Our Quest for Paradise

On our way to dinner, my friend and I talked about mascara, doughnuts and the concept of ‘Paradise’. This enfolded into an endearing story of childhood wonderment; how my friend as a child would look up ‘Paradise’ on the world atlas. She thought it was an actual place with its own national anthem, and she wondered how much it would cost to get there. Where is ‘Paradise’ in the grown-up world? As a child it was the gingerbread house in ‘Hansel and Gretal’ -  these days Paradise lies elsewhere.

Silenced by a harmless story fragranced by childhood romance, I wondered whether in a world where there is a plethora of rotten fruit, there is a way of obtaining what seems to be the unobtainable? Does Paradise always need to be sought after, and therefore always be lost? Could it exist if it wasn’t? The very idea seems to be a contradiction: it only exists because it doesn’t.

Once a friend of mine told me that the closest he had reached Paradise was ‘Paradise Subway’ – “a concrete graffiti covered walkway under the A38 in Birmingham”. He added that some people had a wonderful sense of irony. Though he continued to discuss ‘Paradise’ as sitting on a grassy bank with music and wine, I couldn’t help but go back to his concrete wall. It seems that Paradise must exist within us, that our idea of Paradise would depend upon our own perception of the world, it couldn’t be a universal place, one person can’t dream for us all. Isn’t one man’s utopia another man’s dystopia?  With this in mind it would stand to reason that a true hedonistic Paradise couldn’t possibly exist. True freedom (and therefore Paradise) is the ability to be miserable if you choose to, even if it proves to be detrimental to yourself and those around you.  If you weren’t able to exercise this choice of misery, how could you possibly be in Paradise without true autonomous thought?  And if there is this choice, and one person decides to be miserable, how could it be Paradise if one person is unhappy?  You could say that it is Paradise because the person is allowed to be miserable, however, misery affects those around us, and those people who do not choose to be miserable soon would be, or at least less happy. It was then that I understood my friend’s ‘Paradise Subway’ and how this graffiti covered wall held an element of Paradise in it - it had freedom – freedom of expression.

From the house in ‘Hansel and Gretal’ to ‘Subway Paradise’, it would seem that only a subjective Paradise can exist, and if that’s the case, is it easier to reach?  Say if Paradise is subjective and I decide that lying on a beach with my husband is Paradise. How could it be ‘Paradise’ if previously I have had bad experiences in life, and then there’s the uncertainty about the future - I may leave the beach have a car crash and die.  It couldn’t really be Paradise if all the people I love and care about are not in my ‘moment’.  It appears that Paradise does exist, but in the ‘moment’, just like a photograph. Paradise exists in still moments where everything either side of it (past unhappiness, the unforeseeable future) is cancelled out. Paradise is like a Monet painting; a captured state. Heard the expression, ‘a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’?  Paradise is the moment on the lips with the hips part cancelled out.

It’s ironic that Paradise exists in the ‘moment’ when we all seem to live for tomorrow in pursuit of happiness, contentment and essentially Paradise. We work today so we can live tomorrow; we diet now to look good for summer. Paradise is here, it exists now as I write, drink coffee and eat cheese and onion crisps. Paradise exists in intellectual and emotional understanding; it exists in my mother’s voice and in kindred spirits. But what happens once we have reached our moment in Paradise? Does Paradise change location? I notice my coffee has gone cold and my crisps have been eaten, and there it was, as clear as an empty packet of crisps – Paradise now existed elsewhere.  Paradise exists and is obtainable - we have all visited it many times.

Paradise is an Andy Warhol film. It’s all about focus, capturing the moment and forgetting what’s on either side of it, where ignorance is bliss. We all know Paradise, it exists in moments where tomorrow means nothing at all. I smile thinking about this as I eat my chocolate cake and forget about my thighs…..