I had one of those naked dreams last night.
I don’t often get those, but it seems like they are so common, they are almost a cliche. All I have to do is describe it as a naked dream, and everybody instantly knows what I am talking about. Mine was a naked-at-work dream. It seems like the other variety is a naked-at-school dream, even for people who have long since graduated.
This got me to pondering one of the other cultural examples of nakedness: Naked-Adam and Naked-Eve, in the garden of Eden. When something pops up in both our dreams and our religion(s), it seems like it is worth paying attention to. Further, I think that our religious understanding can actually be shaped by our understanding of dream understanding.
It’s interesting to notice the places we don’t seem to have naked-dreams. We don’t have naked dreams about being out in nature. We don’t have naked dreams about being at home. It could be objected that these dreams would be less awkward and remarkable, and perhaps even less remembered. But the thing I am thinking about now is that we also don’t seem to have naked-dreams about places we have never been. If such a place were full of people, it would be at least as wierd/awkward/humiliating as a naked dream in somewhere we are familiar.
To me, this suggests that naked dreams are really about our fears of being caught vulnerable. Perhaps clothes are a sort-of metaphor. They stand for the things we accumulate in life. Knowledge. Attitudes. Learned behaviors.
If I am right, then these naked dreams are about our fears of being found out. This is nearly universal, this idea that we are faking it in whatever role we take. I remember when I became a driver, a legal drinker, a husband, a dad, a teacher. Each time I was sure someone was going to swoop in and say “You don’t really have a license! Stop driving!” or “You only think your 21, get out of this bar!” Or “We changed our mind and revoke your marriage license.”
(There is probably hours of things that could be said about the ways in which I — and maybe you– allow others to define us. But I think maybe that’s a different thing.)
Naked dreams are about sneaking around, fearing that we will be exposed, knowing that we have been faking it, being terrified that everyone else– all the people with clothes– they actually are doing “it” right, they actually know what is going on.
Adam and Eve were thrust, awake, into a naked-dream. It happened after they ate from the tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil. I think we spend a lot of time thinking, arguing and debating about the second part, Good and Evil, and wondering what it might have meant. We gut stuck on this idea that Adam and Eve suddenly understood morality, and try to piece together why this could be a bad thing.
There is a different implication of the Hebrew words, however. Apparently it is a Hebrew literary device to pare a couple of opposites as a way to imply everything. Elsewhere in the bible, God is described as the Alpha and the Omega, implying, I suppose that he is also everything in between. My elderly grandfather sometimes says “from soup to nuts.” Which I think means everything. Apparently, the same can be said here. Everything falls somewhere between good and evil, and therefore, the tree of knowledge of good and evil can also be understood as the tree of knowledge of everything.
“Everything” is such a wide topic that even my endlessly babbling self doesn’t have much to say on the topic. I do have some things to say about the idea of knowledge.
In the last 300 years, knowledge has become a bit of an idol for our civilization. Knowledge isn’t the only form of understanding, but somewhere along the way, we have decided it is the only one that matters. It seems that we took the first step toward this idol-ization of knowledge back in the garden itself.
This is why it suddenly mattered that Adam and Eve were naked. This is why the world turned suddenly cruel. Because our meaning and purpose was no longer defined by our acceptance of God’s love and authority, now it was about what we know. Our instinct and emotion suddenly counted for nothing. The things we can learn were suddenly the only things that mattered. Adam and Eve? They had no knowledge. They were naked.
I suspect that this is all tied into the highly un-biblical idea of earning God’s love. We started down this road to knowledge, of things we have to aquire, and so we feel like this is the way to get to God’s support, God’s peace, God’s desire for us to spend our eternity. But that, my friends, is another topic for another time.
I have been hoping to generate some topics and discussion. Asking you about your naked dreams is probably pretty wierd, though… So if you have read this far, perhaps a safer topic is this: what is your understanding of the meaning of the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?