Seeking out the soul of the other
When I was a little boy I loved to look at the stars and imagine flying in a spaceship between them. As I grew older and learned what light years were, I came to realize how long it would actually take to travel between the stars. The nearest star to Earth, other than our own sun, is Alpha Centauri. This star is 4.3 light years away. This means that traveling at the speed of light it would take approximately four and half years to travel there. Now this is all well and good for light, but for humans, outside of science fiction, at current speeds it would take about 40 years to travel there.
The realization that travel between the stars, at least in my life time, was an impossibility was rather upsetting. Even more disheartening, and perhaps isolating, is the realization of just how vast the universe is and how small and remote the Earth is in comparison.
Now if my thought process stopped there it would be rather depressing. However, I examined why I wanted to travel the stars. I looked at my dreams of meeting strange aliens and having epic adventures, and then I realized something: I do not need to travel the stars to meet others and have grand adventures. The Earth is the very playground that I was looking for in the stars.
In chapter two of Genesis God creates Adam, but the tone in this telling is different from the telling in chapter one that was discussed last week. Here the universe and God already exist and there is no telling of how they came to be. All we know is that God is alone in the universe. Then God plants a garden and creates a gardener, Adam, to maintain the garden.
“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being… 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it…18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:7,15 and 18)
If last week’s story of the creation of humans, called Adam the first, is about human’s quest to dominate the world and care for it, then this week's is about being in relationship with the other. One story is about human’s relationship with the Earth, and this week’s story is about human beings' relationships with each other. The human of chapter two is referred to by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik as Adam the second. For this aspect of humans, it is not enough to relate to God physically by creating and tending to the Earth, but rather there is a need of relating through feelings. We have an innate need to not just be the gardener but to be the partner. We need to not just work but to feel as well. Just like God works in the first story, and therefore we know God through our work, in the second story God feels that it is not good for humans to be alone, thereby we get to know God through feelings as well. Therefore, Adam the second’s job is to seek out the soul of the other to cure his lonely condition. His job is not to overtake the garden but to take care of it.
This aspect of relating to God comes with both a positive and a negative. The negative of this story of creation reflects that to exist in relationship with God is to be on one level constantly lonely. This is because once we fathom the knowledge of the reality of the universe it can leave us feeling lonely and isolated, like the little boy who realizes how big the universe actually is physically. However, the positive of this relationship is that in this vast universe God has thrown us a lifeline, a way of connecting to the Eternal, in a very intimate way. That intimate way is by finding helpers, discovering partners and living in relationship with the other. In this vast universe God has given us a microcosm of creation right here on Earth. By taking advantage of our world and the people and creatures that inhabit it, when the individual seeks a relationship with others or adventure this is what connects them to God.