Book Excerpt - The Blind Man's Elephant

Did The Second Man Marry His Sister? The Blind Man’s Elephant

Did you go to Sunday school? I had to. My parents thought it would be good for me to get some religious training in addition to my secular public schooling. Of course, any protests on my part were dismissed with “You’ll thank us someday.” I guess I have to thank mom and dad because it gave me the ammunition for the beginning of this chapter. When I went to Sunday school, it wasn’t with the sweet young wife of the new assistant pastor of the church who actually liked little kids. Nope. This was hardcore, maximum security Catholic Sunday school.

The classroom was spartan and cold. The rigid starchy habits the nuns wore with those black hoods instilled fear in elementary school age kids of people in 17th century regalia. I mean, mom never dressed that way. Well, at least not in front of the kids. [Thanks again mom]. Our Sunday school teacher was Sister Mary the Severe of the Order of the 18 Inch Hardwood Rulers. She had found her calling too. Sister Mary the Severe looked the part. I seem to recall that she even had a little dark moustache. She also had the uncanny ability to always keep one eye on everyone in the class all the time. I don’t know how she did it. It was a mystery.

We were given our catechisms and assigned a page or so of questions with the answers printed below for us to memorize for the following Sunday morning. If we missed a question when called upon by Sister Mary the Severe, no matter how creative an answer it was, well woe unto that little kid. The Order of the 18 Inch Hardwood Rulers was now in session. Many a palmed hand felt the sting of that ruler. Some kids more than others. I won’t name names. However, when we asked Sister Mary the Severe a question that she didn’t know the answer to, we got, “It’s a mystery.” With my inherent childhood acumen for such things, I realized immediately the enormous potential of that answer. It was so cool of an answer it could handle just about any question thrown at it. Having learned this most valuable lesson, I figured I didn’t need Sunday school anymore. Sister Mary the Severe was a much better teacher than I first thought.    

When next Sunday rolled around, I announced at breakfast that I didn’t need to go to Sunday school anymore. So I was staying home to watch football instead. Dad was a bit more liberal with these things, but mom gave me a look that she must have learned from Sister Mary the Severe, except for the moustache part. I explained that the catechism had all the answers in it that we knew. The other questions we didn’t know the answers to could be quickly answered with, “It’s a mystery.” I could read the catechism at my leisure, say during the football game’s halftime. I challenged my mom, “Go ahead, ask me any question you want.” She continued giving me that look. She had dealt with my, shall we say, unique approach to childhood on many occasions prior to this. “Okay,” I said, sensing very thin ice, “you don’t have to ask a question because I can tell you the answer in advance which is, “It’s a mystery!” Grinning ear to ear, I was delighted beyond delight with myself. Mom’s look became even sterner. “It’s not my fault,” I said throwing my arms up in the air, “I learned it from Sister Mary the Severe!” So it was that I missed the first part of the football season.

Nevertheless, there were some questions whose answers seemed to remain a mystery to me over the years. Do you remember what you were told what happened with Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel? Adam and Eve were created in the garden of Eden. They ate the forbidden fruit, original sin I think Sister Mary called it, and they both got kicked out of the garden of Eden. They had Cain and Abel. Cain got angry because God didn’t respect his offering as he did Abel’s. So Cain killed Abel in the field. When God asked Cain where his brother is, Cain answered, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” I always thought this was a rather smart aleck remark that would have gotten me a good smack upside the head if I said that to my dad. Cain was saying this to God!    

Cain should have been thankful the proverbial lightning bolt didn’t issue from the clouds with the resulting rather large smoky hole in the ground where Cain once stood. Instead, God placed a curse on Cain and kicked him out of Eden to be a vagabond and wanderer on the Earth. Cain was afraid someone would kill him. So God marked Cain who left with his wife. This was about the last we heard of Cain in Sunday school. [See the Sneakers article, Bum's Rush].

Even as a child, two things always bothered me about this account. One, if Adam and Eve were the only people on the planet, and they only had two sons, who possibly could be out there that would want to kill Cain?

The second point that bothered me was Cain marrying his sister. I was told as a little kid you couldn’t marry anybody that close to you for fear of producing offspring grossly lacking in IQ points. Besides, sisters were worse than regular girls.

The image created in my young mind was that of a brand new Earth, no one on it yet except Adam, Eve and now Cain who was going to marry his sister and venture off, exploring a brand new planet. The thought of being the first person to discover the wonders of a new planet seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime to my adulatious mind. How could Cain complain? Of course, if the catch was that you had to marry your sister, well that would do it for me.

As an adult, it’s interesting how some of these ideas remain steadfast in our memory. They are almost unshakeable. But their relevancy for us in everyday life is nearly non-existent. I think many folks just file the “garden of Eden” saga away as another Santa Claus story. Finding out if this is what really happened isn’t on any priority list. Day to day, does it really matter? Strangely, it does matter, and in a profound manner.

Let’s set out then to discover what going on. Did Cain really marry his sister? Who was out there that Cain thought would want to kill him? Of course, if you‘ve read chapter one, you have some idea. Cain has a very fascinating story. Although it takes up about one page in the entire 1500 page Biblical record, the implications domino into our lives today in a most peculiar way.  


The above is excerpted from chapter two, Did The Second Man Marry His Sister? The Blind Man’s Elephant. References to the Sneakers article is not in the book. To read the rest of this chapter, please download the complimentary PDF at the bottom of the Home page.

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