventually. And worse than that because there are far worse places than you can go,
that you can go, than merely homicidal. Anyways, Cain has enough of this one day
and he says to... he, Cain, decides to have a chat with God and it goes something like this -
it's quite an arrogant chat, really.
It's almost as arrogant as Adam's was stupid.
And Cain basically challenges God. He says look, I don't know what sort of world you think you put together here, but
we've got Abel and we've got me and like everything's just working out for him
and you know
He's perfectly goddamn delightful and everyone likes him and and whatever he touches
like King Midas turns to gold and it's all easy for him and
then there's me and I'm like breaking myself in half here and I'm offering up my
sacrifices and like you turn your nose up at them and nothing works out for me. And
implying, by the way, that it's God's fault. I would say more than implying -
forthrightly that it's God's fault which, you know, takes a certain degree of arrogance
you might think and
that's also worth thinking about for a very long period of time because it is possible that if things are going well for
someone that you know and not going so well for you...
That it is a consequence of the quality of your sacrifices.
And I don't want to push that too far because I know that people have bad luck,
you know, because we are fragile creatures intrinsically and terrible things can happen to us on a somewhat random basis.
But it's still very much worth
considering that's the rule in Chapter six: "put your house in order before you
criticize the world". That
the reason that things aren't turning out for you as well as they might - is because your sacrifices just
don't have enough blood in them. They're just not what they should be.
You're not putting your full heart into it and as a consequence - you're not
the fee, you're not reaping the crop that you might otherwise so. And
that's a harsh thing to think but that's actually what God tells Cain which is quite interesting. I read a lot of different
translations trying to understand this and what God basically says is:
Before you dare to criticize the creator of
the world or reality itself for that matter, you might give some thought to your own actions and here's how I look at it,
being God and all,
You're in a house and there's a doorway and in the doorway
there's a predatory cat and it's sexually aroused and it's after you. And
you invite it in
voluntarily. And you let it have its way with you. And
something's produced as a consequence of that. That's well, you might say unholy,
and what's the idea?.. and the idea is, well...
It's sin that crouches out the door... and that means to miss the mark,
it means to make an error and it's something you have to invite into your life.
But it isn't just that you invite it in and it stands with you...
It's that you invited in - this malevolent way of being, and
you enter into a creative union with it?"
That's symbolized in this particular story, using a sexual metaphor, and it's the combination of your perverse, will and this
capacity for cruelty and malevolence that you meld together into something that's uniquely
pathological and yours!" And
that's basically what God tells Cain: "that's what you've done and that's why your life isn't turning out as
well as it might or as well as your brother's, and so why don't you
get the hell out of my sight and think about that for a while?!" And
Cain leaves and he's not happy about it at all!
Which is fully understandable because you know, if you're having a wretched time of it, then you're having a wretched time of it.
And then if your brother's doing well, you know, that's just
salt in your wounds, man. And then...
then maybe you could rationalize that because the world's unfair and your brother is lucky and you're unlucky... And all of that... and you can,
reserve a little bit of self-respect as a consequence of that rationalization,
even though it's pretty thin, but then you decide to go and have it out with God and
he just basically says "no, that's all
lies. And it's actually a hundred percent,
not only a hundred percent your fault, but something that you've done
voluntarily and that you know, you did, and that you made far worse by
doing it voluntarily and now you're lying about it and complaining about the structure of reality." And
so, of all the bad news you could possibly get about why it is that things aren't going well for you, that's
Especially if it's actually delivered by God because then - it's hard to argue with.
So what happens? Well, you'd think that maybe if Cain had any sense (which he doesn't - he's too far gone) -
he'd go sit in a cave for about a decade, and eat
locusts and honey,
if he could find some, and think about all the terrible things he did, and
then come out and like apologize to Abel and to the people he didn't do well for, and like with a little humility -
start again... and maybe have a life, but that isn't what happens...
What happens is that he decides he's going to take revenge and he takes revenge in a terrible way.
He kills Abel and then you think well, what does that mean?
And this is a terrible story, right?
Because it's really the first story about human beings
that we have at the base of our culture. Because Adam and Eve were made by God,
so they don't count. Cain and Abel - they were born - they count. And so the first story - is this terrible murder of a brother. And
a murder that was motivated by jealousy and spite for
living positively in the world.
Right? It's about the worst story you could imagine. And so Cain goes and kills Abel. And...
God, you know...
asks him about it.
And Cain says: "Well,
am I my brother's keeper?" And that doesn't work out so well because God has actually figured it out.
And Cain says: "my punishment is more than I can bear". And it might be because God has banished him.
He's put a mark on him and banished him and told people to leave Cain the hell alone.
And I think that was to stop like a cycle of revenge killings,
let's say, although it's complicated to say... but maybe his
punishment is more than he can bear because there's a problem when you take your ideal,
let's say, Abel (happens to be your brother).
But your ideal, the person you really wish you could be, because that's what Cain wants, and then you kill it.
You've killed your ideal. You've destroyed your ideal. And then what do you have?
You've got nothing because you need an ideal to live for and if you destroy your ideal -
then you've got nothing! And Cain says: "well,
my punishment is more than I can bear and maybe that's because life without that ideal is more than can be borne. And...
It gets worse from there really, because you know,
it isn't only that Abel... that Cain killed Abel to get rid of Abel. That's bad enough.
It's plenty bad. Even at the cost of his own soul, in some sense,
which was something Cain was apparently willing to sacrifice.
But the real reason that he did it was to shake his fists in anger at the structure of reality
itself - the unfairness of being. And then that's
metaphorically represented as the proclivity to take revenge on God by destroying
God's ideal and so the story is even darker than mere murder because it goes farther down than just
homicide. And if you're wondering why it is that people do the terrible things
they do, that are truly terrible, the things that are almost incomprehensively
terrible - you have to go beyond
mere motivation for homicide and even torture and homicide and you have to look at the motivations that will turn
human beings against being itself.