Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Paradise of the Impatient and the Miserable

The people who live in a paradise, isolated from the real world, get filled with the notion that something is missing in their life, and they become impatient and miserable. They demand perfection; they demand more power, more wealth, more conveniences, more glory. If they can’t have everything, they will burn everything—either they will be the lords of the perfect paradise or the lords of the chaos. If you have lived in the paradise all your life, you can’t know what the paradise means because you have no experience of the world outside. It is always the impatient and miserable residents of the paradise who use their great power to attain perfection and in the process they destroy the world. Here’s a passage from Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, which is the most depressing novel on the suicide of civilizations that I have read: “The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they became with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier to see something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle's eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn.”

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