Saturday, October 11, 2014

Stealing What Should Belong Only To God: Adam & Eve, Prometheus and Frankenstein

This lesson focuses on the creation myths of Christianity and Greek Mythology, and attempts to find parallels that explicate and illuminate the Biblical creation story, and the story of the fall.  I'm also going to try to work in some references to, and discussion of, Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley, relying on my old friends at Shmoop to tie it together somehow.

First, we'll read the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Genesis out loud.  I'm going to use The Message translation for this, because it's more story-like and accessible and less remote sounding. We did read these chapters earlier, with the names lesson in our first week, but what the heck. As I've mentioned, not every kid is there every week, so no harm no foul, right?  

At this point I'm going to try to steer the discussion towards The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.   Without belaboring it too much I'll try to get in the notion that some things are rather ambiguous, in terms of being good or evil, and that it can be burdensome to figure that out.  Maybe that's what God was trying to avoid?  He didn't want Adam and Eve to worry so much, to be weighed down with the issues of figuring things out - he'd be in charge of that!  The example I'm going to use of an ambiguous thing is Fire, which is obviously hugely useful, but can also be destructive and dangerous as per this video of a forest fire in Greece.  Greece, btw, is how I'm going to segue to the Myth of Prometheus, and after showing the forest fire video, I'm going to show the Prometheus animation from above, with a brief introduction of the notion that the Prometheus story is the Greek myths' version of the creation story.


So at this point, after we've watched the Prometheus video, I'm going to introduce the activity for the day, which is candlemaking.  Candlemaking certainly introduces us to the benign side of fire, producing illumination and a moderate amount of heat, without much destruction (usually, but these are middle schoolers, so be careful!).

I'm using granulated wax, wicks and votive holders I purchased from Hobby Lobby and Michael's.  I chose the colors because Fall, and also the red and gold are firelike, especially when combined in layers, as I plan to do.

Making the candles is pretty basic - I just have them place a wick in the votive (probably smart to glue gun it to the bottom, and then fill in layers of wax (with spoons), until the votive is full, at which point we trim the wick.  I should have put more in the first layer, and less in the succeeding ones, but that's why you make a sample/test/prototype, I guess.  Still looks pretty good!

Here's what it looks like when lit.  As the wax gets hot it melts and stabilizes a bit.  

While we are doing this, I will bring up what I'm going to introduce as a modern creation myth, which also has cautionary elements about the dangers of usurping the role of God.  I'm going to ask them to guess what I could be referring to (some of them are pretty smart), and then show the trailer from the original Boris Karloff 1931 Frankenstein.

After watching this preview, I'm going to talk briefly about Mary Shelley's original version Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, using Shmoop as my guide.  There are many thoughtful and insightful point to be made, and I'll keep talking, raising and discussing them until the class time runs out (after about 40 minutes or so, total).

Questions I hope to get raised and discussed include:

  • Why did God create human beings and what did he expect from them.  Like Prometheus, whose name literally means "Sees the Future," God is all knowing, so he must have realized what would happen with the tree.  So what was the point?
  • Are these stories about humans "usurping" the knowledge or power that only God should have?  Is God jealous, like Zeus?  Or protective?
  • Are there cautions for scientists in the Biblical and Greek stories?  In Frankenstein?