Archives For Brokenness

 

“A History of Our Brokenness”

A Review of
Pandora’s Seed:
The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization
.
By Spencer Wells
.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

[ Watch two videos of Wells talking about this book… ]

Pandora’s Seed:
The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization
.
By Spencer Wells
.
Hardback: Random House, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

When we, as the Church, think about the Fall of humanity, our minds tend to jump to the Garden of Eden and the familiar story of Adam, Eve, the serpent and the forbidden fruit, and undoubtedly this is an essential part of the biblical narrative.  What we tend to gloss over, however, are the ways in which waves of brokenness surged forth through time and space from the epicenter of Eden toppling and subjugating not only humanity but all creation.  The Fall, of course, brought on the immediate consequences of pain in childbearing and in working the Earth, but it was not long before we encounter murder, lies, and the amassing of people and power in cities, and then Creation forcefully lashing out at itself with a massive flood.  The parallels between this biblical story of the Fall and its aftermath, parallels in a striking way, the scientific account of the development of early civilization presented in Spencer Wells’ new book Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization.  Wells is a heralded geneticist, and “Explorer-in-Residence” at the National Geographic Society.  His previous two books The Journey of Man and Deep Ancestry, probe aspects of our evolution and development as humankind, as well as our genetic history.   I should be clear before I go any further that any theological parallels that I note in conjunction with Wells’ research are my own and not his.

Wells’ thesis is that our development of agriculture about 10,000 years brought with it many “unintended consequences” that have plagued humanity over the intervening millennia, and he narrates a very different story than that put forth by modernist champions of “progress” over the last two centuries.   In his words: “The biggest revolution of the past 50,000 years of human history was not the advent of the Internet, the growth of the industrial age out of the seeds of the Enlightenment, or the development of modern methods of long-distance navigation.  Rather it was when a few people … decided to stop gathering from the land, abiding by the limits set in place by nature, and started growing their food.  This decision has had more far-reaching consequences for our species than any other.”  While I realize that discussions of dates and timelines in relation to the earliest eras of human development are open to some degree of leeway and interpretation, I suspect that most people could accept 10,000 years as a possible length of post-Fall human history, so for the sake of this review let us assume that what we know from the biblical narrative as “the Fall,” occurred essentially simultaneously with the development of agriculture as Wells describes it here and see how the consequences he describes fit with those noted in scripture.  Wells makes his case with chapters that focus on specific consequences, each of which begins with a relevant story from his global travels.

Continue Reading…

 

A Brief Review of
THE FINAL MARTYRS (Short Stories)
by Shusaku Endo

Paperback: New Directions, 2009.
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $12 ]  [ Amazon ]

Review by Zena Neds-Fox.

    Shusaku Endo’s The Final Martyrs is a collection of eleven short stories re-released earlier this year by New Directions, one of which is the skeleton for what would become the acclaimed novel, ‘Silence’.  Endo’s stories are difficult.  They are intimidating, near to a dare as one approaches.  I hesitate to write anything about any one of them for fear that I do not understand, they are so high.

    The book’s centerpiece story, ‘Heading Home’, is one of a man exhuming his mother’s bones on the heels of his brother’s death.  As he contemplates facing his mother again, his sister-in-law hatches a plan to rescue a neighborhood dog that is starved, chained up and beaten.  He is convinced by her and goes through with the plan, though the chained mutt is reluctant to go with them.  Later he’s in a meeting where he learns of Catholic missionaries who return to Japan knowing wherever they ended up they were going to be killed.  The man returns home to find out that the dog has disappeared, returning to its abuser.  Later he holds his mother’s remains in his arms, looks at death squarely and comes to terms.

    Not exactly a beach read.  They symbols are there, and Christ is the lowest and the weakest.  It seems to me that Endo can’t stop seeing the human race as great cowards.  We are failures.  God is the servant and the savior to the undeserving and Endo has an eye for what a failure actually looks like.  The reality of our cowardice is clear before him everywhere.  He also has the ability to imagine what could possibly be lower than that, and the freedom to put that identity onto Jesus who is great enough to take it on.

    In another story, ‘Japanese in Warsaw’, Japanese tourists despise their time in Warsaw almost as much as their tour guide despises them.  While they sleep with prostitutes and buy souvenirs they don’t like, they learn of a venerated Japanese priest.  Kolbe, whom they’ve never heard of, was confined at Auschwitz. One day after trying to escape, a Polish prisoner is about to be executed.  He weeps for his family and Kolbe steps forward and takes the sentence in his stead.  One of the tourists later goes home with a prostitute and confronts a drawing of Kolbe hanging in her apartment.  He recognizes the priest from his boyhood in Japan.  One man dying in place of a citizen of this city, another hating everything the city offers, raping its women.

    Not easy terrain, but if you’re up for a most poetic look at the brokenness and the cure of humanity, Endo is your man.