2014
05.09

Paradise

[I originally wrote this on the 20:th of August 2008, and I found it again about twenty minutes ago.  I thought that it was pretty interesting to see this thing again, so I decided to tidy up some grammatical errors and make it clearer and publish it here.  It is still far from perfect, but I did not want to edit it too much.  Enjoy this trip back to the past!]

This morning, I had a very tragic dream and when I woke up I was so sad that I had to get up and just walk around in my home for a while.
It was a dream about the quest for Paradise.  The longing for Paradise.
About the hope that some day everything will be wonderful, all by itself, without us having had to do anything to make it so.
And of how in the end there will never be a Paradise.

Most religions have their Paradise.  If you’re Christian and a good person, you will go to Heaven (or if you are a good Jehovah’s Witness, you will be resurrected to come back and live on a new Earth that will have become a Paradise.)  If you are a good person, you will go to Valhalla to live happily with the Norse Gods.  And so on.

Granted, some religions have the idea that if you are a good person you will just stop existing when you die and you will not have to come back here all of the time, but most religions have this idea of Paradise and that this Paradise is a Good Thing they want to reach.

In short it goes like this: if you are whatever the religion in question counts as a “good” person, you will end up in this place where everything is magically all right and everyone is nice to one another and happy all of the time and there is food in abundance.

No one has to do anything, but suddenly there is Paradise: fields of waving grain, streams of clear water, people smiling blissfully and carrying big, heavy baskets of fruit.

And when I woke up I felt so frustrated and sad because in most pictures where people have drawn their idea of Paradise, it has essentially been the same thing: people being nice, a lot of food, a clean and happy nature.
So why aren’t people planting more fruit trees?  Why aren’t people trying to be friendly and nice to the people they meet?  Why do people keep on poisoning the air and the water?

Everyone seems to want Paradise, but no one seems to even try making Paradise real.

Everyone seems to really believe that everything will still be all right in the end if they just keep on trying to be nice persons to the others favoured by their version of faith and only hurt the people that are not like them.  They can hurt the people who believes in something different, because if one does not believe in the same thing as them one will not join them in Paradise and one will not be their neighbour for the rest of eternity.  Therefore, there is no need to be nice to those other people.  There is no reason to be nice to another person just to make the world a better place.

And even if they ever got their Paradise, what would they do with it?
Probably destroy that place too.  Start fighting over the fruit.  Watch their children beat each other up with sticks because they lived on the wrong side of the clear, healthy river.

Everyone is angry about people not holding the door up for them, for not helping the elderly and at people who beat other people down on the street. Still, if they walk through a door, do they hold it up for those behind them?  If an older person is sad and scared, does anyone take the time to sit down to listen or comfort?  If they see a gang of people beating someone up on the street, do they try to help?  Do they even call the police?
I bet very few do.

When was the last time you thanked a stranger who held up the door for you, or waved at a person in a car who stopped to let you cross the street?  When was the last time that you smiled kindly at a random person who just seemed like they needed it?
I bet it was long ago, if ever, for most people.

Everyone wants a better world, a kinder world.  A world with gentle and happy people.  A place with food and fresh, clear water and air and animals everywhere.  Still very few people try to be kind to other people, as if just being another person is not good enough a reason to be kind to someone.  Just doing something nice for someone is not enough for the person to be nice in return.

But I think it is.

If you can not thank someone who is doing something for you, just shoot the person a quick smile.  Just nod with a smile if you’re hurrying to your train or across the street.  It is so damn easy and it can still make a person happy the rest of the day.
It doesn’t matter if it is only a stranger you probably will never, ever meet again, it is still a person, so just smile.

If you want a place where everything is suddenly all right to magically appear, I think you might very well be waiting in vain, forever, but I do think that a Paradise might come real: we just have to build it ourselves.
Plant the first fruit tree for everyone to share.
Smile our first smile to a total stranger.

Hold the door open, even for those behind us, even for those we would not have to meet the gaze of if the door were to hit them in the face.

Just try to be a good person and Paradise will follow.
It is so very simple.

 

***

Postscript

Life felt simpler to me back then.  Now I know that life is a lot more complicated than this, but I still mostly agree with this text.  I still do think that we could build a paradise if we really tried, because mankind can be beautiful and incredible sometimes when she really tries to be, when it manages to shine through the constraints that most of our superfluous social constructs enforce on us.

I think that if we tried, we could build something amazing, because we already do plenty of amazing things.  We try to save endangered animals, we are trying to find new ways to cultivate the earth under our feet, we have even gone out into space and had a real astronaut sing a space song in the space station which is orbiting our planet as I write this!

There is plenty of goodness in us.  There is plenty of hope.  I don’t think anyone is going to fix this problem for us – this is our problem to try to solve on our own – and it will be a lot of hard work to plant those trees and build those homes and teach the creatures of this world that we are no longer their enemies, but I think we can do it.  I think we have in many ways begun to try.

Every time you feel compassion for a stranger, every time you use your empathy to try to understand the world, every time you feed the birds in winter, that’s a part of Paradise.  Every time you look at the world with joy and wonder or up to the stars in awe, you feel a little piece of Paradise in you.

I say this as much to myself as anyone else, because sometimes I tend to forget this part: Don’t just get too caught up in all the things that are wrong with this world, because there /are/ plenty of things wrong with it.  There is sexism and racism and ableism and fascism and no end to all the terrible things some people do, but I don’t think they are all that we can be.

There are good things about mankind, and if we all try to be the best we can be, if we all try to use our empathy and love and compassion, those terrible things would find us a difficult soil to live in.  Fight those terrible things.  Fight them with all your heart.  When you see them, let them fill you with a will to change those things in the world.  But please, remember that there are also good things.  There is hope.  Don’t forget to sometimes just stop in the sunlight and listen to the birdsong, or to look up at the stars.

 

There are plenty of things wrong with the world, and I think that we can fix them.

There are plenty of wonderful things in the world, and I think we can celebrate them.

Together.

 

pao – 9 may 2014 – 16.22

 

  1. “Speak not to me of tears,
    Tyranny, pox, wars,
    Saying, Can God
    Stone of man’s thoughts, be good?
    Say rather it is enough
    That the stuffed
    Stone of man’s good, growing,
    By man’s called God.” (Stevie Smith)