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 Study Guide


From The Tales of Adam:
Excerpt 2

The Law of Life

“Just as no amount of effort will block the tide, no amount of
effort will bring an event to fruition before its time. A man cannot
learn to be a hunter before he becomes a hunter. Hunting simply
cannot be learned in advance of hunting. It’s the same with
becoming an adult. A child can no more learn to be an adult before
he’s an adult than a man can learn to be a hunter before he hunts.
This is why everything is permitted to you today, because you’re
still a child. But tomorrow, when you’re a man, the things permitted
to you as a child will be permitted to you no longer. If today you
smash your spear against a rock in a fit of temper, I will laugh and
make you a new one, because today you’re still a child. But if you
do the same tomorrow you’ll make a new spear for yourself or go
hungry, because tomorrow you’ll be a man, even as I am, and must
begin to be responsible for your life.

“This is the meaning of the rites of initiation into adulthood: not
that you have learned to be an adult, but that you must begin to
learn. The day after your initiation, your thoughts will be the same
as those of the day before, but you will nevertheless be accorded
the rights of an adult and be expected to fulfill the obligations of
an adult. And you will learn to cope with both in the same way
you learned to be a hunter: by beginning."

At last Adam said: “You’re beginning to know the Law of Life. I
too am beginning to know the Law of Life. If you ask me on my
last day, as I close my eyes for the last time, whether I know the
Law of Life, I’ll tell you: 'I’m beginning to know it.’

“If any man tells you he knows the whole of the Law of Life or
that he can encompass it in words, that man is a fool or a liar,
because the Law of Life is written in the universe and no man
can know the whole of it. If ever you’re in doubt about the Law,
consult the caterpillar or the gull or the jackal; no man will ever
know it better or follow it more steadfastly than they.”

Then, in concluding, Adam said: “Wisdom is the gift I give to
you, nothing else. This is my legacy to you, the legacy I received
from my father and he received from his father. It is the legacy of
generations, from one to the next for all time. Yours tools will grow
blunt, your spears will shatter, your tents will crumble, your twine
will fray, but this knowledge I’ve given you will not wear out. In a
thousand generations it will still be as strong as it was a thousand
generations ago.”



More excerpts from The Tales of Adam

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