Doves and Serpents: On Being Bad and Good

I was working out how it is that he could always default to do the honest thing, and I would always default to stirring the pot.  Original Sin was clearly the answer.  And so in this way, we batted the idea around the camper.

“Maybe not everyone is born with it,” I told my Someone.  “Maybe, Original Sin does exist, but only a few people are born with it.”

My Someone is opposed to Original Sin.  At least he was.  Until the question of who had it and who didn’t became irresistible.  I had him in the pot, and I was about the put in the stirring spoon.  A regular serpent coaxing him to the tree.

“Okay, then,” he proceeded cautiously, “then what am I?”

“You are born Good,” I said definitively.  He seemed to be okay with this.

“Then what are you?” he asked.

“Oh man, I am Bad.  I am really, really Bad,” I said.

He laughed.  He resisted.  He argued.  But then, he gave in.  The game was on.

“What about Ryan?” he said.

“Good.”

“Matt?”

“Bad.”

“Jessica?”

“Good.  Obviously,” I said.

And in this way, we split the world in half.  But then, it was time to get down to logistics.

“So does that mean everyone Bad is going to Hell?” he asked.

“I’m not sure that Hell has anything to do with it,” I said.  And it didn’t.  And it doesn’t.  Because the idea was becoming more clearly foggy.

“Wait a second,” said my Someone seriously, “What about Mike?”

“That throws a wrench in it,” I said.

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What if it goes like this: that we are all full of Good and Bad, with some born Good and some born Bad, and upon meeting the opposite of yourself, you ingest a bit of their natural selves to your natural self.  What if it is that being born Bad means you spend your time fighting to be Good.  What if being born Good means you spend your time fighting to stay Good.

Superman, Good.

Batman, Bad.

They are both fighting for the same Good.  And any nerd will tell you there’s a perk to being either.

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“Maybe I just have too much Western religion left in me to tolerate the word ‘Bad,'” Bryan told me as I walked around a Minnesota campground trying to get better service.  It had been almost of week of Good and Bad running through my brain, and I was needing an expert.

“But what about the thing that happens when we walk down steps,” I pressed him, “How my Someone just walks down the steps, but I want to push the person in front of me down the steps?”

Bryan conceded this as an excellent point.  This is the part where I let Bryan off the hook.  This is the part where he told me about the two Creation stories in Genesis and vague details about a long ago paper that he maybe didn’t believe, anymore.  This is also the part where Bryan and I could sort of agree that maybe Bad isn’t the opposite of Good, but maybe Bad is just the Other of Good.  But then Bryan set me free with a little more information and an internet browser on the ready.  Because, truthfully, my Someone did seem to be Good and I did seem to be Bad.  But my Someone was not Better than me.  Just Other.

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It goes like this: that once God breathed into man and woman.  Then, another time or maybe at the same time, he made man from dirt and woman from a rib and didn’t breathe into them at all.

My Someone tells me I smell like dirt.  In the good sort of way.  I always thought that was because I was the daughter of a ditch digger.  But now, it makes me wonder if I was the half that wasn’t breathed into by God.  The Bad half.  The half that has a need for the Jewish mythology of Lilith as First Lady instead of Eve.  The half that never hears God as a still small voice like everyone else seems to, but keep my hands moving in hopes that I am still working for Good.  Like Mother Theresa.  Like Jesus Christ.  All these prayers and no answer but the wind moving through the trees in the Garden.

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“What good does it do?” my Someone was yelling, “to know that you are Bad and I am Good?  What if you are Good?”

“But I’m not Good,” I said quietly.  We had been fighting for days.  “I’m Bad.  I am always, always Bad.”

“Then what good is it to be Good?” he said.

A few days later, Bryan asked me if maybe being born Good came with its share of guilt for having been born Good.  I wish I had thought of this before I refused to answer my Someone at all.

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What if it’s like this: What if the Bad and the Good are just a way of dealing with the world.  The Bad are already aware of all the Bad, because they are Bad, so they can see the Bad coming.  And they are always being persuaded and surprised and delighted by the Good.  And so the World is always becoming a better place.  The Good, though, only knew about the Good, and are always being caught off guard by the Bad.

What if it’s that the Bad need the Good to not lose hope, and the Good need the Bad to not lose footing.

Wise as serpents, gentle as doves.  That business.

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“But I don’t think I’m Good,” my Someone insists, as he reads over my shoulder.  He becomes more exasperated the more we talk about it.  “In fact,” he persists, “I was once told I am the Son of Cain.”  Now, he tips his hat to me and gets me another glass of water without even needing to ask if I want one.  I do.

“Okay,” I say.  The Good are always denying their Good-ness.  It’s what makes them so Good.

Me, though– I am always looking for someone to tell me I am Good.  I am never full enough of Good.  Maybe it’s the curse of being Bad: always wanting more Good.  The hunger is endless.  My Someone wouldn’t know what that’s like.  All he knows is Good.

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