Author Bruce Feiler’s new book, The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us, aims to clear up any doubts. Adam and Eve were definitely in love, Feiler says.
“Every great artist and creative thinker has wrestled with the story,” Feiler, a New York Times columnist and PBS host, said in an interview. “So as someone who spends a lot of time studying the ancient worlds, I thought: ‘Is there any timeless wisdom to bear here?’ “
Feiler travelled to six countries across four continents to meet leading experts on Adam and Eve, questioning how they relate to modern religion, gender and sexuality.
What might singles learn from the world’s most famous couple? According to Feiler, there’s a lot in their story that is relevant to present day.
It’s normal not to want to be alone.
In the Bible, before Adam and Eve grace the Earth, God proclaims: “It’s not good for the man to be alone.” Whether or not you believe in the Judeo-Christian God, it’s human nature to crave companionship and we shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
Expect love to challenge you and don’t be surprised when it does.
People often misinterpret the romance between Adam and Eve, because their story is widely considered to be over after they’re kicked out of Eden. But it’s not until the latter portions of Genesis that we learn the couple’s problems are bigger than some forbidden fruit. Yet they persevere, together. “Love is a long-term process of readjusting and getting over challenges.”
Meet-cutes can happen, but sometimes they require perspective first.
“They were the first meet-cute,” Feiler says with a laugh. “Adam falls asleep, he’s lonely, then God takes a part of his body and makes Eve. He took one look at Eve and says: ‘This is the one.’ ”
He also notes that as cute as a first meeting might be, the “when you know, you know” principle didn’t immediately apply to Eve, even when Adam was the only other man on Earth.
Heteronormative gender roles have been complicating expectations forever.
Feiler cites social scientists who say men and women fall in love differently and that extends to the tale of our friends in the garden of Eden.
Even though Adam was lonely and longing, Eve didn’t reciprocate just because she literally had no other options. “Adam was driven by impulse, but for women like Eve, it takes longer. That’s something the Bible gets right,” Feiler says.
Healthy relationships can survive doubt.
The Cliff Notes version of Adam and Eve: “Don’t eat the forbidden fruit.” But what drives Eve to initiate the downfall of man?
“Each person (in a relationship) needs to feel like themselves; it’s a balance of dependence and interdependence,” Feiler explains.
“When (Eve) realises she’s not happy, (it’s) because she doesn’t want to be a subset of Adam. That prompts her going into the garden alone, and eating the fruit.
She thinks: ‘If I am just an appendage of him, this relationship is not going to work. I need to have a voice and knowledge.’”
Don’t mistake codependency for compromise.
On the flip side, the beauty of Adam and Eve’s long-standing relationship (they remained together until Adam died at the ripe age of 930), is their chosen interdependence, Feiler says.
After Eve gets the fruit, “she could be like ‘I can keep it all to myself’, but she doesn’t want to be entirely alone. Instead she goes back to Adam,” Feiler explains.
“And Adam knows it’s wrong (to eat the fruit), but he asks himself: ‘Do I choose obligation and duty? Or do I choose companionship?’ For me, that’s the most romantic moment of the story, when Adam eats the fruit, too.”
Love stories are written by two people
Not only does Feiler call Adam and Eve the first love story, he dubs them the “first joint byline”.
“The No1 thing I learnt myself is that love is storytelling, but particularly love is a story that we tell with another person,” Feiler says.
* The First Love Story – Adam, Eve, and US Audio book, R472, from Loot.co.za