An eclectic approach to a Jewish worldview

November 11, 2021

The Great Fall

We all know the story of Humpty Dumpty. We learned it as little children when our mothers read to us from that giant table-top Mother Goose Tales book that every family had before the advent of the internet, and even some afterwards. Humpty was enjoying a quality hang on a stone wall in the countryside until he accidently lost his perch and cracked himself open on the pavers below. Not even all the greatest of the king's entourage could put him back together, since he had broken into so many pieces.

But there are a couple questions I would ask that maybe you've not thought of. Namely, how did Humpty become an egg? Second, why would the King's men care if he were put back together?

I'll start off by tackling these hypotheticals in reverse order. The King's men wanted to try and put Humpty together because he was part of the King's kingdom. He was one of them. Losing Humpty was like losing one of their own. Put another way, he was a follower of the King and he's now shattered and bleeding out his yoke for all the unbelievers to mock as they passed by. The King's men say to themselves, effectively, "We have the technology; we can rebuild him." But even a six-million dollar budget isn't enough to help Humpty put his belief system back together once it's been shattered. Of course, this leads directly to the first question: Why was Humpty an egg to begin with? Didn't he used to be a normal person, like everyone else? How on earth did he find himself in such a fragile, vulnerable state? A follow up observation could be made as well: He apparently was unaware of how fragile he truly was, or else he surely would not have risked his life sitting atop a wall.

We have since learned that he became an egg gradually. And he did so the same way that we all become eggs. By embracing one inflexible dogmatic opinion at a time. You see, there is an idiom in our culture which proves true in many contexts, which is "blessed are the flexible". Any time we become too rigid, we increase our risk of getting hurt dramatically. As I've gotten older, the biggest physical battle I face in my daily work is not building muscle, but maintaining enough flexibility to avoid muscle pulls and ligament damage. Without sufficient flexibility, simple everyday tasks, such as bending over to pick up an electrical cord, or lifting a milk crate (these are things I actually do in my daily work), could put me on disability. As for Humpty, he was made rigid by religious fundamentalism. He was first told what to believe, as well as what not to believe, and these lists of good and bad were then systematically reinforced through confirmation bias, fear and groupthink. And he never even realized it.

One day, in a moment of frivolity, Humpty tried to attend a lecture by a prominent scholar discussing the biblical texts he had been told were written by the finger of God Himself, and he learned, with great chagrin, that in fact many people actually had a hand in their construction. The smile left Humpty's face, replaced by horror. Humpty looked at himself in the mirror the following morning, a dark cloud of doubt hanging over his head casting shadows upon him, and he noticed a little bit of egg white bubbling out from near his left eye through a distinct crack. He was concerned, of course, but he would shake it off, fixing the crack with the band-aid of apologetics. This worked for a while, and Humpty continued to believe he was a flesh and blood human like everyone else, and tried to convince himself that the crack was normal and nothing to be concerned about. After a few more teachings from his favorite apologist, Humpty would be as right as Reggie Jackson.

Some time later, he learned about ancient religions and about the Hero stories of the mystery cults and about how many of their central figures resurrected from the dead and were worshiped as gods by their followers. That night, the day after he learned of this, he had indigestion and he noticed he was becoming a bit rounder, and that his pants no longer fit properly. He felt a bit like a hollow drum inside, actually, but he tried to convince himself it was nothing at all as he sang along with the worship band on Sunday morning.

Finally, he realized there were no cameras or newspapers or internet in Bible times to record what actually happened in real-time. But that, in fact, it was highly probable that everything was passed along as an oral tradition, in the form of legends and stories, if not altogether made up from whole cloth, until someone had the motivation to record it on parchment. At this, Humpty was deeply troubled.

It was in this despondent state that Humpty had the idea form in his mind that he needed to get away and be alone for a bit. He needed time to think and reflect. He resolved to find a high place, closer to God, where he could contemplate all of the really important things in life and question the dogmas he had been trusting in for so long. What was really the truth? He needed to know.

Then, just as Humpty was staring absently into the heavens and thinking very deeply about very deep things, he suddenly realized that he didn't believe any of it anymore. It was nonsense to him. Shocked and surprised at himself, he lost his balance and kersplatt!, he was shattered.

He didn't expect this at all, and neither did many of the people around him. Humpty thought he was a high-functioning adult with excellent morals, and certainly the correct religious beliefs. He thought he was still flesh and blood and able to take a few body blows and be the stronger for it. He didn't know.

What didn't he know? You ask a great question. He didn't know that by working so hard to solidify his beliefs into immutable spiritual truths, that he was slowly becoming more and more susceptible to the tragedy of sudden loss and of unexpected change. When it came to him, like a hurricane arriving unannounced in the middle of the night with no preparation, he broke into a million pieces. There was no way of putting his spiritual self back together the way he had been. Those days were over.

He could not put the yoke of his dogmas back inside his mind once new perspectives had shattered the illusion of immutability. While the King's men shook their heads sadly at his disjointed form and at his yoke seeping slowly into the cracks of the sidewalk, Humpty smiled to himself, and realized he was finally human again. And he was glad.

The end.

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