Monthly Archives: November 2014

Genesis Through the Lens of Shame Part I

When I read the first few chapters of Genesis dealing with the creation, I always think about consciousness. What is the difference between something with consciousness and something without it? “Let there be light.” (Gen 1:3). This phrase (perhaps) describes the moment when consciousness is turned on. The moment prior there was a void. (Gen 1:2). The moment after there was something. This something was a blank slate, unexperienced and blameless and God existed along side it. Then God started making his creation more and more complicated, separating the light from the dark, the land from the water and then filling it with living things. This, in a sense describes the evolution of consciousness. It suddenly appears out of a void. It starts out pure awareness and gradually takes in information, becoming more and more complex.

Then God creates Adam and Eve (in the second creation story) and places them in an idyllic world called Eden. He tells them they can eat from any tree in Eden except from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Before they eat the fruit God tells them not to eat it because they would die. God later tells himself they cannot eat it because then they will become like him. Before they eat the fruit the text specifically says they were both “naked” and “without shame.” (Gen 2:25).

Once they ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge their “eyes were opened,” (Gen 3:7) they became embarrassed (ashamed) and hid themselves from God. When one walks down the path of shame he actually hides himself from himself in that he subordinates his true desires to what he perceives are the desires of others. In the context of this story I see God as the true self that Adam and Eve are hiding themselves from. When God confronts them they attempt to avoid blame by blaming each other. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the Serpent. This is all shame oriented behavior; feeling not good enough, feeling embarrassed about self-appearance, avoiding blame, blaming other people.

In my own experience shame is passed from one person to another. Parents humiliate their children then their children humiliate their peers and ultimately their own kids. This feeling of being humiliated brings forth all these other shame oriented feelings and the desire to make other people feel the same way. But it is always an endless chain. As such, children cannot blame their parents for acting out this cycle because they are just re-acting the cycle their parents modeled for them. What Genesis is doing is explaining the origin of this process.

It seems to me (reading this story through the lens of shame) that the book of Genesis is depicting the origin of this endless chain of shame. First of all, shame is a corruption from the original blank slate of consciousness. The idea that the self is bad and wrong entered consciousness as one of the many pieces of information it took in. When that happened it took over to the point where man was irrevocably altered and had to be removed from paradise. In a sense man removed himself from paradise by becoming ashamed. But also shame came from the Serpent who is perhaps shame incarnate.

 

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Background Tree

The desire for fame for the sake of fame seems to me to be motivated by shame. We all want to be loved. The shame ego wants to be loved as well but it also believes that if other people knew the real “it”, they would reject it. So it forgets about the things that make it lovable and the things it loves and only focuses on trying to get other people to love it through deception (because truth will not work). When they do not love it (perhaps because they sense it is being fake) it hates them for it.

In third grade auditioned for a part in the play Hansel and Gretel. I pictured myself on stage entertaining people and receiving applause. After the audition I found out I had been assigned the role of background tree. I had no lines and stood in the background during one scene of the play. I was devastated. I could not understand why the teachers assigning the roles did not recognize my talents. I was used to being picked last for the kickball teams at recess and being assigned to the outfield in Little League baseball. But that was sports. This was something creative, the area in which I thought I excelled. The night I received my role I cried myself to sleep.

I have consistently acted in life that if I played by the rules, worked hard and denied myself eventually I would be rewarded. The world would love me some day. So far I have pretty much been a background tree. That is all I will ever be if I wait for the world to reward me for “paying my dues.”

At the same time there is the sense that if I do not achieve success in life that my life will be a failure and I will be humiliated. But if I unpack the idea of success it has less to do with achieving something specific and more to do with achieving the notoriety that comes with achieving something specific. It has to do with achieving fame and the approval of others. This is my shame ego’s prime motivation.

With acting, it should be for the love of acting and not the desire for fame. Even when I write this blog I find myself really motivated by the number of hits I get. But is that so wrong? It seems misplaced. To write the best blog it seems to me the focus should be on the writing and not on the reaction to the writing. Or maybe it is okay for there to be a little of both motivations.

I am in the process of finishing a book I hope to e-publish in the near future. I find myself struggling with the idea that I need to accomplish something (like publishing a book) because it will then validate my life in some way. I picture myself being interviewed, having a new source of income and reading the reviews. But then I think about society collapsing soon after, making wealth and fame irrelevant. Is it selfish to want these things? My shame ego definitely wants to convince me of this. It also wants me to feel foolish for even thinking it is possible. I was born to be a background tree after all.

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