by Tom Foster
July 1st, 2012
We were given paradise in the dawn of our existence, a place where we could be free, where we could be loved, and a place in this world that was gifted to the father of mankind and his wife, the mother of us all in a way. Our race was given this wonderful treasure, this undeniable utopia where want and desire were paltry worries that were small things to contemplate. In the tales told by those who can see beyond the veil of the world as it is now, even in the scripture in a way, it was a paradise of sorts that goes unrivaled by anything the human mind can comprehend, though I’m sure that imagination can at least paint a vivid picture of what it might be like.
Growing up in the world as we know it now, most people would at least give a passing second to understand that fleeting glimpse of something better, the undeniable urge that exists in all humans to want something beyond what they currently have. We all strive for something better, something beyond, but so few of us ever reach it. Life is said to be kind and cruel all at once, a sort of balancing act that has existed since even before the fabled garden we were so ceremoniously kicked out of before the majority of us even drew breath. Whether you worship one god or many, pay homage to the winds and the earth or nothing at all, every human being realizes that there is something better out there, just waiting to be realized, though always staying just beyond our perceptions, like a whisper that remains too fragile to be heard directly.
It is a dream, one that is too delicate to look upon, lest it shatter and fall to the ground like so much slivered glass, dashed upon the harsh reality that we wake up to each and every day. This world isn’t kind; that is the harsh and unrelenting truth we all come to realize sooner or later. Whether or not it has always been this way is uncertain, though I’m sure that many would tell you that this is so. It is a hard world in many regards, but it is also a place that knows tranquility as well as madness, peace as well as war. The trick of it is to find out how to remind our people, and by that I mean all people, that once, long ago, we were no different.
Time, imagination, effort, and the natural tendency we as humans seem to have to exclude one another are all factors that drive us apart. We all think differently, we all have our own desires, our own push towards something that no matter what, aim towards many of the same goals. We want peace in a manner that we desire, be it a violent sort, or one that is much less confrontational. Each person follows their own path towards that same star, and sometimes the lanes become crossed, and as result, conflict too often follows.
Within the utopia that was Eden, some would like to believe that there was no such conflict, and in truth, it might well have been. Lions might have lain beside the lambs, while wolves might have as well lain beside fawns, both content in the knowledge that one day they would be required to play their roles, but for one fleeting moment, they could be something else. It is a utopian society, one in which there is no strife, no worry, and no cares to trouble the minds of any.
Ah, to live in such a place. I’d rather cut my own throat and let the jackals feed on my testicles while I’m still kicking.
This is not the world we live in, though it is certainly one I would have liked to have seen. For the past thirty years I’ve lived in the same world as you, the one who is no doubt reading this even now. In that time I’ve seen things, just as you no doubt have, unless of course this relapse into something akin to a failed manuscript finds itself in the hands of some future where humans have learned, finally, how to live with one another. That’s a poor joke that I can hardly fathom, though, like Eden, it’s something I can at least hope for. Sometimes hope is all you can cling to, though it’s a perilous and uncertain grip at that.
Eden, it means so many things in so many different languages, and when religion is added to the uncertain soup that is humanity, things tend to get more than a little skewed. It’s like poking a hornet’s nest with a stick only the length of your finger. Run as fast as you can, but there’s a good bet those stinger-laden little bastards are going to sting the hell out of you, and with religion, those stingers are often barbed and not easily removed.
I know that sounds like a lot of analogical hooey, but to be honest, I’ve come to a point in life where I feel like saying what I want to say, and I’m more than entitled. I’ve seen Eden, and in doing so, I’ve earned the right to not make sense at all points and times.
You just read that part, that I’ve seen Eden, right?
Yeah, I figured so, so in order to better explain, so that you might comprehend, I’ll elaborate. Just be glad I’m not an overly intellectual person, so that you can understand what I’ll be saying henceforth. Too many people with their big, fancy words and existential thoughts and diatribes would have you wondering just what the hell they were saying when it could be expressed through such simple words, rather than lord over the reader in a manner that makes them feel like a simpleton trying to understand the thoughts and recordings of someone who thinks MENSA stands for Mean Egomaniacs Nagging Stupid Airheads. Or something like that. Acronyms were never my strong point, among several other things.
Anyway, about seeing Eden.
I could say it was illuminating, exciting, I could even say it changed my life. In a way it did, but maybe it’s because I’m so jaded that anything most people would say “wow!” to doesn’t hold as much appeal to me. Maybe I’m just dead inside, but I don’t believe that.
It happened only a short while ago, but it seems long enough now that it might have happened in another time entirely. I’ve heard it said that perceptions can deceive a person just as readily as anything, and I’ve come to believe it. I know I’m dissembling, stalling in other words, but what you’ve got to understand, I mean really understand, is that talking about it isn’t enough, it just isn’t the right medium for describing something like this, but at this moment, it’s all I’ve got.
So bear with me, okay?
