Adam and Eve Receive Marriage Counseling (婚姻咨询)
A Whiteheadian Parable(寓言)
By Jay McDaniel
Imagine Adam and Eve in the Garden. They’ve been together for a month or so, ever since God created them from the dust of the ground. It is a spring afternoon, and Eve has been out walking most of the day, taking in the fragrances and colors of some of the new flowers. Every day still seems like the first day of creation.
Coming home just before sunset, Eve wants to share some of her experiences with Adam, her newly created life’s partner. But as she approaches him, she senses that he is in the same self-absorbed mood that he has been in for several days now. He spends his days reading his dictionary, rehearsing the names that he has given to all the creatures. These names give him a sense of self-confidence, and she is glad for this. But Adam has become so attached to the names that the names function as verbal fences, shutting out the world, including her. He is trapped inside his own mind. He cannot enjoy the sacrament of the present moment.
The outcome is predictable. Eve tries to share the events of the day with Adam, but Adam is distracted. He nods his head in feigned appreciation. He says “Yes I understand” and “How interesting.” But inwardly he is so absorbed in words and names that he is not really with Eve. He has lost the listening side of love.
Adam and Eve Receive Marriage Counseling
Frustrated by the situation, Eve recommends that the two of them go see a marriage counselor. Because no other humans are available, they turn to the Spirit of God. The Spirit does not want to make Adam feel guilty, but the Spirit does indeed want to enlighten Adam’s mind and heart. So after listening to them for a while, the Spirit shares with Adam two simple ideas borrowed from the philosopher Whitehead.
The first is that that there is a world beyond words. This world is not above the world in another plane of existence. It is instead the world of direct perception in the here-and-now. The Spirit says: “Eve is not a word or even an idea. She is not reducible to phrases you might find in your dictionary such as wife and partner. Eve is a living being – flesh among flesh – who wants your companionship. You need her companionship, too. Get out of your head and come to your senses. Go look into her eyes.”
Adam worries that this turn to the senses may make him vulnerable and also take him away from God. Somehow he has gotten the idea that God was above or outside the material world. So the Spirit offers an additional notion. It is the idea that, in listening to Eve, Adam grows closer to God. The Spirit says: “You think that God is outside you or above you. But this is not the whole of it. God is also between you and Eve. When you listen to Eve, God is in the listening.”
This idea that God is in the listening is surprising to Adam, because he had thought of God primarily as a speaker not a listener. “God calls me to name things,” says Adam, “but God does not listen to me. God is my Commander. God’s vocation is to issue commands, reward those who obey, and punish those who disobey.” The Spirit explains that Adam has an overly militaristic understanding of God. “Yes,” says the Spirit, “God is very powerful and issues commandments, the most important of which is to love Eve and take care of the Garden. But God also receives influences from the world and is affected by the world at all times. God is a Deep Listener. Don’t you feel this Listener when you pray?”
With help from the Spirit they come up with a game-plan for saving their marriage. They agree that Adam will spend some time each morning walking with Eve in the Garden and leaving his dictionary behind. Eve will teach him the arts of enjoying the sacrament of each present moment. And they agree that, in order to walk in a gentle and relaxed way, the will begin each day by undertaking a daily practice of sitting in silence, in Zen style, listening to the sound of their breathing and the world beyond them. They experiment with various postures for this kind of sitting and end up deciding that sitting on a rug, with a straight back and folded legs, is probably best. Eve suggests to Adam that he can come to his senses, as the Spirit advises, by coming home to his breathing. The Spirit calls this activity meditation.
Adam worries just a bit that this process of meditation may seem a little radical to God. He knows that God likes for people to breathe; God is said to have given them their own breath of life. And they know that, sometimes, they must each “take a deep breath” when they grow impatient with one another. But they are not quite sure that God wants people to breathe in such a conscious and intentional way.
So the Spirit adds that even God enjoys the process of just sitting. “This is what God did on the seventh day of creation. God had been working so hard to help the universe into existence, that God had not taken the time just to sit back and take delight in creation its sheer goodness. So on the seventh day even God sat back, folded the divine legs in a lotus position, and just sat. This was the first Sabbath. In spending some time each morning just sitting, you are participating in the deeper and timeless Sabbath. It is a Sabbath from compulsive busyness, a Sabbath from having to name everything. It is a time to be.”
As Adam and Eve begin to depart the counseling session, the Spirit offers a gentle word of caution. The Spirit says that they should not eat from the apple tree. They ask why they shouldn’t do this. After all, they are vegetarians and really like fruit. The Spirit explains that the apple is a metaphor for something sweet but dangerous: “It is a metaphor for making a god of yourself.”
Adam asks what it means to make a god of yourself, and the Spirit says: “You already know what it means, Adam, because when you didn’t listen to Eve you were making a god of yourself. You were assuming that you and your concerns are the only concerns that matter, and that hers were not important. The apple represents the sin of un-listening. Un-listening is your original sin.”
The idea that un-listening – that being distracted and unavailable to others – was Adam’s original sin makes sense to Adam. “If sin lies in harming others, then I have been sinning against Eve for quite some time. I think I’ve already eaten a few apples. But I’ll try to avoid eating more.” Still Adam is left with a somewhat troubling question: “Does God make a god of himself?”
To his surprise the Spirit says “No.” The Spirit explains that even God is not a god. God is not a ruler who stands above creation on a throne speaking without hearing. God is not a “he” either. God is like a Circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere. The Garden of Eden where they reside is but a smaller circle within the large Circle. “That’s why I am encouraging you even now to tend the garden, to take care of it. Take care of your small part of the divine Circle.”
Adam likes this idea and Eve does, too. They begin to take care of the earth around them and to care for each other, too. They have children, too, and become grandparents. There is no fall. They have been made in the image of God and they begin to grow into God’s likeness. With help from Zen meditation, they walk in the way of deep listening.
(Note to native English speakers from Jay McDaniel: The translation below is by Xie Bangxiu, an academic advisor and columnist for JesusJazzBuddhism.)
杰伊·麦克丹尼尔 （美国） 谢邦秀（英译）（中国 武汉）