St. Mark’s Corner

A new apple for a new age

by Richard Watkins

By a show of hands, who has ever uttered the phrase “back in my day we could…” or “when I was kid, we didn’t have…”? Yup. That’s a lot of hands.

The fact is, every generation seems to bemoan some sort of change from theirs to the next. From good to bad or from bad to worse. And I’m no different.

It seems to me that when I was kid, there wasn’t as much “bad stuff” happening. Sure, we would hear about some bad stuff happening in the general vicinity in limited occurrences. But we hardly ever heard about stuff happening in other states let alone other countries; unless, that is, the event was so catastrophic. For me, my first foray into the ways of the world was in November 1978. I was nine years old and got hit with a double whammy with the Jonestown Massacre followed by the Harvey Milk/Mayor Moscone assassinations merely nine days later.

What I wasn’t aware of, though was that earlier in February of that year, three teenage boys were shot and killed by a prison escapee from Alabama in Des Moines, IA. Why would I? Iowa was some 1,800 miles away. Nor did I hear about 10 guests dying in a November 26, 1978 fire at a Holiday Inn in Greece, New York. 

It wasn’t as though bad things weren’t happening everywhere. We just didn’t know about them because we didn’t have the personal or technological bandwidth of knowledge. We were, if you would, like Adams and Eves…that is, before the apple (cue ominous music).

See, Adam and Eve had it pretty good. They were in communion with God. They had dominion over all the animals. They had ample food to eat. And they had grace. They were as innocent as children. Which is the way it should have been. As Jesus put it in Matthew 18:3 “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

But we all how that turned out, right. A couple of bites of the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge and all of a sudden, they had…well, knowledge. They knew everything. They knew shame, fear and anger. They knew disobedience, selfishness and betrayal. They knew right and wrong and good and evil.

So how are we like Adam and Eve? Like I mentioned above, when I was child, I was child-like. Naive. Uneducated in the worldly way. Oblivious.  I didn’t know about a lot of stuff that happened if it wasn’t in my immediate world with the few rare exceptions. But as I got older, I too took a bite out of the apple; I mean Apple. And I took a bite out of Google and Facebook and Netflix and Amazon and HBO and Yahoo and many, many other fruits of the tree of knowledge in the garden of Silicon Valley. And now, I can’t stop knowing stuff. In the blink of an eye (or the click of a mouse) I can know that a train derailed and caught fire in Duplo, Illinois. That an Arizona state trooper was arrested Tuesday after several women said he assaulted them during traffic stops. That a Milwaukee mother was charged with neglect after her 42-pound teenage son died. That a 73-year-old woman was charged with killing her 82-year-old neighbor with a brick at a home for seniors. And the knowledge goes on.

What’s important here is what do we do with this type of negative knowledge. It is easy to lament it. Sympathize over it. Get angry at it. Feel depressed about it. Fret over it. Vex about it. Hate because of it. What’s more difficult, and very often not done at all, is pray about it. Ask that God grant mercy to those involved so that they are comforted and consoled. Ask that those in the wrong be forgiven and for those affected to find the strength to forgive. Ask for them to receive grace. But above all else, ask with the blind faith of a child because as Jesus said in Matthew 21:16: “…Out of the mouths of infants and nurslings you have brought forth praise…”