I posted an image of a beautiful inhabited island a couple of days ago, and it got me thinking about paradise. Not the song by Coldplay, or the rural locality in the South Island of New Zealand, but the paradise of your imagination. The place you can never afford to live, no matter how rich.
By religious definition, paradise is a term for a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and timeless. It is conceptually a counter-image of the supposed miseries of human civilization, and in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness. Paradise is a place of contentment, but it is not necessarily a land of luxury and idleness. Paradise is often described as a ‘higher place’, the holiest place. This fits then, with the notion it is always out of reach.
As we move up in the world and find small successes in business, buy and sell property, inherit, all the normal ways of increasing personal wealth, we find there is always a new level of success. ‘Paradise’ is living on an isolated island where the property is maintained, and you take your own small plane to the mainland for groceries and nights out with all your best friends, who live on their own isolated islands nearby. No? If we win the lottery, and in an instant all our goals, ideals and achievable prospects shift, what we have considered paradise to be in the moment before the win? Does Branson consider Mars to be paradise? What is paradise to the Dalai Lama? Is peace paradise?
Do we actually want utopia, the alternative society?
I’ll always want the next house, the bigger pool, the longer jetty*. These are the threads of capitalist society. Perhaps, each day we take a moment to be content.
Paradise is used, in different terms, to describe the ‘heaven’ or nirvana in most religious texts. It is by definition unattainable, at least until such time as we ‘transcend’.
Paradise to me, right now, is shortbread, a cup of tea and for someone to get the washing in. This paradise, too: unattainable.
*I don’t necessarily have any of these things.