by Bob Hazlett

Every mind has a secret it cannot escape. As Vern silently pans a mountain stream, his mind floats to far away places in long forgotten times. He tries to order the chaos of his life and put some meaning into his existence, now almost over. His scorecard is just about full. Only a couple empty spaces remain. Will they be zeroes or something else?

Unnoticed, Sparky has stopped grazing and wandered to Vern’s side. Vern and Sparky are not sentimental critters. Their exchanges are usually sharp edged and sarcastic. But there is love there, and today Sparky senses that Vern is in a dark place.

“You’re having a bad day. I can tell,” says Sparky, nuzzling Vern’s neck and knocking his hat off.

“Yea, I’m feeling gloomy and philosophical today.”

“I’m listening.”

“Just look around. This planet is an incredible mixture of mathematics, physics, and chemistry, held together by gravity. Beautifully assembled. Fitting together perfectly in a scheme beyond our ability to comprehend – chaos within perfect order. Yet, it is just one speck in the universe. One piece of rock orbiting one ball of fire. How many more are there like this one?”

“You’re scaring me Vern.”

“Then there is us. We don’t fit. We trample the planet, messing up everything we touch. We can write great symphonies, paint beautiful pictures, think great thoughts, while at the same time committing acts of horrific violence, and behaving with incredible stupidity.”

“I have noticed that you are the only species like that. The rest of us seem to get along.”

“Maybe that is the true meaning of the story of the Garden of Eden?”

“What’s that?”

“God didn’t throw us out. He condemned us to stay in the garden without understanding and appreciating it. We walk the garden every day making a mess of things. The story says we ate of the tree of knowledge. Suppose the poison fruit destroyed knowledge.”

“Oh my. You’re getting deep Vern.”

“Imagine that we had it right in the beginning. Then something happened to scramble our brain. Now we are spending the next million years trying to get back to where we started – just like salmon returning to their birthplace to spawn. Maybe our ability to see beauty and to understand science is the one brain cell left untouched so that we can glimpse the garden as it really is, giving us a north star to follow in our upstream swim.”

“Vern, that is way beyond a mixed metaphor. How about working that pan a little harder. Possibly this Garden of Eden will yield a nugget so we can get some supper.”


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