In the Trail of the Forbidden Fruit: Part I – The Apple

In the Trail of the Forbidden Fruit: Part I – The Apple

Feeling a bit snacky late last night, I found myself in the kitchen. Once lingering inside still unsure about whether to go for some crackers or a chunky cookie, my eyes fell on the singled out apple on the counter that tempted me with its perfectly smooth, polished crimson skin promising to quench my thirst while filling in the tiny void in my stomach about to be reborn as hunger. After the first bite, I felt so good as if I was in heaven… or… wait… now the confusion started settling in… wasn’t it the apple… the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in paradise?… didn’t a bite out of an apple put in motion the events that led to Adam and Eve to be cast off the garden of Eden? 

How could this marvelous fruit be the cause of the first sin, especially when it’s never been stated explicitly to be the culprit in the holy books or the ancient writings? I decided to dig in some more… both to the subject and the half-bitten apple in my hand… It was time to consult the holy texts, starting with the Genesis.

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

Genesis 1:29

Seeds? Guess what! Apples have seeds! Fruit with seeds are safe! The answer seemed to be clear… the forbidden fruit couldn’t be the apple… Perhaps the moment when Eve was tempted into taking a bite off the forbidden fruit by the talking snake needs to be explored a bit more.

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.”

Quote from King James Bible
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

Still no direct mention of the apple here, but a fruit that can kill you by contact should hardly be even considered an apple. Perhaps, it’s some kind of poisonous fruit with no seeds within, but we’ll explore other options in another post. Wondering why the belief that apples were the cause of the original sin was so widespread, I dug in some more, and I could see the confusion and why it was to blame. Here’s a very condensed version of why:

  • Malus is the Latin name for both apple and evil… It is very well known today that the first impression is crucial and image is everything, so you wouldn’t expect your child whom you named “Devil” or “Hellby” to be accepted with open arms amongst others and live in peace even in today’s evolved society. This was misfortunate on behalf of the apple as in fact, “malus” was the generic name for any kind of foreign fruit except berries, and nations across the world named all the strange fruits in their language in relation to that fact… e.g: tomatoes: love apples or golden apples, potatoes: earth apples, oranges: Chinese apples, datura: thorn apples…
  • Although the homeland of the apple is scientifically proven to be Kazakhstan (hence the former name of its former capital city Alma-ata meaning father of apples), it is mostly agreed that the apple traveled through to the west from Syria and ancient Persia via the Silk road in reverse. Zoroastrianism, which was the religion of the pre-Islamic Persians, had a belief system based on dualistic cosmology of good and evil… a belief system that favoured the balance of opposites. Apples, having both sugar and sour taste perfectly represented this harmony through balance. Sounds just like the alleged fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, doesn’t it? Perhaps, this chunk of the belief had travelled with the apple to the new lands.
  • After the widespread of apples in Western lands,  ancient artists often used it as a model in their works of divine art depicting deities and events of significance. The ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite, the Norse deity of fertility Idunn, and many other gods and goddesses were often painted holding, hurling or just looking at apples, which was basically why it was considered as the fruit originating from the heavens. Moreover, mythology frequently suggests apples to be closely linked with deities in stories like the apple of discord which started the war of Troy and the twelve labours of Hercules in which he had to retrieve golden apples from the garden of Hesperides as one of the tasks. So, seeing apples in divine art and reading or listening about them in mythology is more than enough to place them in paradise.
Golden Apple of Discord by Jacob Jordaens (and just look how the angel at the back looks terrified by the sight of the apple!)
  • Apples were often linked with immortality in mythology like the golden apples of Hesperides (or apples of immortality) that Hercules was tasked to retrieve and that Idunn in Norse mythology was the keeper of magic apples of immortality. Immortality is the one thing that separates man from god. Unlike gods, mankind can’t live forever. Well, ok, but Eve didn’t achieve immortality after eating the apple, so how does this work?… Remember it was the fruit of the tree of knowledge that was forbidden to touch or eat, and with apples symbolizing immortality, can it be something in the lines of what Dalai Lama once said: “Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
  • Let’s leave mythology behind and fast forward to the time when Christianity was flourishing among the Celts and Romans in eternal conflict. Originating from Dionysus paganism, the Roman Catholics loathed the Druid faith influenced Celts. Just as grapes and wine were favoured by the Roman Catholics; apples and cider were the favourites of the Celts. The conflict started rising even more when Celts started calling the Catholic grape “corrupt”, while the Romans spread the belief that apples were “hellish”. The battle of throwing dirt on each other was clearly won by the Roman Catholics, as stories about how evil the apple was, linking it to the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Eden and from that moment on, it spread like wildfire. These stories became beliefs in short time. For instance, to prove that the apple was the devil’s fruit, one could slice the apple vertically to witness Eve’s vagina embedded in the core, or when sliced horizontally the apple core revealed a pentagram; the symbol for the devil, engraved in its centre.
From Left to Right: Eve’s Vagina and the devil’s pentagram

