Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ToB: The Meaning of Original Human Experiences

The first chapters of Genesis force us to reconstruct the elements of man and his original experiences, if we're to get anything out of them except for another set of ancient myths. Looking at the original experiences we can begin to gauge their basic significance and perhaps applicability to man throughout the ages. They are archetypal, and being so, are so bound up in the fabric of ordinary life that we fail to see them being extraordinary at all.

We've come now to the comparison between man before the fall and man after the fall, and his nakedness. *Woowoo!*

Prior to the fall, man is described as being naked and not ashamed. What makes us feel shame? When we're kids, we run around buck naked any chance we get. Or at least all the kids that I know do. Clothing is something that the adults force us into, and as we get older, we accept that clothing is necessary as a part of the culture, and adapt what we wear accordingly. For the most part, of course. There are always those who go outside of the accepted norms of society. But that's neither here nor there, for the moment.

But shame is, I think, subjective. From culture to culture, things which are 'shameful' vary. They even vary within a culture, and on down to the family unit. So, talking about actions that are shameful is, I think, less than helpful, in this case.

If the story of Adam and Eve is meant to be universal, then their 'nakedness' and 'shame' or lack thereof, has to have a more universal meaning.

I'm thinking, when, poetically, a person stands 'naked' before another, they are baring their all. Not their physical nakedness, but their soul. They have no secrets. They are out there, in the open. So, perhaps, when the Bible says that they were naked, does it refer to a simpler time, when man and woman had no secrets between themselves and God? The relationship was purer then. A matter as simple as existing. And, since they had no secrets, since all was known about each other, there was no 'shame'.

Once they had disobeyed, however, they knew that they were naked, and they felt ashamed. I think it's important that the phrasing is 'Then the eyes of the two were opened, and they knew they were naked.' (Gn 3:7) It was the knowledge that changed things. They now had a secret. When they looked at each other, they knew that they had done wrong. They knew that when God saw them, He would know. Which is why they hid when the heard Him in the Garden.

It's like, when you've done something wrong, and you're trying to hide it from another person, everything takes on this extra level of meaning. You know that you've done this thing, and your fear that the other will find out makes you think that they already know, and so you view them suspiciously. And your suspicious behavior makes them *actually* suspicious, which feeds your paranoia...you know what I mean.

Of course that metaphor doesn't really work with God, since He does, in fact, already know. But that's what comes to mind, anyway.

It's not about the nakedness of the body, but the whole hearted nakedness of the soul to one another which is only possible in original innocence. Which we don't possess, which makes it impossible for us to ever 100% bare ourselves to another. We *want* to, but we have so much trouble trusting, because we know how untrustworthy we ourselves are, and can't imagine that another will be any better than us, or that they would love us despite our flaws.

And, wow. Sometimes, these posts go nowhere near where I thought they were going.

I feel I should add that I have done something to my neck which means I can't turn it to the left, and have taken muscle relaxers to correct this painful and annoying development. So any lack of coherency will be blamed on the fact that I am, in fact, drugged.


  1. And I swear to God I was thinking "best one yet!" until I read that last statement. Girl, maybe you work best under the influence.

    Loveddddddddddd this! So much truth! My preacher has said the same thing. It wasn't just ... "Oh,I see your _____" as if it were a new discovery.

    Great post!

    I'm sorry you hurt your neck though. :( I love how little kids have no shame as far as streaking through the house without a stitch of clothes..hehehehe.

    yet another visual for me tonight.

  2. That makes a lot of sense! We instinctively hide our flaws and things we think people wouldn't like. I think nothing really is that shameful if things are fully disclosed because I think there are reasons for everything which become apparent. But we can't trust that people will understand those reasons and so we do have to fear their judgment.

    I wonder if this shame really is psychologically linked to the wearing of clothes, or whether that part of the story is purely metaphorical?

  3. Susanne,

    Well, I only included the drugged warning at the end to cover my butt. I started the post and wrote most of it before I succumbed and took the things, but I thought I'd best add that in, just in case I went back and screwed it up whilst high. :)

    It's not just little kids, though. We have nudists, who have no physical shame over their nudity, or the jungle tribal cultures who run around naked, or very close to, with no sense of shame about that. Shame over our physical forms is something that we're taught.

