Monday, March 25, 2013

Paradise Lost

   We humans have done a pretty lousy job ever since that little mishap in the Garden of Eden. I am referring to that little incident that took place with the serpent. The serpent cajoled us to eat the forbidden fruit, and of course we simply could not say no, even though God had explicitly forbidden us not to eat that fruit. The famous Biblical story may have a deep connection with our paleo past. Just imagine a life roaming the earth, getting plenty of sun, hunting wild game, and gathering fruits and berries all day. If the hunt is successful, then there is meat for the clan, otherwise the clan must live off the wild fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. There are no permanent settlements, the camp simply picks up and roams like gypsies in search of food. They carry on their backs the bare minimum tools and clothing to survive. They sleep under the stars and follow the natural cycles of light and darkness. They get plenty of sleep. Usually a feast is followed by an extended period of rest and sleeping. There is no concept of owning anything other than the surviving tools necessary for hunting and finding the next kill. There is no urgency to punch the clock for a 9-5 job or taking the kids to never ending soccer practices. Life simply meanders and moves at slow pace. This sure sounds like the Biblical Eden? The Genesis story describes Adam and Eve living care free life. There is no shortage of food. They eat from all that good Lord had provided for them and there was nothing bad. They slept and roamed about the garden. There were no traffic jams and there was no stress. Heck, they were not even aware of their nakedness. It was simply a blissful state.

   But, of course humanity could not be happy with absolute bliss and chose to eat from the tree of knowledge. As soon as humanity made that mistake the paradise was lost and hard life became our reward. This myth presented in the book of Genesis may have its roots from one of the myths of the oldest race on earth, African Pygmies. Dr. Jean-Pierre Hallet, African born Belgian anthropologist, spent several years studying the Pygmies. The story of Eden and the disobedience of God is remarkably similar to the Pygmy legend of paradise and the forbidden fruit. Dr. Hallet, in his famous book Pygmy Kitabu, goes in length defending the Pygmy legend to be orignal and not borrowed from the Judeo-Christian traditions. Pygmies being the oldest race on earth lends credibility to Dr. Hallet's argument that the paradise legend may have been originated by the Pygmies and eventually borrowed by the writers of the Old Testament.

   Life essentially began in Central Africa and spread throughout the world first heading north and then east-west. Humans are essentially nomads, we like to move about and explore places. This nomadic nature caused us to spread throughout the earth. In the beginning we were all hunter-gatherers, there were no vegetarians. We moved about the earth in small bands hunting and gathering our food. The hunter-gatherer societies consisted of small bands, each band perhaps few hundred people large. They moved about in search of food. A big portion of their diet came from the animal meat and the fat that they hunted. When animal meat was not available, nuts, seeds, wild fruits, and vegetables sustained their existence. The hunter gatherers were healthy people. They received plenty of sun, walked on the average ten miles per day and received plenty of sleep. The bones and teeth found from various hunter gatherer sites around the world show dense large bones, and teeth with no decay and cavities. The babies were born about 3-4 years apart. The mother would have to take care for the young one until the child was able to walk on his own. This kept the human population in check. The band would have to stick together and not fight among themselves. The unnecessary bloodshed would simply reduce the size of the band jeopardizing its survival. If another band came in contact with another band, a skirmish was imminent, usually the skirmish resulted in two bands going away from each other. Our paleo hunter gatherers were also environmentally conscious. They took care of the land by not staying in one place for an extended period of time, moving about and leaving the land behind to recover. The hunter gatherers consumed and made use of all of the animal; no animal part was wasted. As humans began to spread across the world, these hunter gatherer bands existed all over the world. This was the era when humanity found its peace and lived as we were supposed to live. Perhaps this was the Eden that Bible talked about. Perhaps this was the paradise forest that ancient Pygmy legends alludes to.

   According to the Pygmy legend the children of Efe lived in peace in the paradise, until a pregnant women told her husband that she wanted the fruit of the tahu tree. The husband tried to stop his wife and argued with her to no avail. The husband went deep in the forest and found the tahu tree and picked the forbidden fruit. He brought the fruit back and gave it to his wife. She tasted, he tasted and other Pygmies tasted the forbidden fruit. They all thought that God will never find out. Of course God found out and incurred his displeasure by causing death to come to the Pygmies. The paradise was lost. Another version of the story narrates that God created man and a women and placed them in the forest. The women gets pregnant and desires the tahu tree fruit. These myths from the Pygmy culture are remarkably similar to the Biblical story of the Eden and man's fall from grace.

   About ten thousand years ago, the humans began to domesticate grains; the agricultural revolution started. The hunter gatherer lifestyle that prevailed for over two and half million years began to disappear. The man became farmer. Humanity traded her good life of hunting, gathering, and roaming the earth for permanent settlements. The hard life of a farmer was her reward for giving up the paradise. The farmer had to wake up before the crack of the dawn and toil his earth until dusk for grains. The grains harvested needed to be stored and with storage came the problem of security and protection. The walls began to go up, and then small towns that morphed into big cities. The towns and the cities gave rise to chiefdoms that eventually turned into organized governments. The arrival of organized religions coincides with the arrival of agriculture. Civilization as we know today was in the making with the arrival of agriculture. For the past ten thousand years man has seen wars, pestilence, disease, and over population. The health of a farmer compared to the health of hunter gatherer has remarkably declined. The hunter gatherers were tall and had good bone structures. Whereas farmers have become smaller and have a stooped stature. The abundance of grains and permanent settlements gave rise to the human population. The birthing cycle that was 3-4 years during the hunter gatherer era was reduced to less than 2 years. A women was able to give birth every 2 years since there was no urgency to move. The cities became over populated and thrived with rats and other varmints. These varmints frequented the stored human food supplies and the human latrines that were near the cities. This gave rise to many deadly diseases and germs. The plagues and diseases are a common occurrence and are considered a part of life for the past ten thousand years. The farmer is bound to a schedule, he must plant during spring and harvest during the fall to survive the upcoming winter. The farmer must also get up early in the morning and work until late hours of the night feeding and taking care of his livestock. A city dweller must also punch a clock and report to work early in the morning and leave at night. Most often I hear people complaining that there is simply not enough time in the day to perform every task. The daily mundane tasks continue. Most people go through their entire life without smelling that proverbial rose. To make things worse, the quality of our food has declined. Two thirds of the calories consumed by humans today are provided by grains and sugars. The two foods that are extremely harmful to human health and were not available to our paleo ancestors. Today anthropologists unanimously agree that agricultural revolution was the single most important event in the human history. Most important event for the better or worse is still debatable, but agricultural revolution was the single event that changed the face of humanity. Perhaps, agricultural revolution was that forbidden fruit that God explicitly told us not to eat? As the agricultural revolution began and more and more people began to settel down, the Pygmies would have seen their hunter gatherer lifestyle begin to disappear. The good life that they knew was slowly disappearing, and was probably viewed as divine punishment of some sort. It is very likely that Pygmies created the paradise myth to explain the strange things that were happening around them. The hunter gatherer lifestyle paradise was being lost. Ten thousand years ago, whether it was the tahu fruit, the forbidden fruit, or grains, we all bartered for something a whole lot less and now must live through its consequences.

No comments:

Post a Comment