Anul I, Numărul 4/2003

             

THE ORIGINAL SOLITUDE AND SOCIALITY OF MAN

Eugen L. NAGY

 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, He created man in His image, to share in His life and work; He created man as a unity of body and soul, male and female He created them; He created man for his own sake.

In what follows we will try to go to the depths of this first movement of love, in a search for man's identity, as an effort circumscribed by the fundamental question: what is man? Our intention is to present and analyze two of the fundamental dimensions of man: his original solitude and his original sociality, as presented in the works of Pope John Paul II concerning the theology of the body (especially in the Original Unity of Man and Woman), basing our conclusions on the essentials of the Catholic faith such as they are presented in the doctrinal texts, and especially in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Examining these two dimensions, solitude and sociality, such as they were before the fall, while man was in the original state of holiness and grace, we will try to understand what happened with them after the original sin. Our hypothesis is that, although deeply affected and maybe transformed, these dimensions are not lost, that they are (still) the keys to a thorough understanding of man.

The two accounts of Creation. When, in the Gospel according to Matthew (Mt. 19:3ff., but also in Mk. 10:2ff.), the Pharisees ask of Jesus if one is allowed to divorce his wife, for one reason or another, He gives them a clear and determined answer, in which He paraphrases and synthesizes the two accounts of the creation of man that are to be found in the book of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2. The way in which Jesus eludes the provocation of going into a useless legal-casuistic debate about the different types of relations between man and woman, is by making reference directly to the two biblical accounts that narrate about man in "the beginning", at the time of his creation, and thus indicating the normative dimension of His answer. By building His whole response on the state of man at Creation, before the fall, He makes it clear to the Pharisees (and to everybody after them) that the situation described in the book of Genesis is an account still and forever valid about man. It is the story of how man was designed and conceived by God, and it is the way that man still is, in his fundamentals. Thus, both Jesus' answers and the narratives of the book of Genesis express timeless truths about man.

The first account of the Creation (Gn.1:1-2:4), written later in history than the second account of Creation (Gn.2:5-25), tells us in a very brief manner how "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Gn.1:27). The second account - the older one - is a more "epical" one; it uses thus a different type of language and a narrative model specific to myths ("myth" meaning not a story lacking in veracity, but a specific type of story-telling, that reveals fundamental, transcendent truths about man). (Original Unity, 30; note 4, 91-92)

This second account describes the same developments that were enounced briefly in a single phrase in the first one, in Gn.1:27, but it goes into the more intimate mechanisms of those movements. By doing so, by taking its time to talk about the creation of man, it allows us to understand and meditate on some fundamental aspects of man's nature, as created and willed by God.

Thus, in this second account, after creating man, God looks at the state of Creation and characterizes it to be... incomplete: man was alone (Gn.2:18). If, in the first account, after every movement "God saw that it was good", the reason why this apparent incompleteness appears is to signal us that this is a description of the - so to speak -intermediary phases of the act of creation, that is used to deepen our knowledge about man. Thus, after God sees that the man is alone, He takes him to the other created living beings of the visible world; man encounters them, knows them and gives them names; yet, he cannot find a suitable partner. Therefore, God sends upon him a deep sleep, and then He creates the man and the woman. The man wakes up from the deep sleep to discover himself male, facing the other human being, his match, his helper - the female, and to realize their sameness and their distinctiveness. This very important distinction of "man" before "man and woman" is made very clearly in the biblical narrative through the usage of different terms: adam is man, as humanity or human being,before the creation of the woman,while ish designates man as male and ishshah is the word used for woman as female, after Adam wakes up from the deep sleep - after the creation of the two. Now, when he wakes up, man is no longer alone: they are man and woman. And it is only now that the creation of man is perfected; it is only now that that man, as man and woman, reflects perfectly the image of God, in an original state of holiness and justice.

 

Original Solitude  

Let us now try to analyze some of the implications of these two accounts presented very briefly above, focusing at first on the dimension of man's original solitude.

Solitude before God. After being created, man discovers himself before God, as being alone with himself and (thus) in a unique, exclusive and unrepeatable relationship with God. This is an irrevocable gift received through his condition of being created as a person, it is a privilege that sets man apart from all the other beings of the material world. This dimension of the original solitude is a mark of man, the only being who was created for his own sake, in the image of God. (Catechism 355, 356) It is the consciousness of being a person that faces God his Creator yet is distinct from Him; it is the consciousness of existence, and of the self.

Solitude vs. the created world. As we saw, after he was created, man - adam - is taken to encounter the creatures of the material world, to know them and to give them names. In this encounter, effected through his body, man becomes conscious of his own bodily nature - of his corporeality - and of his own personal body. The original solitude lived through the body forms thus the most interior, intrinsic part of his human nature. In these encounters with the living world, man goes through a process of discovering and understanding the common materiality of man with the animalia, i.e. the "proximate genus", but also the "specific differences": that he is, qua human, totally and utterly distinct from every other created being. The original solitude of being human registers the radical difference between adam and all the other visible creatures, his entirely distinct human nature, concomitantly with the sharing of the materiality of the world.

