Thursday, February 10, 2011

Introduction: Paradise Narrations

You long for paradise and its art, yearn for it but are told it doesn't exist, that its ideas are counterfeit, and its art, your deepest longing, you can't believe. Talk like this is a trick.  Do believe. When it was in the interest of nineteenth and twentieth century scholars they believed, which does not mean they personally thought paradise existed or the extant art of its form. Were paradise the free speech of what pleases, earth's captives of pleasure gardens on TV, could have their paradises with all comfort. But the art of paradise is not about us. It's about the creatures wild or domesticated that live in a green Thought in a green Shade. Paradise kept with hands brings the natural to the human. Get over disbelief. The child believes, my Wordsworth says, but the adolescent diminishes, imitates the adult. In the private paradise of their minds they go to pillage the garden. Ask and get a perplexed look. One believes in profit. One believes in success. But if you would look for paradise believe as though it were lost. Find a piece. Evening conversations begin, "did you find any paradise today?" Everyone is  looking.

Paradise Narrations, the Restoration of Paradise

A desire to restore earth was forming in the minds of artists concomitant with the industrial revolution, Blake's chimney sweep. Before the present crisis, paralysis- immobilized  agencies were unable to effect  remediation. There was more likely to be a hundred billion subsidy of the car industry than to get a 100 mile a gallon engine. We would have a a 200 mph one. Reinvention paralysis is also metaphorical. Do not sleep past dawn but rise in the night. Thoughts start before four. Creation travails with its problem sons. You could wish they were out of the way, but not if worse were in store. We may go on with daily life, but then wonder why the lights go out. Right up to the end shibboleths of the past argue as if they meant something. Doctrines of the false imagination finish the day and sleep yet another night in evasion and denial.

Empathy for the world is empathy for ourselves, our own healing lies in friendship with the burrow. Whatever the creature is, it is ourselves we endanger, call it salmon, coral reef, shark, prairie dog. What isn't endangered is the exotic importation, the rampant catfish of the Mississippi, non native fish in all streams. When we think to preserve the pristine, we think native with profiling, but our own safeguards and boundaries, whatever they were, surrender to the exotic. The boundaries! This is progress right up until there is no division or all division between us and the natural world. The boundaries, the way we treat nature we treat ourselves, the techniques we use to save it we must use on ourselves, for surely we know that the continuity of folk patterns, which sounds less offensive than to say continuity of nations, that these folk patterns are all that hold us on the ground. Surrendered, the root and stalk of families, will just float away. Kafka's narrators keep talking, for always in the background of their inquiries they seek to find themselves in the other, as though they passed themselves on the street and failed to recognize, which sounds like Borges. It's like they lived in a world surrounded by themselves that they could see but did not know, shadows, simulacrums, puppets, dolls, which look back at them and have the same thoughts they do but neither one knows it. That is what the loss of the wild did to the man, cut him off from himself, so he stumbles in his mind narcotic paralysis but does not see himself as himself, just as those Wonk Yaps seem not to recognize themselves, and even the fiction must be published as if it were an essay.

Kafka's last stories are examples of empathy, always an understanding of a thinking being in Eden in the thoughts of one not an enemy of the world, "Report to an Academy," "Investigations of a Dog," "The Burrow," "Josephine the Singer." The Burrow is after all a disquieted householder maintaining his home. In the silence of narration, "my forehead-that unique instrument," perfectly illustrates our day. The ape in "Report" gives its life for ourselves, just as the hunger artist does, different states of self imprisonment Kafka is prescient about. The ape become a man is now considered by the European Court of Human Rights for treatment  the same  as people. Cases are pending in Spain and Austria, to keep them "from being tortured" (Michele Stumpe, Great Ape Project International). Kafka's animals understand themselves in the natural but the citizens are confused. "The Village Schoolmaster,"obsesses like a rabbi about the the existence of the being that is not, the giant mole which he suspects is a picture of ourselves. To borrow  identity from the natural means to reckon pit pony who went blind in British coal mines an image of ourselves imprisoned by forces we can only feel elsewhere.

Of what does paradise consist, the mountain, dramatic sunsets or the mouse, wee and huge? Two views of it, the outward, where the thing is surface, and the inward, vested with  understanding, a corn field resurrection, a pine tree transformed as Van Gogh makes field and sky alternate, so that if enough people see them they  come to pass.  Dylan Thomas built a synagogue in an ear of corn (A Refusal to Mourn) a church the size of a snail / With its horns through mist and the castle / Brown as owls, and the heron priested shore (Poem in October). Blake in Songs, Roethke, The Far Field, though demented, Lawrence, Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1923), T. H. White, The Book of Merlyn, Ted Hughes, Barry Lopez, Aesop patches of these inhabitants the Wolverine, Field Notes, empathy for the biological,  and for the dead in Apologia. T. H. White's instructs of the animals to Arthur in The Book  of Merlyn sprung from his translated 12th century bestiary, The Book of Beasts.

These amount to a naming of the animals, for to name a thing you must understand its nature, dream of it, meditate it like St. Francis, but not like a government biologist thinning wild horse herds or elk to protect cattle. It is the level of care than makes these things possible, for if you don't care you lose it, masquerading human good as a care of the wild. How Adam took care of the garden, meaning the lives within it, might need some examination, so preconditions of paradise exist, the main one is health; you must think free of hindrance, fatigue, prejudice, greed.
 Paradise goes further. Free of the separation which we reckon occurred with the serpent. If we say America is a paradise, as in myth before its discovery, but that America is besieged by enemies who call it a colonial fantasy of sexism and racism, it is what you call it. Thinking makes it so. Enemies of paradise destroy forests, prairies and animals, dystopia over utopia, symbols of destruction over innocence that fantasies of paradise invite. It's hard to imagine paradise in an age of experience that denies even while it longs for memories of wholeness it forgot. Was there peace? Rational discourse takes paradise as a waste. Nobody wants the inferno, but there is no succor in the disconnect.

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