17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Here Adam is told of a cursed earth, of hard labor and sweat before having any bread, of a war against the land just to live, and this description fits my native land perfectly. I live in central Utah, the middle of a desert, where it is possible to grow fruits and vegetables and trees…but it is not easy. Today we cheat and import richer dirt and foreign plants to help us out, but my progenitors extracted their lives from the land inch-by-inch.
And even in the more flourishing parts of the world there is still a strong sense of strife in nature. Consider the monarch butterfly, which has a symbiotic relationship with the milkweed plant. The monarch butterfly, when still a caterpillar, feeds exclusively on the plant’s leaves, and after transforming into a butterfly pollenates its flowers. Neither can live without the other.
But also each kills the other by the thousands! The caterpillars have a ravenous appetite, and consume and destroy vast numbers of the milkweed plants as they grow. They would overrun the species entirely if it weren’t for the fact that the plants lethally defend themselves. They secrete a sap that drowns massive numbers of the caterpillars when they are still young, cutting their numbers to a mere fraction! These two parts of nature may rely on one another to live, but there is still a great, mortal strife between them, and this is a common theme in nature: life, but only through a heavy, struggling burden.
In sorrow shalt thou eat. Thorns and thistles. We raise out of the dust, we struggle until we can struggle no longer, then we collapse back into the dust. It is a bleak life, to be sure, but it is still a life.