Like so many other Christians I had chosen to view the story of Adam and Eve as a metaphor for something. I just wasn’t sure for what.
A lot of people have criticized the myth for what seems to be an endorsement of ignorance, a hostility to the sort of knowledge that has improved human existence. But I always liked the interpretation Alan Watts gave, where he viewed the apple as containing the mixed blessing of self-knowledge. Reflective knowledge, if you prefer. Self-consciousness. The sort of abstract thinking we do with the neocortex. We lost the ability to be “natural” like other animals. Our instincts are constantly at war with our considered values. There is no one way, determined by biology and environment, for humans to live. We truly are free to make our own way, but we often want to be free of the responsibility, and we long for the comfort of simply acting without thinking. We ask ourselves questions of purpose that we can’t satisfactorily answer. We don’t know how to simply be.