Monday, 3 August 2015

Cain and Abel Build a House

What do we know about Cain and Abel?  The Bible doesn't tell us much.  We know they shared the same genetic material, being brothers.  We know Cain kept animals while Abel grew crops.  And, of course, Cain killed Abel out of jealousy.

This is the story of a modern day Cain and Abel.  Their father had plenty of land, enough for Abel to farm and Cain to graze his herds.  But as young men they wanted their own place, distinct from the family home.  So they planned to build a house together.

Cain, the eldest, always took the lead.  Abel had pleasant enough features and they were both healthy young men.  But Cain was strikingly good looking with a confident charm the girls found irresistible.  Abel was married first, though.  Cain attracted people who were forever aspiring to bigger and better things. Meanwhile, Abel tended to be content, whether he had much or little.  He got on better with people who understood that "good enough" was, actually, good enough.

So Cain chose the site.  They had camped there as children.  It was a patch of raised ground in the shelter of a wood, within sight of a brook that wound downward through the valley.  It was a good place and Abel wanted to live in their new home from the beginning.

Cain thought Abel was stupid, putting up his tent right on the place where the house would be.  How could he make a comfortable home there?  He would have to move it as soon as they started building the foundations.  And so it proved.  The plan Cain drew up had a load bearing wall going through a corner of Abel's tent.  It was the best place for it, so Abel and his girlfriend were happy to move.  They were just glad it was actually going ahead.

Building took much longer than they thought.  Farming is hard work.  So they could only work on the house in their spare time.  While the stone walls grew slowly around Abel's tent, months turned into years.  They both married and tents were extended as children came on the scene.  Cain was proud of his now extensive pavilion, with all the comforts of home.

Abel simply added extensions to his tent as needed.  The canvas was spattered with mortar, covered with muddy footprints and stained where a bucket had fallen on it.  They kept only necessities so they could easily move from one place to another.  For they had to keep clear of the focus of work as it shifted around them.  Abel's family were literally living in a building site, so they spend much of their time getting on with building their home, while Cain and his family spent most of their time at home in their comfortable pavilion.

There was surprisingly little animosity between such different families.  Abel was never able to articulate what he felt, and his brother couldn't understand why anyone would want to live that way.  For Abel, being at home meant being where you belong, however uncomfortable that might be.  Cain, on the other hand, saw home as a place where life should be easy, all problems were sorted out and you could feel safe.  So both brothers were happy because each felt they were creating the home they wanted. 

The turning point came for Abel's family when the roof was finished.  The house was without timber floors, windows or plumbing, so Cain still thought of it as a mere shell.  But the first night Abel and his wife went to bed under canvas that had a roof over it, they burst out laughing.  Cain probably thought Abel's lot were mad as their children ran in to join the celebration.  That night the walls rang with laughter as, despite draughts and dirt, they sang and danced throughtout their new home.

Eventually, every room had windows, central heating and decor that met with Cain's wife's approval.  Cain chose the best rooms and moved their abundant possessions into more than their fair share of the house.  Abel's family weren't envious.  They happily accepted Cain's need to be superior and didn't need as much room.  Besides, they too were living their dream.  They'd had space for a while.  Now they had warmth, running water and best of all, others to share it with.

Unfortunately, Cain, who had chosen to live detached from the construction, could never shake the feeling of being an outsider in his own house.  Abel did nothing to antagonise him, even going out of his way to make him and his family welcome.  But Cain was unable to get passed the fact that Abel's family had grown up in this house while Cain's had moved into a home that already existed without them.  That festering sore turned to jealousy then murder.

After Abel er, died, his family feared for their lives and fled.  So the house because Cain's family's home from one generation to the next.  But genetics will out.  From time to time, a misfit was born into the family.  Someone who felt no need to strive and saw things from the inside. While those around seemed more aware of the surface of things, these descendants of Abel's father knew the joyous treasure within as the most natural thing in the world.