Monday, March 8, 2010

Thou Mayest

I'm happy to say I'm still working hard toward most parts of my New Year's Resolutions (aside from the piles in my room- that is a lost cause). I finished another book and it was a very thought-provoking, entertaining read.

John Steinbeck's "East of Eden" took me a few weeks to get into, but once I was in, I was hooked. It was written in 1952, but aside from a few language differences, you would never know. The book oozes sexuality and controversy, and shockingly, the words they used back then were very similar to the words we use today. In short, the book explores the difference between good and evil, and what makes one person inherently "bad" over another. I was fascinated by this because as a psychology major, I have always been intrigued as to why some people seem to be good eggs, and some people seem to be pure evil. I have always taken a humanistic approach, which is a viewpoint that in general, all humans are born good, and it is circumstances in life (abuse, neglect, chemical imbalance, etc) that makes a person "bad". The book explores concepts and phrases from the Bible that address evil. Two of the main characters, Aron and Cal, are what the author uses explore his theory. Their lives parallel Cain and Abel's from the Bible in many ways. Cal and Aron's mother seemed to be inherently evil (she killed her parents as a young child and then became a prostitute) while their father was one of the most kind, naive, good people to walk the earth. He married their mother having no clue about her past; she was very manipulative, used him for everything he had (he was wealthy) and left him with the boys shortly after they were born to go run a whorehouse. Ironically, their father is not even their biological father- their mother slept with their father's brother one evening and was impregnated by him (this is not revealed until later in the book) Evil seemed to follow her throughout the whole book. She is cold, heartless, and will do anything to anyone to better her own life. She murders on numerous occassions to get what she wants. The father becomes very depressed about being a single father, but is surrounded by good people that literally end up slapping him straight, and convincing him his job as a father is more important than his heartbreak and he is able to realize this and become the father he needs to be to raise his boys. The boys grow up thinking their mother is dead, and when on accident, Cal discovers who his mother really is, he struggles with the realization that the evil that was in his mother could very well be in him as well. While Aron was always doing what was right, Cal seemed to get a thrill from finding people's weaknesses and feeding upon them. It was something he didn't feel he could help. He didn't know why he did it, other than that it made him feel powerful. He worried he inherited this trait from his mother, who used people her whole life, and never really loved anyone. He battles this throughout the entire book and wonders if it is a lost cause to try and be a good person. There is a particular phrase that is examined by the best friend and farm hand (Lee) of the twin's father that is in the Hebrew version of the Bible- "timshel". In translation, it means thou mayest. Lee was a very educated man and studied several religions to better grasp the concept of God. He couldn't seem to get "timshel" out of his head, and goes on a quest to find out what the Bible means by it.

"[The Hebrew] word "Timshel"- thou mayest-that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if Thou mayest- it is also true that thou mayest not...[thou mayest] makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and in his filth...he still has the great choice. He can choose his course and fight through it and WIN."

Lee tries is best to show Cal that just because he has a tendency toward being evil, he has a choice, and can choose to be good. Basically, the entire book explores the concepts of good and evil and where free will lies amongst the spectrum. One doesn't have to be good; one doesn't have to be bad. One is whatever one chooses to be. I loved reading about this theory. I'm not sure if I necessarily agree with it, because I do believe that some people are faced with circumstances in life that really do not give them a fighting chance to be good, but I do feel like human beings are powerful and can overcome terrible, terrible things in life, and use them for good. I left out a lot ( I think the book is close to 800 pages) but that is the general concept of it, and I highly recommend this book. It provides a lot of food for thought, and anyone fascinated by human behaviors will enjoy it. It provides hope for mankind. We are neither destined to be good or destined to be bad; we are whatever we choose to be. I will leave you with a quote from the book that I absolutely loved:

"Riches seem to come to those poor in spirit; the poor in interest and joy. To put it straight- the very rich are a poor bunch of bastards."

Even without money, you can be rich- it's all how you view your life :)

Anyways, here's a little update on my life- I ran a 5k with Ellen this past weekend and it was absolutely miserable. Not only was it 25 degrees in the morning (ridiculous for Charlotte in March!), but I just felt like complete junk the whole race. Thank goodness the company was at least good. My training has been faster than I ran the race. I believe my final time was 21:10. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't terrible, but I should have been faster. The fact that I didn't run but once during the week leading up to it probably didn't help. I just haven't been able to find a lot of time to work out lately. I did get a trophy at least and some cool race freebies; those of you who know me know I love freebies and I love winning some hardware even more. No clue why. Anyways, thanks Ellen for enduring a painful morning with me and hopefully our next race will be much more enjoyable :)

Not-so-flattering picture from the Hardcore trail run a few weeks back.

Hope everyone had a very happy Monday! Spring is here!!!

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