Paradise Is Not a Destination

I have tried to write Paradise

Do not move
Let the wind speak
that is paradise.

-- Ezra Pound, Canto CXX

Our story begins in a garden.  The garden, in the earliest Greek translation of the Old Testament, is called paradeisos, after an ancient Persian word for a walled garden that served as the private preserve of kings.  For nearly a thousand years, pious cartographers were careful to give it a place on their maps in fanciful realms beyond the known world.  St. Brendan, a 6th-century Irish monk, sailed west across the Atlantic in search of Eden and returned with fantastic tales of an island paradise that later explorers were never able to locate.  Christopher Columbus, on his third voyage in search of a western route to India, sighted a land mass he believed to be the "earthly paradise wither no man can go except by God's permission."  He went to his grave without realizing he had discovered the New World. 

I have tried to write Paradise, Ezra Pound wrote, signaling the futility of such an enterprise.  The word "paradise" is capitalized the first time it appears in the poem above but not the second.  Paradise with a capital "P" suggests the self-consciousness with which the poet undertakes his mission -- the inevitable result being to call attention to the effort without quite being able to bring it off.  Paradise is a destination that can only be reached when you have no intention of getting there.  Even to think of it as a destination puts you on the wrong track. 

Paradise must always catch us unaware.  That's because it can only be here when "you" are not.  The angel that guards the gates of Eden with a flaming sword is nothing other than yourself.  There is no eluding him, since your every attempt will only stir him to greater vigilance.  To catch him napping, "you" must sleep as well.

To find paradise, you must not look elsewhere. You can never get there from here, because here is where it is.  Do not move, Pound advised.  Let the wind speak.   Listen so intently that there is no longer any awareness of anyone listening.  Seek with such abandon that there is no longer a seeker, no one at all, only the wind and a new world.  That is paradise with a small "p."  

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