Paradise, bad. Tempter, good.

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Monday gratefuls: Feeling almost whole. Paradise. Rental agents. Kep’s legs. The trash. Cooking for myself. That chicken from Rich. French toast. Whipped cream. Ruby. My ride. Kailua. Looking better and better. Or, Kaneohe. Though, windward, tsunami side. Robert Martin. Express mail to Vanguard. Depositing my TABOR check. Healing. The wonder of the body.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Agency


Paradise. A walled Garden in the original Persian, perhaps a hunting preserve. Paradise, a walled Garden for Creation, guarded by an angel with a flaming sword. Been thinking about walled gardens we humans create for ourselves. Gated communities. The Garden of Eden, the first gated community.

Our versions of paradise: Religions and their variants. Political ideologies. Ethnic purity. Even our own homes. That castle of our own. Skin color.

Inside these walled gardens we follow the same version of truth. The supremacy of white skinned humans. Submission to Allah. The Presbyterian version of the Christian story. Or, the Episcopal one. Or, the Pentecostal one. Or, the Roman Catholic one. I’m French. Swiss. American. Malawi. Aboriginal. I fly the Gadsen flag on my pickup. I’m a liberal. A libertarian. A Trumpist. A Nazi. An anarchist.

We mold and shape our perceptions of reality to conform to the presuppositions and biases of our walled Garden. This is confirmation bias. Selective perception.

Each of our walled Gardens also has its own Serpent, its own tempter, who hisses, “Eat of this Tree and you will know all.” This tempter might be biblical scholars who created the documentary hypothesis. Or, that little voice that whispers, “Other people with different skin colors don’t seem so bad.” Or, “What about traditions and heritages that give our lives richness?” Or…

There are so many walled Gardens. So many. Each with their gatekeepers, each with their own tempter. Each with their own Tree and its Fruit. What purpose do they serve? Tamping down ambiguity. Making the inevitable choices of our lives simpler. Creating a matrix against which we can lay our life and determine its worth.

I’m white. A superior race. I deserve my place above the mud people. I’m a liberal. The best political perspective. Why can’t those conservatives understand that? I’m Swiss. Sorry, but you’re not.

Easier to decide who to marry. What job to take. Where to live. Who to listen to. What flag to salute.

Here’s the thing though. Paradise was always an illusion. Those walled Gardens keep you in, narrow your world, define it in ways that often are harmful both to you and to others. Those gatekeepers. That angel with the flaming sword? Keeping you in.

That tempter. May be your guide out of Paradise. That Fruit. That Tree. Eat from it. Right now. It will taste good. Your eyes will open to the complicated, messy, never right or wrong world. Your life will become harder. You’ll have to choose without guard rails. There will be cliffs and sinkholes.

Help enough friends to do the same and you can take out the gatekeeper, walk out of the garden, and into the world as it is. As you were meant to know it. Neither bad nor good. Neither right nor wrong. Filled with the riches of people with different skin colors, of other heritages and traditions, of other nationalities, of other political perspectives.

This is the Field Rumi speaks of, the one beyond good and bad. Go out there, past the gatekeeper of your walled Garden, and I’ll meet you there.