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Original Solitude: What Does Dance Say?

Original Solitude

“The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.”

Gen 2:18

If you study the TOB, you've probably heard the term original Solitude, and know that it's what St. John Paul II calls the alone-ness of Adam before the creation of Eve. This feeling of solitude is not bad; rather it’s a kind of healthy hunger. This solitude is the sign that alone among creation we are unique, and that we are different from the rest of creation. We worry about meaning and purpose. In this solitude we ask ourselves where we come from and where we are going. Not in the scientific sense, but in the metaphysical or spiritual sense. We still encounter this solitude today, if we have quiet in our lives, and often sense it in a yearning for prayer. It is meant to drive us to seek authentic relationship, like we had in the beginning.

To make the helper suitable for him God starts first by making all of the animals. Adam names each animal, signifying his dominion over them. Animals share a certain kind of kinship with the man, as they two have a body. Indeed, we are a kind of animal, and for this reason animals can provide some level of companionship and comfort. However, none of them is a suitable helper for us; the animals could not provide Adam with was the kind of relationship that would allow him to experience true communion. Animals lack the capacity to freely give themselves to another being. Though a kind of animal, we humans are also more than just animals. So even with the animals Adam was still in a state of original solitude.

It's at this point that God puts Adam into a deep sleep and takes the rib and uses it to make Eve. When Adam wakes up the second time, he has found his helper, who is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. With this Adam and Eve enter into original union.

I find it interesting that Adam woke up alone but eve woke up in community. In his book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, author John Gray talks about how men and women relate when they feel stress. A man, he points out, goes off to be alone, to think and reason alone. On the other hand the woman seeks community. Even more intriguing, in his book Mars and Venus on a Date, he talks about how at a certain point in a relationship, a man will all of a sudden feel the need to be alone for a while, even though things are going well. The woman cannot understand what is happening, but the man is simply going off to be alone to think clearly about taking the important next step in their relationship. It is as if the man returns to the state of original solitude to rediscover the primal truth God built into us: that it is not good from man to be alone.

The Dance Connection

I also see this dynamic at wedding receptions. When the dance music starts, a large group of women run out and form a circle and begin to move to the music. They have spontaneously created a community that is naturally inclusive. The men as a rule are hesitant to get out on the floor, and if they do enter the circle, it is usually a man who comes to the center of the circle to show off. The man desires to give the community a point.

At this point, we are not yet in a true community as God intended in the beginning; simply the men and women wanting to create the community; something else will be needed to create the union men and women desire.

Having said this, it is not as if community is only for women and solitude for men. In the dance men and women are able to do either part of the dance, since the roles use the same body parts, but men tend to lead and women tend to follow as a reflection of our differences in both body and spirit. Original solitude works in a similar fashion. It is not that women can’t seek solitude or have a need for it, nor is it that men cannot seek community, but we see more of one or the other because of the differences in men and women.

This is why St. John Paul II explains that this original solitude applies both the men and to women. Both men and women feel in their hearts a yearning for relationship. Marriage is one solution to the call of original solitude, but it is not the fullest solution. Only union with God will ultimately fulfills the yearning that we have. Even today, our solitude will remind us of this truth.

General Audience, October 10, 1979

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