The Illness that we Are

In the book of Genesis the subject of nakedness is introduced to us.  Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and felt naked, exposed, and God fashioned for them a fig leaf garment and hid their nakedness.  The Bible said that this garment hid them from their sense of shame.

Art in recent centuries, and movies in recent times, often includes the image of the nude woman, caught unawares, covering her breasts with an arm and/or her privates with a hand.  Most men also have had dreams or fears of that horrible feeling of being caught nude in public, being exposed, being vulnerable.

I think this fig leaf represents the function of the ego in human culture.  It is a contrivance that hides us from our nakedness.  It is a persona that we can present to our community and to the world and not have to show to them the frail, frightened vulnerable creature that we are in the depths of our heart.  And this ego consciousness is very important as without it there would be no “world” as we know it.  For without it, we would be teeming multitudes of quivering flesh and could not function as a culture.  We would not be a world.

But this ego consciousness has become a monster that is run amok and threatens to destroy us.  Instead of acknowledging our frailty and recognizing the frailty of others, we have organized into armed camps the purpose of which is to barricade ourselves behind piles of “stuff”.  Or, to allude briefly to one dimension of the problem, in our country we have isolated into ideologically-armed political camps, each camp unwilling to recognize its own vulnerability.  We are guilty of the sin of misplaced concreteness, “We chase the shade, and let the real be.” (John Masefield)

But as individuals we cannot correct the ills of the world. The only “illness” we are responsible for is illness that we harbor. But we can discover that as we address that illness in our own heart, as we “wage the war we are”, we will be a bit of an antidote to the collective illness that threatens us.


5 thoughts on “The Illness that we Are

  1. T. E. Hanna

    “Nakedness” in the Genesis narrative actually incorporates some interesting wordplay.

    At the end of Gen 2, we see that “the man and his wife were naked, and they were notnashamed.” The hebrew translated “naked” here carries the connotation of innocence and naivety. In Gen 3, they see their nakedness and ARE ashamed. The hebrew in that nuance carries the connotation of being exposed under judgment. In fact, the same word is used later in the Torah to discuss Israel being exposed (naked) before God’s judgment for their disobedience.

    Here, however, we see the exposure have two effects: first, Adam and Eve hide from one another and attempt to fashion coverings from fig leaves. This shows that sin shatters human relationships. Second, they attempt to hide from God (who comes looking for them… that reflects a great deal about God’s character). Then, before exiling them, He addresses the cause of their shame by creating skins to cover their nakedness and shame… God’s first redemptive act. Nakedness in this account carries deep meaning.

    Great article. 🙂


      1. literary lew Post author

        An afterthought here….and this blessing has nothing to do with having dropped by and “liked” by blog! BTW, if you could suggest biblical etymology resources, I would appreciate it…especially free one’s on line.


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