Then the serpent said to the woman, “Behold the apples on aisle three.” And she did. And lo! the apples were not low in price. But being thus sorely tempted, her desire grew as the serpent well knew it would, and lo! the serpent spoke again. “Mmmm, Red Rome, your favorite.” And she was sorely, sorely tempted and did fill up the plastic sack with apples though they cost more than she had budgeted, and she abhorred plastic.
The serpent sent her forth to check out by herself, hissing these instructions: “Placeth the apples on the weigh platform but key in a code for lower priced produce such as the red onion which looketh a lot like an apple yet costeth a dollar a pound less. Or put to memory the five digit code for organic Delicious apples which are rippling from age and, as a result, cost less. Lo! You saveth money and haveth apples. And the woman was sorely, sorely, sorely tempted.
I have recreated (desecrated?) a portion of the Hebrew Creation Myth as a mature alternative to subverting the San Francisco Unitarian Universalist Worship Service on Sunday. My role in the service was limited to reading the story of Adam, Eve and the serpent rather than telling stories from life that allow me to exchange energy with the congregation as once we Worship Associates did as a regular part of Sunday service.
That role is now closed to lay persons because the interim minister wants worship to be a performance of ritual and story rather than a confluence of sharing and relationship. Nothing amiss with that. Every minister wants to do what he wants to do. (He in the case of this congregation.) But it is not what I want to do. For me reading the Hebrew Creation Myth as part of a celebration of Charles Darwin’s 203rd birthday is interesting but not heart-engaging. In worship I want to feel heart-energy flow between speakers, be they minister or lay, and “the beloved community”.
That then is background and the inspiration for this retelling of a “true” story of my experience in the Safeway at Webster and O’Farrell.
When God saw the woman had been seduced by a slithery serpent, He caused the check out machine to balk mid transaction and sent forth the checker in charge of all self-check out to wave her card across the face of the machine and lo! the transaction was null and void.
Driven from self-check out, no longer under the sway of the serpent, yet chafing under the unfairness of a free market economy, I queue up in the fifteen-items-or-less line and don a face of good will for Gail or Audrey as they perform the early morning check out ritual.
Waiting for the line to snake forward, I grapple with the many minor injustices I suffer. Take microwaveable popcorn. If I want to purchase microwave popcorn in boxes of four small bags at a discount, but can only get that discount on three-baggers with really big bags, then my needs are not met. Where’s the fairness in that?
And store-brand flavored carbonated water is advertised as on sale at a price ten cents higher than it was yesterday. Moreover there’s a California-added tax that will appear at checkout. But I need that flavored no-calorie water to drink Naked or Odwalla. Without the carbonated water to dilute Mighty Mango or Very Berry, each glass is expensive and again, I cannot get my needs met. Where’s the fairness in that?
As for apples, Red Rome, though high in cost are less desirable than Fuji apples, which are plentiful and often on sale. Don’t I deserve a break for clearing the shelves of unpopular apples before they ripple and no one buys them even at a reduced price?
And as Gail or Audrey scans my Safeway card, I sigh, forgive myself and remember that ours is “a world full of unruly impulses.”* It’s certainly so when I consider how tempted I am to cause harm when the world doesn’t meet my needs. The minister with his own agenda, and the Safeway with its profit motive. Luckily, I avoided the temptation of cheating the market or subverting the Sunday worship service to demand “Meet my needs!”
*Avivah Zornberg is a celebrated author and Torah teacher who reads between the lines of sacred stories to uncover deeper layers of meaning. Listen to her discussion “The Genesis of Desire” with Krista Tippett at On Being.