Ever since the first scribe made up that unbelievable tale about Adam and Eve in the Old Testament, humans have been bamboozled by talking snakes. There must be something in our Homo sapiens genes that encourages us to converse with those sneaky creatures in an effort to gain some knowledge about “good and evil.” Is it their hypnotic forked tongue, their deceptive gracefulness, or their agile maneuverability through brush and water? Perhaps it’s their unique knowledge about the spiritual universe?
Maybe it’s their exceptional intelligence – exhibited in the way they use their linear bodies to climb trees, asphyxiate their prey, and produce poisonous toxins. What intelligent zoologist could not respect such evolutionary achievements! Yet, what makes humans revere serpents so highly? The Egyptians of yore apparently were seduced by them as was Eve. Today, could those slippery limbless beasts with their notorious serpentine guile convince modern humans to do things which are as verboten and counterproductive as filching the forbidden fruit from that omniscient tree “of the knowledge of good and evil?!”
What is so enchanting about human speakers who employ the language arts used by talking serpents? Why do we watch TV shows full of exaggeration, speculation, and sometimes outright obfuscation? Why are we so mesmerized by fictional situations, weirdo characterizations, and blatantly unrealistic narratives? What is there that engrosses us so intensely in motion pictures, stage productions, and TV dramatizations about the future which only has some limited similarity to reality? What makes a “make-believe” world so influential that many humans become engrossed in that unreality? Why are we so ready to believe the impossible, the miraculous, the fabulous, the unlikely, and the preposterous?
Let’s ask a worldly wise talking snake some of these questions. The first one is: Why is it so much easier to believe than to disbelieve? Why are we usually optimistic instead of pessimistic, hopeful and not despairing, disposed to listen to strangers and not to our close friends?
“Well, it’s pretty obvious,” remarked the simple garter snake that inhabits my garden. “Humans are too curious, much more so than cats. They have a propensity to doubt the ‘wisdom’ of their ancestors and authority figures, and cling to the nonsense of some degenerate, anti-social, silver-tongued propagandist. They seem to forget very easily the horrible lessons of history.
Unrestrained by the gruesome lessons of history and driven by unbridled curiosity, they reach out for the most implausible solutions to their problems. Frequently they accept the most unusual ideas which appear to their unreliable common sense to be rational – like expecting ‘to get smart’ by eating the fruit off that fictitious tree growing in the Garden of Eden.
All other ‘living’ creatures are born with instincts that permit them to survive the vicissitudes of Mother Nature for a period of time in this cosmos. Only men and women believe that they are so special and so intelligent that they can avoid obeying Her laws. From this premise arose their undaunted curiosity. They want to be immortal and eternal. They expect to dominate all the other creatures that inhabit this planet. Then, among all these rapidly multiplying, aggressive human beings, there is always some egomaniac who dreams of dominating the rest of them!”
“Very interesting,” I ventured in my slightly condescending human way, “but why do you suppose we humans are so predisposed? Not everyone is a ‘control freak’ to use a human term. Many of us are actually ‘givers’ and not just ‘takers.’ Bible thumper I know are taught to love others, bless them that curse us and despitefully use us, and help neighbors like all those good Samaritans used to do that lived interspersed with the Jews in ancient times.”
“Except for that Samaritan woman who refused to draw water from a well for Jesus, as I recall,” was the snake’s reply. “I suppose the humility of your predecessors is dormant somewhere in your genes. It comes out now and then when a human is not being overly taxed, harassed, abused, or tormented. Under threat of death, however, most humans will forget their religious training and succumb to their basic animal instincts of using ‘whatever works’ to survive. Then they behave just like the rest of the edible creatures in the food chain. By the way, you haven’t tried snake meat, have you?”
“No,” I replied assuringly, “but I do love a smoked eel delicacy from the North Sea on occasion. What do you thrive on in our garden?” I asked. “Are you an omnivorous creature like humans? Or some rare version of snake that likes to animate humans with disturbing conversation and then disappears? Are you entertained by the humor of our futile human efforts to find the most healthful diet and exercise program to extend our longevity and hopefully discover the key to human immortality?”
“Not really. I am amused, however, to see how gullible you are, how ready to adopt our ‘sage’ advice, and how eager to swallow suggestions put forth by lowly serpent mentalities. No one else in the animal kingdom thinks much of our intelligence, our habits of crawling around on our bellies, and swallowing our food whole. Yet, your ancient ancestors have thought our predecessors were divinely educated, and worthy to be consultants about important issues. Take Eve for example. She was so naive, and her husband was just as innocent. You are still tilling the ground here in your flower garden. Your generation hasn’t progressed much beyond Adam’s.”
“I take exception to that comment,” I said trying to hide my anger. “We have made great progress in a very short period of geologic time. We can go faster than any animal in our cars. Fly higher than any bird in our airplanes. Dive deeper in the ocean in our submersibles. And we can go to the moon and come back in our space ships when we want to. That is pretty impressive progress when you consider that we only learned how to walk upright a few thousand years ago.”
