Sunday 24 August 2014

Strategies for the (re-) enchantment of everyday life (The concept of Paradise)

Modern mainstream everyday life is experienced as dull, literalistic, prosaic, trivial, meaningless, dull, confrontational... an iron cage, as Weber described it

On the one hand is the psychologically-crushing conformism of work; on the other hand the pointless, momentary, emotionally-manipulating distractions of leisure.

We crave a life that is mythical, poetic, truthful, virtuous, engaged; a life of growth and yet bliss; a life stretching-ahead with development yet satisfying here-and-now ... we crave Paradise (leaving aside Heaven, for the moment)... yet I think it fair to say that most people have difficulty in conceptualizing Paradise in any coherent way.

Such Paradise as we can know is individual and idiosyncratic.

For someone who loves poetry it may be like living inside poetry (where words and phrases and chunks of experience mean so deeply and complexly, and everything harmonizes and unfolds organically).

Or living inside any form of active artistic creation - standing at a confluence of past and future; referencing back to predecessors, building structures and meanings; engaging and enriching; pointing forward to future possibilities...

Or a life inside science; in that world of sunlit cool perfection and insight, of understanding unfolding upon understanding - the heart-leap of discovery and the clinching satisfaction of proof - endless horizons...

Or myth. To live inside myth may be to perceive that all the minutiae of life are bound-up into a story that has special significance - an unarticulated and perhaps un-articulable sense of inevitability and rightness - felt below explicit consciousness - maybe dread-full or maybe exhilarating but always significant.

Or a mini-world of human relationships bound by love - to be inside such gatherings of love, and to participate in their change and growth - to join in the reciprocity and exchanges of love.

From such microcosms we may be able to - we ought to - extrapolate Paradise; which is our proximate hope for eternal life (and Heaven lying beyond).

A concept of Paradise enables Hope - and Hope (and only Hope) enables us to get past some (ideally all) of what life throws-at-us in the way of the iron cage - or maybe even by perceiving that there is organic life outside the iron cage, to escape and inhabit (for periods short or long) that better world.

Note added: I should not fail to mention that we can Hope for Paradise precisely because we have known Paradise. This is why Paradise is not experienced as wishful-thinking, nor as something just 'made-up' - but as a species of discovery. Before this mortal life, as spirits, we actually experienced Paradise. If things go well in this life we may know better than Paradise - or we may simply return to Paradise, but enlarged. Or, and this is the risk - we may choose to reject Paradise and become self-exiled as defiant despots of our own hellish domain. Or, and this is the ultimate Hope, we may eventually choose to go beyond Paradise - with all that that choice may entail. At present, I personally cannot see or aspire beyond Paradise; but I perceive that Paradise gets its meaning only from what lies beyond.  

1 comment:

Geoff said...

That makes sense. I would say that there is more to it as well, but there cannot be less. I think too of the Biblical allusions to the weight of glory on the other side of our present sufferings, the treasure (for those who believe the gospel) in the earthen vessels of ordinary lives, the image of God in each man, and Jesus remark that if the Psalmist could speak of normal men as gods, then sure Jesus (who was God in the beginning) could be called the son of God.
Remembering that glory hiding in human lives as helped me. Certain pleasures that might be considered rich man's pleasures (listening to more classical music and reading more poetry) have helped me too. Perhaps modernity forces those who do not live in the moment by moment struggle to survive and by the incessant materialistic worldview need extra work to be mythologized and enchanted back into the world as it really is.