Our loneliness is very ancient. It goes all the way back to the Genesis story. Adam was alone in the Garden of Eden and he felt a terrible pang of loneliness.

If he was the first man, he must have wondered–is there someone like me out there? When he fell into a deep sleep, God removed one his ribs and created Woman. She was called Woman, for from Man she was created. He must have dreamt of her before she appeared before him.

She was His Creation; created out of his need for ‘help’. In Genesis, Eve is described as a ‘helper’. But what was she supposed to help him with?

The Unresolved Loneliness

Let’s shift the frame to our modern world. Despite the billions of people that now inhabit this planet, we still have not eradicated loneliness. Why? This loneliness is very ancient. You can experience it in the most profound of ways when you are with someone.

Do we ever become aware of our own loneliness? Does it all hark back to the story in the Garden of Eden?

In the urban jungle, we seem to have two choices: attractions and distractions. Distractions are what we use to avoid that feeling of loneliness. We settle into jobs we claim to dislike. We get into relationships thinking that if it doesn’t work out, there’s another one around the corner. We go to parties hoping to meet people who can ease that sense of loneliness, even if it is only temporarily.

But this ancient loneliness goes unaddressed.

An attraction is different to a distraction. An attraction is having a sense of purpose that overrides all other petty concerns. It allows us to wake each morning and embrace the day with the sense that life is one great adventure… and that you have a wonderful companion by your side.

Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach

The Helper

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis 2:18

Imagine, if you knew–when you were being created–that you would have to ‘help’ someone get over his loneliness. Imagine that personal bio on a dating app, “Lonely, seeking help.” I doubt anyone would answer… But that is the reality, isn’t it? That we’re all lonely and we all need help.

Imagine if that was your sole role in life. To help someone overcome their loneliness.

Over the years, I have met many people who seek the companionship of others–whether platonic or otherwise–to avoid this ancient loneliness. It is the one feeling they never want to look in the eye. And if they want a true companion, they should understand that they’re not the only one who needs ‘help’.

To some, the Adam and Eve story is sacred. To others, a myth; and to others a parody. It comes up so often in conversation that even non-believers believe in what the story might be trying to say. And why wouldn’t they? It’s a story of a man and a woman who cannot get along. It is the story of a woman who is perhaps as lonely as the man. Except she has been vilified for this loneliness. His loneliness is understandable; hers is not.

Eve was the first woman. She, too, had a destiny that she would have to fulfil. According to the Abrahamic worldview, Eve is the Matriarch of all who walk this planet. Her Hebrew name is Chavah, which means life. His name is Adam, which means son of the red earth.

Did she cause ‘The Fall’? In relationships and even in friendships, it is often ambiguous; the role that we are meant to play in another person’s life. We can only fulfil our own destiny and no one else’s. At times, yes–we do have to help others. At other times, others have to help us.

And if we’ve played a particular role during a particular period, does it mean that we have to continue playing it indefinitely and into perpetuity? There is no business contract as such. Most of the time, we have no idea what the other person is thinking or feeling. We extrapolate. We guess. We’re not sure what in the world we’re doing. In my mind, however, one thing is clear.

The relationship was the Garden of Eden. It needed two caretakers who both needed the help of the other person to do their job and to fulfil their collective and individual destinies.

Adam and Eve never had that. They acted as independent agents. When things went wrong, Adam blamed Eve–and God, too. Eve never asked Adam before she ate from the tree. She did it of her own volition even though the decision affected the both of them. The serpent was blamed as well.

Rarely do I hear anyone discuss the concept of a shared destiny where everyone involved had a part to play–including the serpent. It was the serpent that finally made them realise that they would have to work hard to create a fulfilling and fruitful relationship. Adam and Eve hadn’t realised that before the so-called fall from grace. It was a loud wake up call regarding what it takes to make a relationship work. Effort, toil and sometimes even painful struggle.

So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

Genesis 3:24

Eve would go on to take her place as the Mother of All the Living. And as for Adam, without her, he could no longer access the gate of life. Despite the harsh, complicated and diverse doctrinal interpretations that are derived from the Book of Genesis, in my heart; I believe it is the only fairy tale that attempts to tell the truth about what it takes to create that happily ever after.

Illustration By Edmund Joseph Sullivan for Sartor Resartus by Thomas Carlyle

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