Imagine being Eve in the garden, opening her eyes to her first day.
First experience of color, sound, touch.
And then, she sees him.
She sees Adam in dazzling morning light, glorious and awestruck, looking at her;
the first human experience of being looked at, of being seen by another.
It leaves me with one question: did they even know exactly what it means to be male and female?
If you read my last post, then you’ll know that I am burning with curiosity to penetrate the mystery of man and woman more deeply this semester through my blog posts. In all humility, I have to say that I fear I have bitten off more than I can chew. But alas, a promise is a promise. And I have promised to journey with you this semester.
So, let’s dive in.
Before we get back to Adam and Eve (and their apparent difference in sex), we have to start with the question of what it even means to be a human person in the first place!
Forgive the technicality of it, but we have to get some necessary philosophical distinctions out of the way.
When I look at my little sassy dachshund Sophie, I know that she is radically more simple than a human person. While she is lovable and seemingly unique and even person-like in some ways, she is not a person. Sophie is a particular instance of what it is to be dog in the wider sense; she is a particular instance of the larger genus canis. (Bored yet? Stick with me). In other words, Sophie is just a dog. The only thing that sets her apart from other dachshunds is her particular embodiment and situated-ness, if you will, as “Sophie,” my dog.
But haven’t you thought about how mysterious it is that the human person is so much more than a mere particular instance of human?
I am more than a particular. I am more than an instance.
Isn’t this highly mysterious?
How astounding! When we look at another human person, we do not stop to ask, “what is that?” Rather, we breathlessly wonder, “who is that?”
What on earth is this who?
This mystery seems to stem from the seemingly infinite interiority of my finite nature. A paradox lies in the clash of two seeming opposites: the finite and the infinite collide in the inner world within my very person.
When another person walks into the room, you are, in a sense, two infinities crossing paths. How beautiful, how wonderful, what a gift! – our very nature screams while announcing our dignity. The “human person does not exist just to provide an instance of the human kind, but exists as this unrepeatable person and so stands in a sense above the human kind, being always more than an instance of it” (1). Newman calls this the “infinite abyss of existence” within each person (2).
Infinity, times infinity, times infinity.
This is the magnanimity contained within the smallness of one single human person.
Mysterious enough for you yet?
Dr. John F. Crosby defines the human person as being “a whole composed of wholes” (3). We are not merely a cog in the wheel, nor a part of the whole, nor a contributing part that makes up “human nature.” We each contain human nature in all of its richness within the mystery of our own being. However, when we start bringing up the issue of gender in regards to this truth of the human person, the waters begin to get a little choppy. Questions and differences in opinion amongst thinkers begin to emerge.
While it is truly wonderful to reflect on our common humanity, we are not able to ignore the fact that we are created distinctly as man and woman. We are embodied subjectivity, and these bodies have distinct sexes.
Please do not be swayed by dualist inclinations. While we are created of both spirit and matter, the true self resides in the union of our soul and body. There seems to be a tendency in many modern streams of thought to associate the “real self” with the soul alone, seeing the body as a mere cage or capsule to contain the spirit. But, “a person’s body is not just an object for that person but it enters into his or her subjectivity. We do not just use our bodies instrumentally, but we exist as embodied” (4). In other words, your body is not nothing. It is a huge factor playing into who you are.
So, what is the impact of the gendered body upon the soul? And what influence does the soul have on the body? These questions are intense, and worth much thought. In regards to them, I will leave you with this beautiful summation by Dr. Crosby: “Human persons exist on the border of matter and spirit; in them matter is spiritualized and spirit is enmattered. They have, as has been said, a kind of priestly function in creation, mediating in themselves between matter and spirit” (5).
While I may not have any earth-shattering conclusions for you at this time, I think it is important to establish what our starting-point is going to be for evaluating the differences in man and woman this semester, namely, that the human person stands as something unique and autonomous in the whole of creation, and that the interiority of each individual human person is highly mysterious and ordered towards the infinite. Finally, the “true self” cannot be said to reside in the soul or the body exclusively. Rather, it is the union of body and soul together that individuates one human person from the next.
Are you with me so far? Hold on tight – because the more I keep reading, the more questions began to stir-up the water. I’ll address those questions later.
In my next post, we’ll return to Adam and Eve as I begin to investigate our distinction as being made male and female.
(1) Crosby, What We Mean by Personalism, 1.
(3) Ibid, 2.
(5) Ibid, 3.