    I'm glad you liked the post. The section that I read this morning actually just covers what I said in this post, basically, so I'm not going to go over it again. It's all about the baring of ourselves and the communication and how that's the sense of shame that was meant by this passage, not actual nudity.

  4. Sarah,

    Woohoo! I love it when I make sense...

    'I think nothing really is that shameful if things are fully disclosed because I think there are reasons for everything which become apparent.'

    *nods* I tend to agree with you here. If we could be open and honest with ourselves and with other people, I think the sense of shame and many other dark emotions would become obsolete.

    I think the clothing portion of the story is entirely metaphorical. But that's just my opinion. :)

  5. Oh I love this post!

    I don't believe in the Adam Eve story as literal anymore. I think it is a beautiful metaphor. And that is why the lesson that they knew is so beautiful!

  6. So, Amber, do you think it would be fine if we all went around naked as long as we felt no shame?

    Again, great post and comments. I do think of the story as literal, HOWEVER, I also think it has spiritual dimensions that you are pointing out that make it **richer** and even better than I ever thought! :) I think much in the Bible is both literal and spiritual...like it has a physical application as well as a spiritual truth. I see this also in the Prophets to some degree.

  7. Suroor,

    'I think it is a beautiful metaphor. And that is why the lesson that they knew is so beautiful!'

    My sentiments exactly. I find it a much more beautiful and meaningful story without trying to make it a literal one.

  8. Susanne,

    'So, Amber, do you think it would be fine if we all went around naked as long as we felt no shame?'

    Hah. And *no*.

    Ideas about modesty (clothing) are cultural. You have to dress appropriate to the culture you are in (visiting or living), the climate, and what makes you comfortable. So, for example, if you are visiting a tribal culture where nudity is the norm, if you're comfortable with it, you could wear as little as the natives do. But, to be honest, I think the majority of people from an outside culture would not be comfortable with that level of undress. Our concepts of what is an appropriate level of dress/undress is based largely on the culture in which we are raised.

    *nods* The Bible has many different levels of meaning.

    'I think much in the Bible is both literal and spiritual...like it has a physical application as well as a spiritual truth'

    And, since we are both physical being and spiritual beings, this makes sense. The two 'pieces' have to work together to create the human being. :)

    'I do think of the story as literal,'

    I have a question. Perhaps you've answered this before, if so, just point me to it. But, how do you reconcile believing that the creation story is literally true with the evidence of science that contradicts it? You know I'm not asking to be argumentative or anything, I'm just honestly curious. People have a variety of answers to this question, and while I disagree with them, I have no 'problem' with them. But I'm curious as to what your answer is. :)

  9. Thanks for your explanation about cultural dress and so forth. Too bad. I was trying to get over my shame so I could parade around the neighborhood in the buff this summer! ;) You know I'm kidding on that! :-P

    I really have no good answer for your great question. Maybe I should say I just believe God started it all. "In the beginning God" and therefore I acknowledge God as the creator however He chose to do it. The problem I have had with evolutionists in the past is that they (some?) didn't want God at all in the equation. It's like they wanted to prove man just evolved out of nothing so they didn't have to be accountable to God. So I rejected them since I believe in God over nothingness creating all this. I'm not so sure the creation story (6 days) is as literal as I once did, but I do believe in Adam and Eve cause I can't figure out WHERE the first true people started if not them. Cain and Abel? Noah? Lamech? Who? They refer to Adam in the NT but maybe it was "man" and not Adam the man as I always thought. Your posts have been really good and helpful in explaining the deeper meaning of things so I greatly appreciate them!

  10. Susanne,

    If you really want to, find a nudist colony and visit. You'll be fitting into the culture! :) Or maybe you could arrange a mini-culture in your neighborhood and get everyone to run around in the buff. ;P

    *nods* Many evolutionists are like that, still. Not all, but many.

    Thanks for the answer! :)


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