Ancient stories about apples being the forbidden fruit and symbolizing evil, immortality, and knowledge have seeped into our souls as it continued inspiring more modern beliefs, art, literature and culture not very different from the ancient versions. From Snow White munching on a poisonous apple… all the way to Apple Inc. adopting a half-bitten apple as its logo symbolizing a bite (or a byte) taken out of knowledge… At least, the apple isn’t as sinful as it used to be… So, go now, get an apple and bite into it. You’ve earned it!

For “In the Trail of the Forbidden Fruit: Part II”, I am planning on featuring the tomato!

Further reading and references for this article:

  • “In the Devil’s Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food” by Stewart Lee Allen.
  • “Apple: A Global History” by Erika Janik
  • “Paradise Lost” by John Milton

The Underwear Trials at the Fourth Place

The Underwear Trials at the Fourth Place

From time to time, I create worlds in short prose… invent lore on the go… bear fiction into life; as without imagination and the labour of the mind, we are just empty vessels stuck in their shells…

What if death was not an end, but just a short pause of eternity?

The flash fiction piece below is not based on real events or has no connection to actual living or deceased persons in our dimension. 🙂

“The Underwear Trials at the Fourth Place” by Baris Cansevgisi

“Edwin Arnolds, 27, died on the morning of August the thirteenth after misdirecting his right foot into the gusset of his boxer shorts, resulting in the entanglement of his toes in the reinforced fabric, causing him to lose balance with the wobbly, single footing and-“

“What’s a gusset?” Leonard asked, straightening up a little forward from the chair, stretching his feet down to touch the floor. He hoped Werner was coming to an end reading the report. These reports were getting more boring each time. “Why did he have to read them aloud?” He sighed.

“…fall by slipping in the bathroom and slam his head into the corner of the bathtub.” Werner concluded. “Blunt force trauma, but believe me the emotional trauma will be much worse. What a way to go!” He punched in some keys into the console right in front of him and a video clip showing Edwin’s last moments started playing on screen. It, indeed, seemed like the man was trying to punch a third opening into his underwear while performing a one-legged ritualistic dance on the slippery floor tiles.

“With a little bit of accuracy, the man could have died in his underwear or most probably not die at all.” Werner let out a hearty laugh.

“Isn’t he way old to be here?” The tip of Leonard’s shoes were barely brushing the floor beneath. He pulled his legs up when he felt a sudden cramp.

“Not necessarily, but it’s rare,” Werner took a deep breath. “I was… I am 25. Hey! You are not making fun of me, are you kid?” He winked despite wearing a grim face.

“No.” Leonard said, sliding out of the chair completely. “I just didn’t see any adults except you; here. Not many girls either. This place seems for young male children, that’s all.”

“Well, you sure sound like an adult when you’re not asking stupid questions.” Werner scratched his head and punched in some more keys to change the screen. A pop up screen titled ‘Course of Action’ appeared above the words: ‘Underwear trials: 7199 successful attempts required to proceed.’.

“Hmmmm… that seems a tad much.” Werner commented as he grabbed a tablet and sprang up from his seat. “Come on kiddo, we should be there.”

Leonard and Werner hurried down a long, uninviting corridor with disturbing bright lights oozing out of the walls and entered a room at the end. The man, whom they watched dying on screen was standing totally naked right in front of them with confusion oozing out of his eyes. He opened his mouth, but no words came out.

“Mr. Arnolds! Welcome to the fourth place!” Werner said, extending his hand out for a handshake.

“Wh- where am I?” Edwin’s voice trembled as he shook Werner’s hand in automation. “Am I-?”

“Dead? Well, yes and no.” Werner replied. “You are momentarily wiped out of existence! You see, people are judged upon death and end up in heaven or hell. And, there are those who have not yet earned a place in heaven or have not sinned enough for hell.”

“I don’t understand. Is this Purgatory, then?”

Werner shook his head. “As I mentioned at the beginning, you’re at the fourth place… it’s for those who get to receive a second chance in life, at least until their final destination is booked before their final demise.”

“Reincarnation!” Edwin shouted in partial disbelief.

Werner turned to Leonard with a sudden burst of laughter. “He’s definitely too old for that!” He winked and turned back to the confused man.

“No… no. You will be continuing your life from where you left off after you are… properly trained not to die in the stupid way you did.”

