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Poetic Thinking 2016 | January 21, 2020

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Reflections on Paradise and the Fall

Reflections on Paradise and the Fall
Harry Desmond

We know, we die; such is the incontrovertible basis of the myth of the Fall. But the poet of Genesis saw something further, that our compulsion to knowledge is tinged with sadness. Indeed, our knowing and having to know are the very same movement as our expulsion from paradise, and the Garden might well have disappeared in toto and forever at the moment the apple was eaten. The tragedy is not that that we are physically unable to return to an innocent and childlike state, but that our preoccupation with knowledge means we no longer — really — want to. Our souls have been rendered incompatible with paradise, and just a few days after a return to Eden we would be crying with boredom.

Paradise: The object of the dream of nihilism, the limit-point of valuelessness. One no longer has to question the world, because it is right there plastered to one’s eyes in all its glorious manifest uselessness. Every thought is a symptom (as well as halting remedy) of insufficiency, and here all is sufficient; so one no longer thinks. Work, creation, striving, and innovation — all de trop.
         “We have invented happiness,” say the last men, and they blink.

Due to their enormity, certain aspects of the human condition must of necessity be crude, insensitive or terrifying to the point of paralysis when rendered in plain prose; instead, they may only be described by reference to their opposites in myth and allegory. We wish to express our abiding loneliness, to find ourselves speaking of a personal and caring God; we wish to communicate our inescapable fear of death, to find ourselves speaking of a wonderful afterlife; and there is no more poignant way of conveying wretchedness than by invoking Paradise. Little can compare with the solemn beauty of the Bible as a testament to human grief.

“We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth: Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
         From inglorious death to eternal bliss… in a moment!
         Has a more commanding verse yet been composed?

But did God consider when he planned the afterlife that one man’s heaven is another man’s hell?

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