Genesis 2: Solitary Confinement, Communion, Ontology

Genesis 2:15-25

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam[f] no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs[g] and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Isolation is crippling.

I heard a friend once mention after losing their spouse and living alone in their home; they often feel they imagine noises, hear things that perhaps aren’t real, figments of their imagination. Having spent some time as a bachelor, I felt I could echo the same sentiment, living in a large apartment on my own, staying awake in the late nights, flinching and cringing at every creak and noise.

The best testimonies we have to this truth come from those who survive solitary confinement in prison. This extended period of isolation has instilled symptoms of mania in the inmates, causing auditory hallucination, a disintegration of any sense of self, an obsession for detail, and to relate to anything they possibly can see or parse out in their lonely cell.

It is not well for man to be alone. God is one in three, always enjoying fellowship and communion through the three divine hypostasis. We human beings, made in the Image and Likeness of a God of Communion, crave communion. There is a kind of mental fortitude needed to endure isolation, and ultimately extended periods of it are damaging to our psyche and identity. Some live out in the wilderness and do manage, though I imagine those who maintain this without succumbing to madness have some kind of communion with God, a relationship with Him, His Scripture, etc.

Go ahead. Find a weekend where you can get away, live in a cabin in the wilderness without leaning on texting, videos, or distractions. After a night of enduring darkness and silence alone, the itch for human connection sets in badly.

No matter how cavalier, narcissistic, sociopathic someone might be, communion is required in some fashion. I have found that those who can speak at length about themselves without stopping still require knowledge that someone is listening to their story, even if the interaction is superficial; in fact I have found this phenomenon happen especially among those without support, without deep connections, lonely individuals.

Socializing/Relationships is A Need

Socializing is a need, not unlike hunger. Unfortunately, what is common in those who have lost someone significant in their life (a child, a spouse, a parent) that those two needs sometimes go unaddressed. An appetite is lost, and one lacks the drive to see friends or meet new people. These are manifestations of grief, and perhaps a little solitude and fasting is healthy, but it is only best utilized when it is purposeful and not permanent.

Socializing is a need, but we ought to distinguish one thing: an individual is not a need. It’s a fine distinction. We need each other, but we cannot make someone else a need. “I need you” is a dangerous sentiment that can lead to under-functioning dynamics, to co-dependent and enabling behaviors. We cannot work our needs through others unless that need is presence, an ability to socialize, a meaningful relationship, etc. But we cannot work out our personal needs for control, relevance, worthiness, attention, and the like through others–by trying to address this need, we will invariably push others away.

When we look at our need to socialize, we are addressing our human condition of dwelling among each other. We are not tools unto one another. Rather, we are all sharing in the image and likeness of God, of recognizing how holy and good it is for us to dwell in communion with one another. It refreshes our very being, it provides us objectivity, it brings joy, and it is the only means that love can be experienced.

Communion and socializing is a need, and it refreshes our very being and identity. In any relationship, there is give and take. We look to others for objectivity for our performance, our behavior, our appearance, what have you; these things we cannot really be experts about on our own. An outside perspective shares to us not only what they see to be true and what we can grow in, but it also gives us a reference point as to who we are. As mentioned before of those in solitary confinement, identity is lost when those inmates suffer from extended periods of isolation. They lose the sense of their name, their past, their sense of self. Others call us by our name; they give us a name, they treat us as parent/child/friend/etc. We are something to one another, and our very names are given to us by someone else.

We need each other, but we do not need anyone individual. We need others that we may grow, that we may be shaped, that the iron of our souls might be sharpened and strengthened by someone else’s iron. We need communion for our souls, for our beings, for our identity, and that communion will provide the best health according to how honest and real that relationship is.

It is not good for humanity to be alone.

How blessed is it when brethren dwell together!

Today, consider the following:

  • What are the most significant relationship in your life? What ways are you formed/shaped/changed from them? Are those positive or negative changes? What ways do you mold the other, and are these positive or negative changes?
  • When have you felt truly alone or bored? What have you gone to? Was it healthy or was it a distraction from the loneliness?
  • Write down five adjectives of yourself. What is your identity? How do the others inform it? Is it informed on your own? If you polled five other people to define you–family, friends, enemies, coworkers–how might they describe you and where is the intersectionality of those details?
  • What meaningful relationship do you have now that you grow from and can receive honesty from? If it’s hard to think who this person might be, what might that relationship look like with someone you are close with, or how might you go about fostering/finding that relationship?

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