Solitude as subjectivity. Through these encounters, man comprehends the dimension of individuality, he asserts himself as a person. In confronting the rest of the living material world, the act of knowing exercised through the body gives rise to the subjectivity of man (man as personal subject). In this moment, it is as though he reveals himself to himself, by asserting himself as a person in the visible world. His subjectivity is expressed in his capacity of self-reflexivity (of reflexive consciousness), but it also implies a subjective dimension of his relationship with the world (subjectivity as personal specificity to every act). Man is a person, endowed with the capacity of self-reflexivity, self-possession, self-determination and self-governance, and thus with responsibility. All of these are fundamental and intrinsic dimensions of man's nature. Yet, it takes the creation of the woman to complete the dimension of personal subjectivity.

Man was alone. Besides the incompleteness experienced while encountering the rest of the visible creation, there is an incompleteness that resides in man's discovery of himself as being the only human being. Man isn't able to find among the other creatures any other being that could become his pair - his match - his "helper". God sees that man is not yet accomplished, and he decides to act, further: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." (Gn.2:!8) Man needs God's help, as always and as forever, and therefore God casts a deep, primordial sleep onto Adam.

 

Original Unity 

In this account, it looks as though at first man goes through a quest for defining his identity (the discovery of solitude), and then through a quest for a suitable mate (the discovery of communion). As a side-note, it seems to us that this original (ontogenetic) model is mirrored in the personal history (phylogenetic) of each of us, historical human beings; it seems that the individual (particular) path of each of us mirrors, in a way, the original (general human) one: we all have to go through the discovery and the building of self-knowledge, self-possession and self-determination (adolescence, youth), before being able to really enter into a communion or sharing with the other (marriage, priesthood).

The biblical narrative goes to the depths of this story, of the discovery of solitude and of the original unity. Obviously, the goal isn't to present in a "mechanical" way how man was created (it never is), but to develop a meditation on what man is, about his fundamental meanings. Under the guise of a mythical story, the biblical text gives us more than an anthropology: it is the anthropology.

The original unity of man and woman. Man falls into a deep sleep; when he wakes up, he finds that he is no longer alone: he finds the other - the woman, and it is the one he was longing for before he knew (about) her. The discovery of the other makes him burst out in joyous words, words that seem like a prototype of the Canticle of Canticles: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."(Gn.2:23) The words express the end of longing and the discovery of the other, of somebody who is the same, yet distinct; of the same kind, yet different; the encounter of somebody who is uniquely complementary, who puts an end to the aloneness of man. This other shares with him the human condition, the solitude of man in the midst of all the other living beings of the material world. Yet, at the same time, she is distinct: she has her own solitude. Nevertheless, they discover themselves, as man and woman, in a communion through which they can surpass the individual aloneness: adam is no longer alone, because they found in each other the "helper". And it is their solitude - that is, their subjectivity and personhood - that makes them able to enter into this communion, into the unity in duality (complementary differentiation). They are the same through the sharing of human nature (lived in the human body), and they are distinct by being personal subjects, having their own personal bodies. But each is a body in a different way: their masculinity and femininity are their very ways of being human. The man is a human being through his body, in a unique way - he is human by being male, and the woman is a human being through being a female. These are the only ways of being human: through the sexual bodies, through being man or woman.

It is the moment of surpassing and accomplishing the solitude of man, qua man. This original unity is the self-gift lived in and through the body; it is the _expression of the nuptial meaning of the body (and thus of the man and of the woman), a sign of the image of God. Even now, after the fall, the union of man and woman in the presence of God remains this sign because it reflects the very meaning of man: self-gift; the call to unity. In this original communio personarum (community of persons), the image of God is finally accomplished perfectly. (Original Unity, 45ff.).

The sociality (social nature) of man. In the communio personarum we discover the unity of man and woman, but also the original social nature of man. Only in both the dimensions, of solitude (personhood) and sociality (original unity), can we understand man; because both of them are fundamental, eternal dimensions of man, with solitude being the primordial one and the very way to sociality. Thus, original solitude and original unity are both original meanings of man: "For by his innermost nature man is a social being, and unless he relates himself to others he can neither live nor develop his potential."(Gaudium et spes 12) The original sociality is thus a key to the real understanding of man, because "Right 'from the beginning', he [man] is not only an image in which the solitude of a person who rules the world is reflected, but also, and essentially, an image of an inscrutable divine communion of persons " (Original Unity, 46). It is only in and with this original, fundamental meaning of man - sociality, that we can understand man, as individual and as humanity.

