February 11, 2010

Theology of the Body: Original Nakedness

Adam and Eve

In his Theology of the Body, Saint John Paul II discusses the concept of "Original Nakedness". The Garden of Eden was Paradise. All creation was ordered to its proper end. Although they were naked, Adam and Eve were not ashamed. Their lack of shame resulted from the fact they did not view each other as sexual objects to be used for their own gratification. Instead, each saw the other with all the peace of the interior gaze. But what exactly does this mean, for them and us?

When a man and a woman fall in love with each other "looks" might initially draw them together. Over time, as the relationship grows and deepens, this invariably changes. They fall in love with the other's personality, their kindness, their goodness, their spirituality, their very souls. It is therefore possible for couples who have spent a life time together to be more in love than the day they were married. We are called to love the "whole person", not simply a person's looks.

Consider the following statement: The problem with pornography isn't that it shows too much. The problem with pornography is that it doesn't show enough. By focusing exclusively on the physical/sexual, we ignore the psychological, the emotional, the spiritual aspects of the human person.

In short, by obsessing on the body, we ignore and ultimately dishonor the personhood of the other. The experience of shame helps us guard against the exploitation of our bodies. The fact that Adam and Eve felt no shame was one indication that in the beginning, before sin, there was no need to guard against the abuse and misuse of their bodies. Seeing each other "with all the peace of the interior gaze," meant seeing the beauty of and loving the "whole person" in all their unrepeatable uniqueness. Original nakedness enabled Adam and Eve to relate to other human beings without fear of being used, exploited or objectified.

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