Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Original Solitude

We left last time with a reflection on the incorporation of the idea of experience in the eyes of theology. In order to understand these truths of the faith, we need to experience them in a personal way through our very bodies. This makes the truths of the faith something tangible, something that we can touch and come to a deep appreciation for.

Continuing along the lines of experience, we enter what JP II terms as "Original Solitude". It relates to the following passage in Genesis:

It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (Genesis 2:18)
Original solitude has 2 meanings:
  • The first derives from the relationship between man and woman, man is literally alone without woman.
  • The second is fundamental to man's nature in that he is "alone" in the visible world as a person.

We must remember that Adam has no one to refer to. The difference between the sexes is only apparent when there is another person of the opposite sex to compare to. So, Adam being alone does not define himself as male. His first experience, also, is not that of being a male, it is the experience of being a person. Therefore, this solitude is in reference to the fact that man is the only creature who has a personhood. It thus follows that the experience of man as being male or female is secondary because of man's very nature of being a human person. Man experiences that original solitude in the sense that he experiences his personhood, his realization of being a person, before he realizes that he is a male (in reference to Adam).

This all falls into the realization that man realizes first his fundamental human dignity as a person. Before he can give himself to another, man must first realize that he is a person who can, out of his own love and free will, give himself over to another out of total love. Only someone with free will is able to give himself over as a loving gift. Personhood and the act of love of the person, as well as every act, involves free will, which is inherent in the dignity of the human person. This does not deny the importance of sexual differences, the difference between male and female, but that, in order to have that important disctinction, you must have a personhood in order to be able to realize that sexual difference.

God sees that Adam needs a helper. First, it is important to note what is meant by the term "helper". It is not a term that denotes being one's slave, to do the bidding of another. Instead, the term "helper" denotes someone to share in the duties and work of the other. It thus is necessary for the helper to be someone of equal standing with Adam, someone who is free to recognize the fact that they have a dignity that is inherent in their very nature.

In order to do this, God first creates the animals, in which Adam names them. This is man's own way of self-realization. Man, by naming the animals, is able to see that he is fundamentally different from the animals. He has dominion over them, being able to name them. By naming the animals, Adam sees that they are not persons like he is, but are simply creatures in which he has dominion over them as someone who has the dignity of freely loving. He does not see in them a helper fit for him because they are not able to freely love him, they are not created in the same dignity as he is, they are not created in the image and likeness of God.

This brings a speculative sidenote...JP II says that it is through the unique interaction between body and soul that man is able to come and experience things. Man comes to a self-realization through experience through his body. This is very Thomistic of JP II of course, taking the standard medieval motto that "nothing is in the mind that is not previously perceived through the senses." That is to say, in order to have ideas, thoughts, to come to self-realization, one must experience things through their bodies. This is interesting for me because it brings up angels for me, who are non-corporeal beings, they are pure spirit. Does this mean that angels are thus self-realized and that they don't have experience, because they come to that full realization of self at the moment they are created? I don't know the answer, I'm just throwing that out there as a result of this discussion.

Back to Original Solitude. By naming the animals and seeing that he is distinct, man comes to know who he is, that self-realization, based on his relations with the rest of the created world. This means that our own identity is dependent on relating to all of creation, we (human beings as a whole) are defined in contrast with the rest of the created world. We see that we are fundamentally different. The more animals Adam names, the more he realizes his fundamental difference from the rest of the created world.

Man, through this naming of the animals, reveals himself to himself. We must remember too that the body reveals to us the Divine reality of God, it expresses in a deep and profound way the mystery of God. Thus through that realization of himself before the fall, man becomes even more aware of who God is, he realizes not only his utter distinctness from the creatures and created world, he also realizes his utter distinctness in that God is far more greater then he is. This means that man is prepared for communion with God. God was willing to give all to man so long as man was willing to receive the gift, though as we will see (and know), man rejects that gift.

Thus, in this solitude, in this time of self-realization, man begins to know himself more and more, seeing how distinct he is from the rest of the created world. It follows then that this state of Original Solitude prepares man for the experience of communion. Man must realize who he is in order to properly and fully give himself over completely in love to woman. We will discuss this preparing for communion through Original Solitude tomorrow.


No comments: