It is not good for the man to be alone. That’s because a man needs a woman, and creating Eve will make Adam feel all warm and fuzzy and loved and respected and he’ll never be sad or lonely again, right?
It is not good that the man should be alone; I want to make him a help similar to himself. ~God, Genesis 2:18
Not really. Original Solitude does have a male-female dimension, but more importantly, a fundamental human dimension. Man isn’t alone just because he needs a spouse. More importantly, man is alone because he is the only rational creature in this crazy world. Imagine Adam waking up for the first time in the Garden of Eden. “Where am I? Who am I? What am I?” “Thus, the created man finds himself from the first moment of his existence before God…in search of his own ‘identity.'” (TOB 5.5)
God directs Adam to look at the animals, name them, and see if any are a suitable companion for him. Adam makes eye contact, perhaps, he talks to them, he touches them. But none of them talks back. He can see that none of them has that spark of self-consciousness and wonder. He’s alone, surrounded by the animals. Is he an animal? In some sense – he is a living being, and his body is in the “animal” category. But he’s a rational animal, and so far, the only one.
Original solitude: Man has self-awareness and consciousness, animals don’t.
God also puts Adam to work, tilling the ground and irrigating the fields. Who goes to work with him? Not the animals. Not only is Adam the only one with ideas and plans for making something out of this new world, he’s also the only one with the manual dexterity to dig, chop, stack, pour, plant and build. There are so many ways for a human to make a living – farming, hunting, building, serving… how many ways of life does a sloth have? Again, he finds himself alone in the garden.
Original Solitude: Man has choices and can do creative work; animals can’t.
Finally, perhaps most significantly, God tells Adam to eat the fruit of any tree except the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. If he eats the fruit of this tree, he will die. This gives God a type of relationship with man not enjoyed by the animals. They have a covenant, a “contract”.
Original Solitude: Man relates to God, person to person. Man is a person. Animals are not.
Would Adam have understood what it would mean to die? He has some sense that his life is more complex than the life of an animal – he has a body, but he also has abstract mental life, an awareness of his own body. He doesn’t have a metaphysical distinction of body and soul, but the idea of death “appeared before him as a radical antithesis of all that man had been endowed with.” (TOB 7.3)
Original Solitude: Man has an awareness of his own future death. Animals don’t think of it.
John Paul says that Adam was presented with the two alternatives of death and immortality. To choose death would be to enter into a new dimension of his solitude – the experience of death, knowledge of good and evil, and even determination of his own final destiny.
Original Solitude: Man has power over his own final destiny. Animals have no final destiny.
Fundamentally, man is alone in the cosmos as a person, a subject, a conscious, rational being with free will. Only man contemplates the meaning of the universe and his own existence.
How does our fallen-redeemed experience compare with that of Adam, the original man? We have self-awareness and consciousness; while we have a more sophisticated philosophical understanding of the human person, we have very imperfect self-knowledge. Creativity, productivity, self-expression and choices abound, but we experience a weakened will and “I do not do what I want, but what I do not want.” (Romans 7:15) We have not only a personal relationship with God, but with God-made-man in Jesus; our relationship with God can be dark and difficult. We no longer have the choice for endless life on this earth, but the choice between heaven and hell, eternal life and eternal death. Life is more complicated, more difficult, and probably more dangerous, but the dimension of grace and the hope of heaven make it much richer. “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a redeemer!” (Exsultet, Easter liturgy)
In the next post I will examine the male-female dimension of original solitude and original unity. The discussion considers Adam and original sin in the light of evolution – an ambitious topic on which I am not qualified to write but by which I am endlessly fascinated.