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Monday, November 1, 2010

East of Eden XXV -- chpt24: TIMSHEL

Which would you prefer?  A kind of static heaven, where it--heaven--is what it is and never changes (whatever that happens to be) no matter who you are or what you want; or a more subjective heaven, where its stake on "paradise" is subject to the person who achieves it?  If the latter, would it be possible for Samuel and Liza even to exist on the same plane in the Hereafter?

Reading Questions
Chapter 24.1

  1. "I seem to get more Chinese as I get older," says Lee.  Funny, I become more and more like my dad as I get older.
  2. Who do Cal and Aaron remind you of?  (And I'm not talking about Cain and Abel.)
  3. The way Samuel describes his love of the land, it makes me think of the way he loves his wife, just without the shroud of his confessed fantasies, a page (more or less) earlier.  What does appearance and functionality play in the loving of something?

Chapter 24.2

  1. A potential conflict: It is easier to believe or accept a religion whose tenets are close to your lifestyle or existing religious beliefs, yet it requires less of a leap of faith.  (Look for the deliberate, partial flaw in my reasoning, which relegates this argument's validity to those who may be SEEKING (intransitive of "seeking" also intentional).)  Isn't this leap of faith--those of you who have read it, think Life of Pi--necessary for receiving the "better story," or the greater truth or whatever you want to call it?
  2. Here in 24.2 we get the definition, and Lee's backstory, for the "discovery" of timshel, the Hebrew word meaning "thou mayest," or to put it in common language (as we English speakers have virtually done away with the informal conjugations and pronouns), "you may."  While the ultimate importance is referenced here--the significance of this perhaps more accurate translation of the couple words in Genesis indicating that we are responsible--its true significance is masked, at least emotionally so and therefore yet generally ineffective, and we won't get it until the end of the chapter.
  3. On my first read of East of Eden, and up to this point, the book was merely excellent; chapter 24 however elevated it from excellent to resonant, and even life-changing.  While I already tended to believe that I was the one in control of my "destiny," the added foundation this chapter gave was just, well, GREAT.  Consider the general rationale that this CHOICE or freedom to triumph over sin elevates us above the beast to godliness and makes our potential infinite.  AWESOME!
  4. Considering the earlier question, is it easier to make a large leap of faith when that leap promises a greater measure of hope to the leaper?
  5. When Lee says that "These old men believe a true story," what kind of TRUE is he talking about?

Chapter 24.3

  1. I love Doxology.  How could I not, what with the fondness Samuel has for this lousy animal?  I think there's a notable similarity between Doxology, Samuel's pathetic track of land, and his little iron wife, Liza, for all of them demonstrate in Samuel a deep love despite, and maybe even explicitly FOR REASON OF, specific weaknesses and/or shortcomings.  Once Samuel (I think it was Samuel) said that it's easier to love the ugly child.  WHY?  HOW?
  2. A brilliant little twist on the Garden of Eden:  Adam is served, by the benevolent serpent, Samuel, fruit from the Tree of Knowledge ... BACKWARDS!  Without the service of this fruit, according to Lee and Samuel, Adam would surely die; yet the simple partaking of the fruit in this case would, while with tremendous difficulty (as if indeed casting him from the Garden and into the weedy world), open up the possibilities of even timshel itself.
  3. Here at the end of the chapter, it seems to me that the real significance of the new translation of timshel makes itself visible.  How is it that Heaven suddenly exists for Samuel where it apparently didn't before?  Why is the timing of the discovery particularly significant?
  4. What does Lee mean when he says to Samuel, "You've gone beyond me?"
  5. Notice, in the very last line of he chapter, Samuel's halo.


  1. On the first question, I'd prefer the 2nd, but I'm sure whatever God has in plan is more wonderful than I as a human can imagine. Marriage is always a tricky question in heaven because Jesus makes it clear that it does not exist, or at least not as we think of it.

    24.1.1. I think I am becoming more Michiganian as I get older, but that could just be because I am, "an alien in a foreign land."
    24.2.1. This question blows my mind. I am lucky because I belong to a faith with which I profoundly agree. If I were starting over and creating my own denomination, it would look very similar to the ELCA. That said, I can accept how it might be easier for me to accept my religion because it already has such a strong hold on my other beliefs, and therefore, it might not be quite as big a leap of faith. But I still think faith is either something one has or hasn't. The question of the degree of the leap is subsidiary to the question to whether one actually makes the leap at all.
    24.3.2. Yes, Steinbeck tried to sneakily place the line, "surely die," in there, but he was not able to elude either of us apparently. Very clever. Another thing that I missed the first time that I read it a few years ago...

  2. I didn't realize there were levels of reading ability until I was in college. I thought that either you got it or you didn't. I never had a teacher raise the difference. I wrote a book. I thought I udnerstood my own book. A friend read it and REALLY GOT IT, where I didn't. It was mind-blowing!

    Regarding the leap of faith: I think within my own religion--while not because of the religion, but under the circumstances of its presence--I've made large leaps of faith because of difficulties--intellectual, spiritual, or temporal--in my life. Stepping into the darkness, attemptign to follwo what I understand as God's will for me.... The weight of such decisions escalates dramatically with a family in tow and increases my reliance upon my God and religion to assist the understanding of such necessary leaps. I appreciate having a religion that I recognize as "true" and which challenges me, as I think must be the case for any devout religionist. Religion cannot be passive. Joseph Smith once said something to the effect that a religion must have the power to pull the very heartstrings or cannot have the power to save. (I should look up the quotation; it's actually quite brilliant.)


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