Adam’s Rib: Intro to Theology of the Body Part 4

Adam’s Rib: Intro to Theology of the Body Part 4 July 29, 2015


Now a deep sleep falls on Adam. Consciousness and self-awareness, choice and thought, all are removed. In the darkness of incomprehension, the mystery takes place. A part of his own body is taken out, bone from his bone, flesh from his flesh, and man is created anew.

She awakes, a new creation. Adam arises and looks at her and cries out with joy, and she looks at him and understands that she is the cause of that joy. They are caught in the first truly human gaze: a gaze that moves from one to the other. Suddenly the eyes are not merely cameras looking out, portals through which the world may reveal itself to the mind. They are mirrors, reflecting another person, windows that show the depths of the soul. The muscles of the face, the strange movements which no doubt Adam observed, without understanding, in the time before this separation of one into two, now take on a meaning. Adam smiles, Eve smiles back. Their bodies respond to one another, naturally, spontaneously, expressing an entire field of meanings that did not exist before.

There is a temptation to think of the physical love of a man and a woman purely in terms of sex, but it is so much more than that. Lovers becomes lost in each other’s eyes, hold hands, mirror each other’s expressions, touch, dance, embrace, talk for hours, contemplate each other in silence. Attraction reveals itself through the body in a thousand different ways. In each of these ways, it expresses what it means to be a human being: to be together, communicating, giving and receiving love.

The solitary preparation has given shape to man’s subjectivity, but it is only now, in the revelation of communion, that man understands what he is. The “image and likeness,” not of a unitary, self-contained God, but of a Trinity, a communion of persons, has been realized for the first time on earth.

Every element of Adam’s development prior to the division of the human species into male and female can be reinterpreted and understood anew in the light of the other. Adam re-presents to Eve, and she to him, all that they have within themselves. Eve sees Adam and recognizes that her self-awareness is reflected in him. There is an interplay between the two personalities that breaks the isolation of individual subjectivity. This is not only an intellectual realization but the body conveys the fact. Animals, for example, rarely make eye-contact with human beings, and when they do it has the quality of expectation: the dog looks at its master in order to understand how it is supposed to behave. Eve and Adam search each others eyes in order to understand one another, and in order to be understood. Animals receive verbal commands, but they do not enter into conversation. Adam and Eve’s mouths give voice to their thoughts, they speak. We don’t have a record of these original conversations, beyond Adam’s exclamation, but we occasionally have experiences that touch on what it must have been like. In our fallen state human conversation is usually impeded by various internal and external constraints. There is the kind of self-consciousness that makes a person retreat into herself, the awkwardness that comes from not knowing whether she will be liked, the fear of self-revelation. Polite conventions, hidden motives, and anxieties all prevent people from being “naked and unashamed” in their conversation. Occasionally, two people will immediately “hit it off,” conversation comes naturally, almost miraculously, honesty feels refreshing instead of terrifying, everything that the other person says fascinates, and it is possible to speak almost endlessly without running out of words.

The body’s labours over the earth are now also given a human dimension. Adam plucks a fruit, hands it out to Eve, she tears open the skin and returns the seeds to him. He ploughs a trench, she plants it, together they tend the waking sprouts. He brings in the harvest, she prepares it. At every stage, they are no longer motivated merely by their own need, but by the needs of the other, so that their work becomes a means of showing love.

The greatest change, though, is in the realm of morality. Here the significance of human choice is brought to the fore. Adam can love Eve, or reject her. She can help him, or hinder. The choice to live or die is no longer merely personal: if Eve chooses death, she chooses to widow Adam. To die is not merely to lose one’s life, it is also to withdraw the gift of oneself from all of the others in the world.

It is into the midst of this original communion that a snake slithers, whispering lies.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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