Because the human race is united through both dimensions: solitude and sociality. Man's own identity (solitude) is accomplished only in the encounter with the other (you and I, we are both the same - human, yet we are individual beings - persons).

Unity (friendship) with God. The first, the most important, the "most primordial" communion to which man is called by his nature, is the one with God. It is the most important one, because it is the cause and meaning of all other relationships, the very source and reason of his being, first cause and final end of man. Thus, man can find his deepest, most primordial and fundamental meaning in this: God created man. All of his searches can truly lead but to this meaning, which is his meaning - God. Because God is the very reason of his existence. In Paradise, in the original state of holiness and justice, man existed in friendship with God, sharing in His divine life. Although this original state was lost with the original sin, the call to communion and the deepest relationship between man and God is inscribed in the very core of his being, and it is the goal towards which life tends.

Unity (harmony) with the created world. Man was created and called to till and keep the earth, to take care of the living beings of the material world, to rule the earth by participating in God's work of love. This responsibility and gift was lived, in the original state of holiness and justice, in harmony with the created world. Man encountered the living beings, and gave them names: the material world was at peace with man, and man took care of it, because this was his vocation.

  

After the Fall  

Yet, there was the fall. Man sinned, by rejecting the communion with God's will; by this, he deprived himself of the original state of holiness and justice into which he was created, as man and woman. (Catechism 403) The effects of this act will be felt by the whole mankind, from that point on. The image of God becomes distorted: man's nature has been corrupted. In what follows, we will try to analyze what happened with the original dimensions of man after the fall, after being "struck" by sin. Once the harmony of the original holy and just state is forever "broken" (Catechism 400), let us see what is the "pathology" of how sin affected these fundamental meanings of man: solitude and sociality.

Unity with God - broken image. The original sin (and all sin that followed from that one) represents in fact the loss of the harmony between God and man, through man choosing to act contrary to God's will. And this is in fact the story of all sin: man acting contrary to the will of God, man trying to find alternate ways of living, outside what is the only good - the will of God, who is the only possible source of all good.

The image of God becomes now distorted: man no longer sees God, as he could while in Paradise. Losing the inner clarity of seeing God, man is no longer able to live according to what is good, in a holy and just way. Man ate from the tree of knowing the good and the evil, to become like God, but he is not able to distinguish clearly between good and evil, without God. Moreover, he tends to do evil; because he lost the image of Good, the holiness of seeing Him. Not seeing God, man searches for and invents idols, trying to sooth his need for God, yet following his own corrupt desires. Forgetting his own history, man feels so lost and desperate, that he no longer believes in God, a God that man himself has abandoned, by his own choosing. Feeling alone and loosing trust (and thrust), man tries to live in self-sufficiency, retraction, and egoism. The independence that represented the gift and capacity for self-possession and self-determination becomes now the very path of getting far from God. Man has forgotten his own history, man has forgotten his own anthropology - man has forgotten himself. And, although created in the image of God, man is no longer the perfect reflection of this image, neither as individual nor as man and woman.

Original solitude - post-lapsarian alienation. The original solitude, the most intrinsic part of man's being, the very key to the communion with himself, with the Creator and with the other, is no longer lived as perfect self-possession, self-determination and self-governance, but takes the shape of an inner brokenness. The original inner unity of man, the original solitude of being himself, is no longer functioning harmoniously. Man ceases to understand himself: sometimes he even feels estranged from himself, discovering alienation - that inner lonely and estranged feeling.

Instead of the unity of soul and body, unity that was the key to the original experiences of solitude and of the other (through the body), man notices (like the Apostle in Rom.7:18-19) that his capacity for self-possession is altered, that he no longer does what he wants, but what his body wants. The body is no longer in full union with the soul, it has altered its original goodness. Also, man has lost the full knowledge and understanding of the meaning of the body. This very key to man's self-assertion and existence in the visible world is no longer "in tune" with him. Man is thus alienated from himself, body and soul.

Original sociality - loneliness and disunity. This is the birth of loneliness. The communion with the other was shattered, and the very capacity for communion is deeply affected. In the beginning man and woman knew each other and entered into a communion of self-gift, in the presence of God, as the perfect reflection of His image. Although we know from Christ's words that the original unity of man and woman is still a fundamental mark of man and a part of his meaning, yet the pursuit of this unity is now a long, hard, never-ended road of great efforts and sacrifices. The image of God, once perfectly reflected in the original unity of man and woman, is now broken. What was a community of solitudes, a communio personarum made possible through the personal solitude of man and of woman, is now lived as a "community of loneliness" (John Paul II, in Radiation of Fatherhood, see Schmitz, 23).

The original and fundamental social dimension of man is now lived in the shape of disunity among the human beings, through quarrels, fights, enmities and wars. Humanity might feel the inner call towards unity, as a signal from the fundamental social dimension of man, but it finds itself in the impossibility of achieving that unity, no matter what efforts are made.

