From East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Limited Edition Giclee Print
7 1/2” x 11 1/4”
Original: ink, water color, and gouache on Arches paper
Why are you angry, and why is your countenance fallen? For whether you offer well, or whether you do not, sin crouches at the door, and unto you is its desire, yet you may rule over it. (Genesis, 4:7)
This is an offering for my fellow admirers of Steinbeck’s East of Eden, mostly of Lee, the unforgettable Chinese man who takes care of the twins and later teaches Cal his view on the nature/nurture question and on the power of free will. It is what he learnt from some rabbis in San Francisco about how to translate God’s enigmatic words to Cain in Genesis 4:7, which is the center of the book for me.
“Timshel – ‘Thou mayest rule over sin’ … – gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. It says the way is open. It throws it right back on man. For if ‘Thou mayest’ – it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not’ … Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he still has the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win … This is a ladder to climb to the stars … You can never lose that. It cuts the feet from under weakness and cowardliness and laziness … I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed – because ‘Thou mayest.’” (East of Eden, pp. 349-350)