“Time is different here.” Leonard cut in. “You’ll be back where you were even if it takes you years to-“

“This is ridiculous.” Edwin shouted. “I know how to wear an underwear!”

“Think of it as training for the underwear to be more weary of you!” Werner started laughing senselessly again. He was getting closer and closer to the moment of snapping due to the huge amount of time he spent at the fourth place. He quickly started tapping into his tablet and the embarrassing video clip started playing once more. He turned the device towards Edwin and saw the man’s embarrassment materialize in his posture.

“My foot was wet and the boxer was too elastic…” his voice faded away.

“No need to explain.” Werner patted the man’s shoulder. “We are all in the same boat here.”

“Huh!” Edwin exclaimed. “So, this fourth location is for those who have died because of their lack of underwear wearing skills?”

“Haha!” Werner verbalized his laughter and turned to Leonard once more. “If it were so, your question about not many women being here would have been answered, Leonard!” He patted him on the back.

“I don’t get it,” Edwin knelt down and sat on the floor trying best to cover his overexposed bits.

“You see, women’s undergarments are way too small for their feet to get tangled-” Werner suddenly stopped and his face took a serious look. He shook his head, passed the tablet to Leonard and said:

“You go on. You’ve watched me countless times… you deal with this and I’m going for coffee… the horrible muck we have here until a barista shows up.” He hurried out of the door part sobbing, part laughing.

Leonard punched in a code into the tablet, resulting in a secret compartment in the far wall to open with a click. “It’s called the fourth place,” he corrected Edwin’s previous remark. “Not location.” Then pointed at the cavity in the wall housing a large package inside. “And, that’s for you. Any questions?”

Edwin got up, walked to the compartment, took the package and shook it close to his ear. “What’s in it?” He finally asked.

“7199 pieces of clean underwear for you. That’s the number of attempts it takes to return back to your life… to the time right before you died… with no recollection of the time you spent here.”

“This is still ridiculous,” Edwin mumbled as he checked out a pair of white boxer shorts with purple polka dots. Then, he chucked it away into a corner and turned back to Leonard. “Stupid deaths… no matter how ludicrous they are, the causing action that lead to death are rarely triggered by people themselves… like someone ingesting bug spray to kill the bug, he has priorly swallowed… how can you train not to swallow something so poisonous for a countless times?”

“You can’t,” Leonard smiled. “That’s why the fifth place exists!”

Redefining Death: A Contemporary Guide

Redefining Death: A Contemporary Guide

As persistent seekers of healthy, prolonged lives and even immortality in the modern ages, we, mortals have always feared “death” as it means a definitive full-stop to what we have valued the most: Life…

But, what is death?

1_Grim-Reaper

According to most dictionaries, “death” is the end of life…

For me, it’s “ceasing to exist in the former plane of existence”… but, I am not all into the heaven-hell thing as I believe those two opposite concepts were designed to direct the majority of the human race into doing good deeds, so that all good-doers are led to believe they will have their afterlife retirement lying in endless flower fields above the clouds, drinking mulled wine from its rivers and having sex for eternity (and that is without the help of Viagra for the elderly men). The evil-doers, on the other hand, will burn in agony for eternity

Eternity? A concept valid for both heaven and hell? Wait! Living for eternity is achieving “immortality” Wasn’t that our final goal? Our seemingly impossible dream? To be immortal? Is reaching our final goal through “death”? Or, was the whole concept of immortality just an unintended word play, the creation of a concept due to bad punctuation and spacing (as in “Immortal” vs. “I’m mortal”)? 

Anyway, going to heaven sounds fun, right?

heaven1

Then, why do we feel so down and depressed when we bid farewell to our loved ones on their voyage to a better place? Are we worried they might end up in hell? Are we just selfish for not being happy for them? Or do we secretly know that heaven does not exist? Who knows…

On another note,

As I said before, “death” is ceasing to exist and it happens to our loved ones all the time and in numerous other ways as well, like:

  • when we break up with a partner and never want to see each other again… or
  • when a loved one moves across the globe for a job opportunity, etc…
  • when someone we trust wrongs us in an unacceptable way…

The people in above cases “cease to exist” just like how I perceive “death”… and in all cases time heals us, gradually soothing the pain. The question here, is how we deal with the sudden loss… do we cry our eyes out until they dry out? do we surrender to booze or other similar ways to dull the pain? or do we seek their familiarity in the experiences of our daily lives and remember how they made us feel? No matter how we might grieve, time is always there for assistance…

As a final thought, I must say “death” according to me is like a paradox similar to the Schrodinger’s Cat… we can never know for sure if our deceased, loved ones are happy or not on a different plane of existence… until we are certain of their fate, they may very well be both happy and not…