Unity with the created world - post-lapsarian enmity. The original harmony between man and the living world - a world that received its "name" from him, that was encountered and known by him - has become enmity and competition for survival. Nature is now a stranger to man: it is a rebel force, to be conquered or to be conquered by. Man's original vocation of tilling the earth is lived now in and through hard effort and sweat; moreover, the effects of man's activity are all too often the exact opposite of tilling: destruction, killing, a danger for the rest of the living world. 
 

Conclusion 

So, did man lose his original solitude entirely? Is it shattered and lost forever, or was it entirely transformed into loneliness and alienation? No, not at all: his original solitude, as a fundamental capacity for self-possession, self-determination, and self-assertion was and still is a most intrinsic part of his being. Similarly, the communion with the other, reflected in the unity of man and woman, is still one of the most fundamental meanings of man. The call towards the unity with the other, expressed in man's social nature, is still felt as a fundamental desire and thrust by every human being. And, most of all, man is still the only creature that God willed for himself and that is called to communion with the Creator, to cooperate with Him in tilling the earth; that is still drawn by God towards Himself, even if he knows it or not. These are the innermost dimensions of man: the core, the meaning and the ends of his existence. These are gifts received in and through the Creation, and Jesus tells us that they are still "us". Yet, although these dimensions are still us, after the Fall they are so in a corrupted way.

Thus, man is tempted sometimes to feel completely alone, estranged from God and the other, and from himself; however, the loneliness of man, unlike the original solitude, is not at the core of his being; it is not a part of his original, fundamental meanings. (John Paul II, in Schmitz 24). Although man becomes an incommunicable being, both to himself and to the others, the original gifts remain. The gift of solitude - expressed through the capacities of self-possession, self-reflexivity, self-knowledge, self-determination - is irrevocable, although it is lived imperfectly, in the incompleteness of the post-lapsarian capacities and condition of man. Similarly, the original thrust towards unity, expressed in the fundamental meaning of the man's sociality, remains a gift and a calling for man. Thus, Christ answers to the Pharisees by making reference to the original state of holiness and justice, the state of man as created and planned by God, because those original dimensions are forever valid and true, no matter where or when the historical man might exist. The original sociality is present as a fundamental dimension of man, even in the midst of social and familial disunity, as a call and a desire present throughout history in every social project and every family of man.

Moreover, God is in the core of our being, inscribed as our Creator since our beginning, because He is the beginning. In His great love, he didn't want us to perish, but He sent his Son to redeem the mankind. By taking upon himself the human nature, with all things that it implies - loneliness, misunderstandings, hatred, disunity, struggle and sweat, hunger and tiredness, all the misery of being a man - Christ opens the way to make us partakers in his divinity. Our way to this redemption of man's nature is therefore through Him, through the Son of God, through the communion with Him. The new Adam took upon him our iniquities, and, by obeying perfectly to God's will, took our sins away (including the original disobedience). The Church is His Body, sign and instrument of this communion. It gives us, as the Body of Christ, the instruments of healing: the sacraments of remaking the unity with God, with oneself, and with the other, of regaining our solitude and our sociality. The sacraments - of penance, of marriage, and so on - and the partaking in the life of the Church are the paths towards pursuing the unity of oneself, of man and woman, and of humanity.

Perfection might not be achievable entirely, in this state, but is a path now accessible, that was opened through God's immense love, who sent his Son to redeem us. But the road is a hard one, and it would require more violence than we could ever bear taking (Mt.11: 12), if God wouldn't be always and forever with us, supporting us all the way, with his love, working in us, unceasingly, through His grace.

"For a monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested. Caught in this conflict, man is obliged to wrestle constantly if he is to cling to what is good, nor can he achieve his own integrity without great efforts and the help of God's grace." (Gaudium et spes, 37)

But we have the guarantee of victory, in Christ: he has already won the battle: He has conquered death, and He has redeemed us from the dead, to the eternal life. The new Adam is the guarantee and the only way of pursuing our paths, of regaining our meanings (solitude and sociality), and of achieving our beginning and end, that is God.


 

Works cited 

-         Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed., Washington, DC, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000.

-         Gaudium et spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, <http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html>

-         Durkin, Mary G., Feast of Love: John Paul II on Human Intimacy, Chicago, IL, Loyola University Press, 1983.

-         John Paul II, Pope, Original Unity of Man and Woman: Catechesis on the Book of Genesis, in The Theology of the Body, Boston, MA, Pauline Books and Media, 1997.

-         Schmitz, Kenneth L, At the Center of the Human Drama: The Philosophical Anthropology of Karol Wojtyla/ Pope John Paul II, Washington, DC, Catholic University of America Press, 1993. 

-         The quotes from the Bible are from The Bible, Revised Standard Version, available online at http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/rsv.browse.html

 

 


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