The Zoey Blog: Gimme Johnny Steinbeck and a chance at redemption every time FINAL - COVER UNIVERSE EXPLORERS ORDER

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gimme Johnny Steinbeck and a chance at redemption every time

A conversation with a friend of mine reminded me of something I'd been meaning to write about for awhile.

John Steinbeck's East of Eden is a book about us all, descendants of Cain, if you're into that whole biblical hullaballoo...who, according to the New Jerusalem Bible, "appears to be the builder of the first city and ancestor of stock-breeders, musicians, smiths and possibly prostitutes." Now that sounds good. I could get into a book that chucks out that kind of filthy schtuff. The best part is that the New Jerusalem Bible isn't even certain if the prostitutes deal is for sure. What? I thought that book was the word of God...that's funny.

Anyway...The main theme for East of Eden turns on the correct translation of the Hebrew word timshel, translated differently in various versions of the Bible. The word appears in the Cain and Abel story in Genesis, when God discusses sin with Cain. What? I read much more often than you might imagine, and although I'd catch on fire if I ever walked through a church's doors I know a thing or two about all that churchy junk. You don't think I'd be so ignorant as to work on my baseline jump shot and not my ability to converse in a reasonably intelligent manner did you?

I love East of Eden, and in it's pages lay a single word that has steered me since I was sixteen. A single word I nearly had inked permanently on my lays the foundation for the entire human condition.

While studying the passage in the Bible, Adam Trask's Chinese servant, Lee, helps the characters Samuel and Adam understand the intended original meaning in this passage from East of Eden:

"…this was the gold from our mining: 'Thou mayest.' The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin (and you can call sin ignorance). The King James translation makes a promise in 'Thou shalt,' meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word timshel—'Thou mayest'—that gives a choice. For if 'Thou mayest'—it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.' That makes a man great and that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win."

And BLAM..there is the choice that each of the characters in East of Eden face—as does, ultimately, every human being. No matter how deep-rooted the sin, there is always a chance for redemption. Awesome. A great big "possibly prostitutes" kind of awesome!

Thou mayest...think about that, write it down, contemplate how you tell your child that same story without them thinking that you're the lamest, most boring parent ever. Timshel...a choice...I bet you didn't realize that old Johnny Steinbeck was such a heavy dude? Yeah, East of Eden isn't just a James Dean movie, it's a damn revelation if you're paying proper attention.

Timshel...I think I feel another tattoo coming on...Zoey, I apologize if someday I embarrass you. I promise to never wear socks and sandals but don't get me started on this literary crap.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thou mayest, i like that, stature with the gods in his weakness and filth......he still has the great choice. My, my.


September 23, 2009 at 1:07 PM  

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