I was reading the Bible the other day, and noticed something I had not noticed before: until the birth of Eve, Adam is mute. God creates Adam, gives him mastery over almost all of nature, puts him in a Garden where all his needs are taken care of, and gives him the sole commandment not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and through it all Adam says not a word. Then God puts him to sleep and extracts Eve from his side and—voila!—the man speaks. He looks at Eve and says, “Now this is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh…” (Genesis 2:23).
Adam’s first words are neither to God nor to Eve but to himself. His speech is self-reflexive, the emergence of the other, Eve, gives rise to self-awareness and speech.
Why? Because self and other go together like front and back. The creation of Eve is the creation of Adam. Adam was unaware of himself before Eve. Self and Other arise together, and together they create speech.
Of course Eve remains silent. It is not until she meets the serpent that she begins to speak. Is the serpent is her other? No. The serpent speaks to Eve first. She is his other, just as she was Adam’s other. Her speech is in response to the serpent, and a bit latter in response to God who wants to know why she ate from the Tree. Eve doesn’t initiate self-reflexive speech until she births Cain (Genesis 4:1). She sees what has come forth from her and this other creates her sense of self. She is for the first time a fully realized “I.”
What does this mean? The Torah can never be reduced to one meaning, but it may suggest that the self is a by-product of the creative act. It is not the self that creates another, but the act of creating another that creates the self.
I experience this all the time. When I am in a creative mode I cannot say “I” am creating something, rather something is being created and “I” enter into the picture only to evaluate what was created. In fact, if “I” appear on the scene too early, the creative act ceases and whatever was in the process of emerging is gone. This is why I find the creative process essentially spiritual.
Is this what the Genesis author intended us to see in her story of Adam, Eve, and Cain? I can’t say for sure, but it is certainly there to find. Which is what makes the Bible worth reading in the first place.