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by Susan Reimer-Torn
DAVID BROOKS, the political commentator, has in recent years become something of a lifestyle guru with something to say about moral development and living the good life. His book The Road to Character and his recent TED talks refer to Adam the original man while offering a personal growth template for men today.
Brooks tells us that “Adam One” is pro-active man, a contender, a builder, a vigorous and self-absorbed achiever. “Adam Two” emerges in a later phase of development as the contemplative, sensitive, spiritual man, concerned with purpose, meaning and caring for others. Brooks talks about his own transition from Adam One to Adam Two through a journey inwards.
His intended audience seems mostly to be men. But I’ve been re-spinning Brook’s ideas to speak about myself and women I know, and our trajectory in life.
Brooks is referencing someone else’s ideas, those of Rabbi Joseph Soleveitchik (1903-1993), a major Talmud scholar and influential modern Orthodox thinker who promoted the theory of God having created not one Original Man, but two. Soleveitchik gave credence to Adam One and Adam Two, in part, to counter the textual criticism of the Bible of his day. Bible criticism was finding proof of human, rather than divine, authorship of the Bible by finding inconsistencies in the text, including clashing accounts of the same theme. One case in point is the two differing accounts of Adam’s creation in Genesis. Soleveitchik explained that this was not a human editorial error but rather a narrative about two different Adams.
Years later, Brooks refers to Adam One and Adam Two as a developmental model for successful masculine living. Okay, then What About Eve One and Eve Two?
Eve is also accorded two creation stories in Genesis — “male and female created he them” in Genesis 1:27, and out of Adam’s rib in Genesis 2:21-22. Her evolution, moreover, is at least as complex as Adam’s -- yet her developmental phases, I am convinced, are diametrically opposed to his.
Adam One’s focus is external, his concerns and accomplishments quantifiable. Adam Two, in contrast, looks inward and is concerned with the moral good. Brooks tells us that he spent the first phase of his ambitious if secular Jewish male adulthood in Adam One high gear, stocking up on distinctions. But now, he is ready to live for what he calls his “eulogy virtues” rather than adding bullet points to his (already impressive) resumé. For Brooks, becoming Adam Two, at least part of the time, is a late mid-life balancing act which he hopes will inspire others.
Here’s where Eve One and Eve Two enter the conversation.
WE EVE ONES embarked on adulthood already rooted in the “eulogy virtues” -- caring, connectedness, inner meaning, social conscience, authenticity. Like the archetypal Eve, I, for one, was curious, rebellious and creative. Like the majority of my once-privileged sister boomers, I leaned in, but only part-way, to catch the second wave of feminism. That is, we chose viable professions but only if they were perched on the moral high ground. More than acquiring status or building empires or even securing retirement accounts, we wanted to delight in what we did, have time for personal pursuits, and make a contribution to others.
But Eve One lived once upon an Edenic time (even if not all that long ago), back when an abundance of resources was never seriously in doubt. But reaching her thirties, or midlife, or what might have been retirement age, Eve One finds that her former contributions are no longer viable currency for what may well be the many years ahead.
Brooks doesn’t exactly say what triggers a man’s transition from Adam One to Adam Two. For most women, becoming Eve Two feels like a fall from grace: Many an Eve One must become Eve Two in order to survive.
At first, Eve Two typically berates Eve One for her lack of foresight. Once she accepts that this new situation is a result of common-enough events — job loss, divorce, widowhood, recession, illness, unfulfilled promises, personal failure, mismanaged investments, miscalculation -- Eve Two starts to recreate herself, often with astonishing resilience.
Adam One has wisely accumulated the wealth to sustain Adam Two. Eve Two has to figure out what to do when a rich inner life isn’t enough to pay the bills. I have a critic friend who is crafting a corporate workshop version of her insights on diversity in film, another is designing handmade ketubot (wedding contracts), yet another is becoming an informed broker of health insurance. I have become a real estate agent in New York City (working north, south, west and east of Eden).
BROOKS SAYS that men need a lifetime to find the pathway to their inner depth. My women friends and I need a lifetime to find the path out. But none of us is willing to live in exile from our own core values.
We know that neither extreme is the way to go. Eve One and Eve Two must partake of each other -- poetic yet practical, ambitious yet fair-minded. We band together as we always have, cultivating survivor consciousness without killer instincts.
Adam Two is a man coming home to his own truth, while Eve Two is a woman banished from a false paradise. She may be discovering her own full capacities for the first time. Some of us are realizing that we are not only good at what we now do -- we like doing it.
I am Eve Two. I am woman. Watch me soar.