Writer’s Log: Stardate 16-4-2012
(I am doing a terrible job with posting daily. Somebody needs to start paying me.)
Saving Adam is a huge sprawling book that is pushing me far outside my comfort zone. I have been reminded of that this month as I have been working on a chapter dealing with material that I literally knew nothing about six months ago—nothing that is, beyond the fact that it was relevant to my topic.
The disciplines into which we compartmentalize our knowledge make it hard to think clearly about certain types of problems. The question of Adam and Eve is one such problem. On the one hand the topic is profoundly Biblical. But is Biblical in Christian, Jewish, and other ways. And it is historical. By the 17th century some people were becoming convinced that Adam was not a real person. It is cultural and we can’t really talk about Adam without Dante and Milton. It’s political. Nineteenth century southern racists used a twisted version of the Adam story to justify mistreating African slaves. It’s scientific. Our knowledge of genes and fossils is forcing us to invent all kinds of very different Adams to make sense of the data. Adam is even psychological—I know a lot of really smart people who are psychologically attached to the idea of a first man and woman, often for reasons even they cannot explain.
Thinking clearly about a topic like Adam requires bringing all these disparate disciplines and perspectives into dialog with each other.
The section of the book I just completed looks at some of the interesting ideas about Adam in extrabiblical literature from the period after the Old Testament was basically completed. This literature, which I was only dimly aware of six months ago, is fascinating. There are amazing stories of Adam gathering his children around him at age 930 to tell them about what happened in Eden centuries earlier. There are stories about Eve telling her side of the story. Some stories make Eve look worse than she does in Genesis; others make her look better. All of the stories raise troubling questions about whether we can know that the Bible contains the right books—fortunately that is not my topic.
It was quite satisfying to delve into a brand new topic and, from a position of total ignorance and confusion, slowly learn enough to make the points needed for my story.
I have 25,000 words on my book now—1/3 of the way to the finish line.