What is your definition of paradise? Have you been there? Have you tasted it, heard it, inhaled it or held it? Does “Paradise” exist? And why do we pine for it? I’ve been contemplating these questions this week, while attempting to meditate on the north side of St. Croix, a tropical island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
On this particular trip and in past travel experiences through exotic places, I often wondered if I would stumble across paradise. I listened for it in the rainforest, looked underneath coral and shells for it, went swimming under turquoise waters looking for it and sipped down multiple fresh mango smoothies trying to fill myself up with it. Like in meditation, I feel somewhat lost in this search for paradise. Its as if I am wandering about trying to find some kind of bliss I am not even sure exists. What is being zen? Do you feel that way in paradise? And if so how do you find paradise?
Before giving up on this quest entirely, I decided to look in one more place: The online Merriam Webster Dictionary… and there it was! Alas paradise and its true meaning(s)
noun \ˈper-ə-ˌdīs, -ˌdīz, ˈpa-rə-\
: a very beautiful, pleasant, or peaceful place that seems to be perfect
: a place that is perfect for a particular activity or for a person who enjoys that activity
: a state of complete happiness
These explanations left me a bit perplexed. How can paradise be so many things that are different and separate from one another?
So Webster is telling me this: Paradise is a PLACE, one that is so peaceful and beautiful that it seems to be perfect. Is it a place that makes one believe they are content and happy in its perfection, a place that intoxicates one with its surface beauty or the fruits it has to offer.
Paradise is a different PLACE for different people. It is really a place that is elusive in nature, and needs to be sought out and found in a step by step process. First by finding your individual “particular activity” or purpose then by seeking out the one and only and perfect place that will suit your purpose.
Merriam dictionary also says: Paradise is “an imaginary place or state of utter perfection and happiness” So we have all been searching for an imaginary place of utter perfection? Did we somehow miss this definition in school growing up? I am not sure which is more difficult to track down – finding the imaginary place or one of utter perfection.
I looked a little further and found the origin of the word paradise.
“ Middle English paradis, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin paradisus, from Greek paradeisos, literally, enclosed park, of Iranian origin; akin to Avestan pairi-daēza– enclosure; akin to Greek peri around and to Greek teichos wall ”
The origin of this word seems to describe the feelings I have personally when trying to define the word or search out this state for myself. I sometimes feel enclosed or boxed in, as if I have to follow Paradise’s prescribed notions. It was like Paradise itself had set up a boundary for me to search for something that may not exist instead of searching for and observing the things that do exist in my world right in front of me that bring happiness.
Well, where else would you go when lost in search of paradise?
Wikipedia of course: This is how it is defined there:
“Paradise is a religious or metaphysical term for a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and eternal. It is conceptually a counter-image of the supposed miseries of human civilization, and in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness. Paradise is a place of contentment, but it is not necessarily a land of luxury and idleness”
To me this seems like a bit more of a realistic description. Maybe its a post modern paradise?
I believe paradise can only be a place or state in which we interpret and experience individually. It is an existence that we can build for ourselves holding reality and positivity as a guide while, at the same time, letting go of all expectations of others’ definitions of perfection. It’s somewhere in the realization that we do not deserve, find or are given paradise – we create it.
So go ahead and find your own sweet spot wherever you are. Whether it’s in zen meditation, staring out the window of a car, waxing a car, playing guitar or taking 30 second videos… enjoy the process however you plan or live it out and don’t feel judged – it’s your own private paradise after all.
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