December 27, 2016

TOB Tuesday: Original Solitude

God creating Adam

Editor's note: Each Tuesday we will feature posts discussing Saint John Paul the Great's Theology of the Body; his reflection on our nature and life as persons made in the image and likeness of God, conjugal love, the meaning of celibacy, and the eternal beatitude to which every human being is called.

When Adam named all the animals in the garden he realized he was alone. In other words, he realizes that he is the only "person" in the visible world. He experiences what Saint John Paul II in his Theology of the Body refers to as "original solitude." This original solitude has two senses.

The first sense of original solitude has to do with Adam's relationship with God. In "the beginning," Adam quickly began to understand that he had a unique relationship with the creator. He alone could talk with God. He alone could have a personal relationship with God. No other creature in the garden could do this.

It naturally follows that only man has an interior life. Only man is capable of loving. Adam/man is the Hebrew word for "mankind" as mentioned previously. Adam and Eve together experience original solitude. This is key to understanding the Theology of the Body. Mankind experiences original solitude in all its senses, both male and female. Adam and Eve both experience original solitude, not just Adam the male.

The second sense of original solitude is perhaps the most obvious one. In naming all the animals Adam discovers he is alone. There is no other human person to love and to receive in love. Adam longs deep in his heart to love an other and to be loved by an other. This profound loneliness, the second sense of original unity, was felt by both Adam and Eve.

Through his experience of original solitude Adam (mankind) realizes he is alone. There is no "other" to give himself over to in love. Adam cannot perfect himself, he cannot fulfill himself, he cannot know himself except by making a gift of himself to another human person. Adam longs for another human person to love. It is in his spiritual DNA to give himself to an other. God acknowledges this when he says; "It is not good for the man to be alone."

God bringing the animals to Adam to see what he will name them is a kind of test. Through it Adam discovers that there is not a help mate fit for him. Genesis states; "The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man."

In ancient Hebrew tradition, to name something is to have responsibility for it. In this way, mankind is to be the caregiver of the garden, the steward of all creation. Furthermore, in the first chapter of Genesis God tells man;"Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth."

God is clearly enjoining man to be a responsible master over all creation. In the beginning, this responsible mastery came easily. After sin, it would prove difficult if not impossible to achieve.

God causes Adam to fall into a deep sleep "and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man." God then presents the woman to man who exclaims; "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called 'woman,' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken." In that moment, original solitude gives way to the joy of original unity.

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