Monday, June 12, 2006

Healthy Paradise & Toxic Paradise: The Paradox of Paradise

In my previous post of yesterday, Sunday June 11, I alluded to the Greek myth of the Hesperides as involving:

...a pre-Christian echo of the symbolism of Paradise—symbolizing the eschatological basis for the existential experience of hope and its transcendent source.

For the most part, the Paradise symbolism of pre-Christian Antiquity, of pre- and para-Christian Judaism, and of the Christian synthesis of Classical mythology and Israelite revelation, are all examples of a "healthy" Paradise. The healthy symbolism reflects, and nourishes, the healthy experience of a foretaste of Paradise that is available to us in terms of an existential paradox of absence and presence. This Paradox of Paradise is really quite simple, on one level:

1) Paradise symbolizes the satisfaction of our deepest longings.

2) In our experience of longing, we have a foretaste of, a participation in, what would fulfill this longing.

3) Furthermore, in our daily human lives, our various experiences of happiness all contain, imperfectly, a measure, a glimpsesometimes stronger, sometimes weakerof the fullness of Paradise.

4) The existence we find ourselves inwhere we have deepest longings that go unfulfilled yet which are variously, tantalizingly prefigurations of a fulfillmentraises in us the corollary existential experience of hope for the logical entelechy of our longings and foretastes: a final fulfillment on one level would seem to be as natural as this state of tension, paradox and mystery which continually frustrates that logical conclusion of our lives, and of the history of all Mankind.

5) Nevertheless, we learnif we have had the benefit of a good pedagogy based in the wisdom of our eldersthat we are not in control of Paradise: its eventuality and fulfillment are out of our hands, in the hands of a higher power. We must humbly and patiently abide by our existential situation of paradox, enjoy what foretastes are offered us, and not begrudge what frustrations and pains come our way. What little control we have pertains to the "little Paradises" our lives encounter, and often that control involves as much prudence as it does the ability to let go of control. And insofar as we help others find more, rather than less, of Paradise in this life, we are participating in the very central substance of Paradise: Love.

6) The preceding five points adumbrate elemental propositions about the healthy Paradisethat is, about our healthy relationship to the Paradox of Paradise that is our existential situation. With respect to virtually every single point, and to virtually every single nuance within each point, we can say that the culture of Islam utterly botches the whole process. Islam does not merely botch it on a theoretical, or mythological, or theological level. Islam botches it on the human, existential, ethical and spiritual levels. Islam's deformation of the symbolism & experience of Paradise not only damages minds, hearts and souls: it tends to manifest that damage in physically violent terms, in profoundly dysfunctional and deranged behaviors in terms of political existence, and geopolitical coexistence. In a nutshell, the pneumopathic lust for Paradise in Islam, as well as its grossly materialized conception in Islam, seriously toxifies both the experience and the symbolism, thereby subverting the Paradox of Paradise, which amounts to a Gnostic repudiation of God. In sum, Islam helps to sustain and nourish a pathological culture whose pathology poses an increasing danger to all non-Muslims.

No comments: