The cashier in the cafeteria at the company where I once worked had an all-purpose comment for every absurdity of life. "Another day in paradise," he would say with mock exasperation to all and sundry. His name was Rawley. Having cultivated an air of perpetual bemusement, Rawley could say pretty much whatever came into his head with little danger of being taken seriously. He would cheerfully utter the most outrageous threats and insults, with as much effect on the intended target as stoning him with popcorn. On Halloween, St. Patrick's Day and other festive occasions, Rawley would appear in costume at his cash register. One year he showed up as an angel, complete with a halo and cheesecloth wings. If this were indeed another day in paradise, Rawley was at least dressed for the part.
Sometimes when Rawley would announce that another day in paradise was upon us, I thought I detected something more than the usual drollery in his manner of delivery. There is only so far you can go in the direction of drollery without stirring up suspicion that perhaps all this exaggerated nonchalance masked a more serious intent. I wondered if he were trying to tell us something, hoping to disarm us with a sly grin and a wink. What if this was another day in paradise, and Rawley had been dispatched with his fake halo and cheesecloth wings to bring us the news?
The wisest among us have always known that paradise is not a place but a state of mind. "To different minds," Emerson said, "the same world is a hell, and a heaven." This is not some other world Emerson was talking about but this one, the one where we have to go to work every day. Perhaps we got up on the wrong side of bed this morning or got stuck in traffic. We get to work late, and the boss is already asking for us. Where is that assignment we were supposed to have finished? Our day already hangs in the balance. Which is it to be, heaven or hell? The signs aren't looking too good. But maybe that's because we're looking in the wrong place. As Satan informs his minions in Paradise Lost, "The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven." Maybe what we need is a cup of coffee so we can wake up. We head down to the cafeteria, and Rawley is waiting for us at the cash register. He is there to remind us of the way things really are. "Another day in paradise," he says with a sly grin and a wink.