As I watched the work finished, a young lady appeared and sat down, completing the picture. It seemed the table was made with her in mind. Her beauty had a rare freshness. She needed no makeup nor did she use any. She was plainly dressed with a pleasant air about her. A certain undefined sweetness and innocence guarded her privacy and dignity.
I introduced myself and commented on the garden viewed through the window; from there the conversation progressed to conceptions of paradise.
If humans arrived in paradise, how long would it be paradise? How long before they would demand more? How long before boredom would set in and difference of opinion would breed discontent?
Many people's idea of paradise is a place of eternal bliss where there are no problems, no work, no duties or responsibilities. I'm sorry, but that is not the case. The spiritual realm also has things to do. Remember after Eden was prepared, the creator said, "Let us make man in our image," and when man was placed in Eden he was to "dress it and keep it." Obviously man was created for a purpose in the paradise Earth. From the beginning he became derelict in his duties and paradise was lost to him and his progeny.
Ever since Eden man has been trying to regain paradise. Men dream of it, talk and write about it, but never grasp the elusive goal. They know not God and hence do not obey His laws, and without Him there can be no paradise on this earth. In the past when men discovered isolated areas or islands that approximated their idea of paradise, they destroyed it in a short time by erroneous teachings, disease and bigotry, exploiting land and natives for profit and plunder, and paradise remains only a dream never to be realized because of man, his own worst enemy. They have usurped and distorted the authority of God; created a different God in man's image, and it is impossible for it to bring peace and paradise to Earth.
It would take perfect men to bring to birth paradise and maintain it, and there are no such men on Earth. Even if there were a perfect man on this Earth he could make little change without the help of many others.
The Navajo says, "Perfection at anything in life is only to be desired, but never realized fully. Death is perfection and perfection is death. … All things are change and difference." Perhaps they mean that if perfection were ever achieved, there would be no further progress and death would be the result, hence death is perfection. However they meant it, we know that perfection is not within the our grasp during our stay here in this world.
However, a virtual paradise could be here if we allowed it to be. Each of us should take time to visit the pristine regions of our mountains, our beaches, our deserts. There are still some left. Go with the quiet determination to observe and appreciate what nature has to say to us; the beauty of primitive creation, the simple things, the clothing of the Earth made for man's spirit that can lift him from the mundane to euphoric heights. And know that he is something more than just animal, that he is something extraordinarily special in God's creation and that this beautiful globe was meant to be enjoyed, not destroyed.
The young lady told me if I would follow her she would show me the meaning of paradise. We entered what at first seemed like a jungle, which in reality was an ancient garden. We came upon a small meadow with beautiful birds and flowers of many kinds everywhere, in the midst of which walked a beautiful olive-skinned maiden completely unclothed, her arms filled with flowers. I stood quietly. She said nothing. There was no sexual overture, nor desire. Her beauty alone was more than desire, more satisfying and fulfilling than sex.
I began to understand that this was paradise pure and unadulterated without selfish gratification, with the beauty of it radiating a quiet contentment; a place where fault defined as sin did not exist.
I had been shown a small portion of Eden for a few moments, which neither I nor anyone else could possess within the confines of this world, where we exist within the prison we have created and from which we cannot escape.
Paradise? Perhaps some other time in the distant future man will be given the key on a lazy Saturday afternoon, with the wind gently brushing the roof.
JACK V. ADLER is an El Centro resident.