I was sleeping believe it or not. Sometimes it would seem that best way to find paradise, or any other elusive, off the wall place or idea that people think of, is when you’re not in complete control of your own faculties. I suppose this means that letting go is the key to finding happiness, but like so many things in the world, it’s easier said than done. For instance, looking upon greatness, finding out that you are actually a go-getter, and not just a follower, and even such mundane ideas as where you left your car keys the night before. A lot of things just come to you during sleep because your conscious mind is finally ON BREAK, or OUT TO LUNCH so to speak. That’s when the subconscious, which misses so very little, decides to step in and fill in the details that your waking mind didn’t bother to see right away. It’s the rare person that can actively pull from either side of their mind, though I’ve heard it happens.
Imagination though, or something deeper, some primal desire to realize something we as a people have left behind, tends to invoke even deeper exploration into our so-called, “hidden” minds. This is where we dream, where we envision that we are kings and queens, where we know, on an instinctual level, that at one time we had everything, and somehow let it slip from our grasp.
This is where I found Eden.
I find it just a little saddening now, as I write this, that I can’t go back as many times as I please, that a fleeting glimpse in dreams is all I get, but I suppose we should be happy with what we do receive, no matter how minimal it might be. That’s what a lot of people would have you believe, what with the billions of souls in this world and the constant need they all have. Some would say take what you want, let others fend for themselves, while others would say the entire world deserves to share in this experience. But quite honestly, as grand and wondrous as it is, I believe Eden is for each one of us something different.
It’s not always the gardens that the good book would have you believe, the utopian society where everyone is cared for, every need is fulfilled, and no one ever goes wanting. I can tell you quite honestly the Eden I saw was breathtakingly beautiful, surreal even in a way, but it was not perfect. The lions did not lie down with the lambs, and the wolves still hunted and killed their prey when they hungered. There within my vision of Eden, life did what it always does, and death stalked the shadows and the light alike, as was its wont. In this Eden, things did not conform to my wishes, but to their natural order, as should occur in nature. And yet, the peace therein, the absolute rightness of this place, was undeniable.
It was the clear, crisp taste of evergreen on the tongue, the rushing falls that burble and churn so pleasantly to the ear. The cry of a loon, the sound of small animals rustling through bush and brush, these things carried with them an inherent beauty and danger all their own. In this Eden, there was balance, and in this paradise, there was a harmony that needed no guiding hand, nor even meddlesome, fumbling touch to make it work.
This was how the world had been before mankind had come along and done what we do best, defile our way through history. Oh we’re not all that bad I must say, some of us do care enough about our world to at least try and take care of it, but overall, we’ve made a rather large mess of the home we were given. Some would argue, of course, that we have done the best we could, that we’ve made our own paradise, built our own utopia, and I cannot in good conscience claim that they are dead wrong. We’ve tried, and sometimes succeeded, but we’ve failed a great deal as well.
No society is perfect, such a thing is nearly impossible for imperfect beings to attain, and when it is reached, such a goal crumbles at the mere mention. There is hope for Eden, for balance, and for our race, but some days it is slim, almost transparent. I tend to wonder if it will ever be more so than this.
I know, it’s not quite what you were looking for, is it? Sad to say, few things hardly ever are as perfect as people wish them to be. This is part of what it is to be human though, we often want something that is so far beyond our grasp of understanding that we don’t even realize we’ve most likely seen it or experienced it, if only for a fleeting moment. Think to the happiest times in your life, and the saddest, and you might just catch a glimpse of something, a passing fancy, a barely remembered moment of euphoria. Therein might lay your Eden.
It is different for each individual as I’ve alluded to, an experience that is unique from one person to the next, and thereby it is something that cannot possibly be measured by any scale we as humans have devised. What Eden is, what it represents, can be described best only by those who have seen it, and possibly recognized its grandeur, its undeniable pull. And yet for all that, it is often too difficult to admit, to even mention that the mere brush with something so sublime, so tantalizingly close, has ever happened.
Perhaps it is the shame of having been cast out so long ago, or maybe it is the unease that comes from realizing that no matter how much we desire such a place, we are not worthy. We are all essentially born from the sins of those who came before, tainted before we draw our first breath by the iniquities of our race, and therefore perhaps not able to fully understand what we have lost so very long ago. Perhaps only in the innocence of childhood do we even begin to grasp what it is that we have squandered without ever knowing what might be sacrificed.
Eden is a magical place, and rightfully so, for it holds the best of us, the ideals that so many long for and yet so many find it difficult to live up, being human. It is the place where we are what we have always wanted to be, the people that we strive for, and the dreams that often go unrealized without our ever knowing. Success, fame, wealth, notoriety, all pale in comparison to the wonder that such a stunning vista such as Eden represents, they become mere figments of a life that is, compared to a life that could be.
Ah but hear me talk, nattering on like an old man spinning yarns. You came to find out just what Eden is, didn’t you? Sadly, I have told you as much as I can, and yet I know, I have said nothing truly that will guide you any further. This is just, and without fault or recourse. You see, it is not my place to guide you to paradise, nor anywhere else.
Eden, that lost garden of wonders, is a myth, and imaginary place that may or may not have existed at one point and time. But the ethos, the idea that is Eden, is very real, stronger than the mountains that weather the ages, and more fragile than the finest, gossamer thread. It lies to the individual to decide, and to believe.
I have seen Eden, and in seeing, I have believed.
It’s your turn.