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Two Adams

There are two different creation stories in the Book of Genesis. In the first version (Gen 1:1-31), we find a God full of exuberant activity, spending five days creating all we know of the universe, and ending each day remarking how very good it all is. It isn’t until the sixth day that God creates man and woman simultaneously ("Male and female he created them.” Gen 1:27). God creates them in God's own image, blesses them and says to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.”

They are given “dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” After expending all that creative energy, God rests on the seventh day.

In the second creation story (Gen 2:4b-25), God is less exuberant and more circumspect. The earth is already formed, but it is bleak – there has been no rain, there are no shrubs or trees, and there is no one to till the soil. As opposed to the epic creations of the first story - sky, sun, ocean, land, sea monsters, etc. - in the second story God creates more subtlety - from the inside out.

Like a potter, God forms Adam from the clay of a spring rising up from the depths of the earth. In a moment of intimacy, God blows the breath of life into Adam’s lungs.

God plants a garden and settles Adam there, but instead of asking him to fill and subdue the earth, this time Adam is to cultivate and care for it. Deep in the interior of the garden God has planted the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We often abbreviate the name of that tree to the Tree of Knowledge, completely forgetting that this particular tree is not about knowledge per se, but about good and evil. God warns Adam of the consequences of eating from it.

After animals fail to provide Adam with a worthy partner, the second creation story takes great pains to explain how God anesthetizes Adam, removes a rib, closes him up with flesh, and forms Eve out of Adam’s body.

Adam recognizes their profound interconnection: “at last, this one is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”

In 1965 Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, published an essay titled The Lonely Man of Faith. In it, he uses the two creation stories as a springboard for understanding two opposing sides of human nature. David Brooks further develops Rabbi Soloveitchik’s concept in his book The Road to Character. Taking the two stories from the viewpoint of virtues, Brooks sees Adam One as representing what he calls our “resume virtues,” while Adam Two represents our “eulogy virtues.”

Resume virtues are the skills that we bring to the job market. These are virtues that contribute to our success: creativity, ambition, drive, and leadership skills.

Adam One is goal driven. He is left in charge of creation and told to be fertile and multiply, and to fill and subdue the earth. Adam One represents our logical, straightforward ambitions. These are the virtues that drive us to build families, develop cities, and create businesses. We believe that hard work leads to success - input leads to output - practice makes perfect. And, like God in the Adam One story, we see these goals as very good.

The eulogy virtues run deeper. These are the virtues that come up at our funerals. Whether we were kind, honest, faithful, or loving. What kind of relationships we formed.

In the second creation story, God appears less interested in the creative process than in a moral life. Adam Two is told to tend the garden and stay clear of temptation. Adam Two lives out of a moral logic: we have to give to receive. We are to cultivate our interior lives and care for others.

It is never easy to find the balance between doing and being - to have a healthy combination of pressure and leisure - the right amount of ambition coupled with the right amount of spirituality - to have dominion over, and at the same time to care for. Film producer Paul Boese puts it this way: “we come into the world headfirst and go out feet first; in between, it is all a matter of balance.

We live in a culture that knows well how to nurture Adam One. We are taught to be assertive, get an education, master skills, get “likes” and “followers.” Like Adam One, we work to create a world of our own.

Adam Two wants to understand the world in which he has been cast. For most of human history we have relied on belief in God to help us understand the world in which we have been cast. Today many no longer believe in God. Although our culture would not readily admit that our lack of belief in God is a source of our discontent, it does recognize that there is a cultural void. Businesses, colleges, and social groups, have begun offering yoga, mindfulness training, meditation retreats, and group outreach opportunities to address our need for a more meaningful life.

I think of the ancients, for whom God was a given, sitting around a fire, listening to these creation stories millennia ago, and wonder what they might think of us today and our preoccupation with what we now call reality.

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