“Yes, you have become more mobile, but you still can’t go into the future nor back into the past. You can’t visit the dead nor walk with God. Why you can’t even wipe out cockroaches and fire ant colonies. And you are always listening to some snake oil salesman who has the latest cure for the common cold!”
Although these were snotty remarks from a low-life snake, I couldn’t deny the serpent’s accuracy about any of them.
“Touche,” I said, but I was more determined to win the argument. “We aren’t trying to wipe out experienced, animal civilizations that have symbiotic relations with us. What do you think is keeping me from slicing you in half with my spade?!” I warned the bold snake as I raised my shovel over my head threateningly. But the snake didn’t flinch. It didn’t react defensively like a rattler or a cobra, nor slither off into the underbrush.
“I am not intimidated by old gardeners like you,” it answered. “You wouldn’t dare strike me because you, too, believe I just might have something intelligent to share with you. Humans grow up hearing all kinds of lies and warnings from their parents, their teachers, and their peers. In their hearts resides an unquenchable doubt about the information their physical senses convey to their brains. Besides, it’s obvious that the neurons in that over-sized human brain allow emotions to disrupt logical thinking frequently. Your rationality and objectivity are suspect. Both are distorted by data interpretations skewed by your selfish orientation and your unreliable senses. The net result is unscientific reasoning based on subjective evaluations.”
“Why am I wasting my time listening to your insults?” I objected. “What does any snake know about human reality to be so critical? Your analysis is made from a snake’s perspective and based on a few ground level observations. Your comments are just like all those vehement opinions you read in the newspapers and hear on those political talk-shows on Cable TV. What do those talking heads know about the reality that each individual human of their audience encounters? They’re all selling time or space to advertisers and working for outrageous salaries – supposedly being objective members of the supercilious Fourth Estate. What an obnoxious group of loud, opinionated, commentators they are.”
“Don’t you have some other way in your society to judge the judges?” queried the snake. “Can’t your democratic system come up with a better solution for seeking and promulgating the truth? That is one of the arrogant things about humans. Most of them would like you to believe that they are searching diligently for the truth, when ‘the truth be told,’ they are just pretending. Humans are only hunting and gathering the truth that best serves their individual agendas.”
“Humans inhabiting this asphalt jungle, slithering their way slowly through traffic congestion in a vehicle that’s capable of speeds over 100 mph, and trying to escape a boss who is upset for some minor goof up are the modern equivalent of the primitive ‘hunter or gatherers.’ Many families are still hunting for enough money to purchase what they used to gather. It’s a shame!”
“I admit that humans have made some outstanding technological progress, but very little social progress. When you think about it, all those technological improvements merely provide the rich in our communities a way to escape from the demoralizing lives of the ever-growing population of poor folks.” I sighed like a liberal and felt my emotions begin to interfere with my rationality.
“Please put down that shovel,” begged the snake. “You are terrorizing me with the weapon of snake destruction. I thought the intelligentsia in Washington had banned all terrorist activities after September 11. Unless, of course, such acts are defensive like bombing innocent foreigners who live in tents shared with enemy soldiers. Humans can still fish and hunt animal creatures that are not on the endangered species list, right? In season only! I know the rules.”
“Don’t be flippant with me now that I have laid down my shovel, Mr. Snake!” I warned him. “We are still in charge of terra firma, if not the oceans, the weather, and suspected UFO visitors. Our country was never very efficient in handling unwanted aliens, you know. We haven’t annihilated creatures like you because some scientists think you may be helpful to humans. I’m not sure what symbiotic relationship we have with you garden snakes. I guess dangerous serpents provide us frightening experiences so we learn to avoid the loathsome, sneaky, and poisonous creatures of your ilk.”
“Thanks for the compliment,” was the snake’s reply. “But before I slink out of here on my peace mission to advise other humans what they should do about the latest conflict in the Promised Land, I would suggest you sample one of those Gravenstein apples on that tree in front of your house. They’re ripe, and who knows, they might help you with your problems in separating the good from the bad. The Lord knows that it’s not the tree of life, but an apple a day keeps the doctor at bay.”
“Any other words of wisdom?” I inquired sarcastically.
“If you need further insight from The Snake’s World, don’t bother me. I hear that the Internet is trying hard to replace serpents as the most unreliable source ‘of the knowledge of good and evil.’ Get out of the sun and call your Internet provider.”
“I’m already connected,” I replied.
“I have to go now. I’m in a hurry!” added the snake. “Father Abraham wants peace restored on his property, and you know how hard it is to get brothers and sisters to share anything like land!”
Without looking back the wise old serpent slithered away quickly, exhibiting the same arrogant body language its ancestors used in the Garden of Eden.