Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost

Ever dream of your own little paradise?

I wonder what you imagine? A tropical island? A cabin in the mountains? A simple cottage on the lake? A farmhouse in the south of France? Sailing the seven seas?

I guess there are hundreds or thousands of options, but all seem to have one element in common. Paradise always seems to be a place of peaceful self-indulgence.

And why not?

The hurry and scurry of modern life gets to be a bit much for most people. After all, it's called a "rat race" for a reason. Many people, especially those who live and work in big cities, feel that the process of their daily lives is akin to rats running through a maze. The piece of cheese at the end of the maze is some kind of reward, but as quickly as that reward is consumed, the race begins again.

Therein lies the problem. Why do we continue to congregate and populate huge cities if they are so deleterious to our happiness?

Most theorists explain that cities are not just the commercial hub of our economy, but also the centre of our sense of well-being. Without a central clearing house of sorts, the exchange of goods and products would be economically impractical. Food, for example, makes its way into our kitchens through local wholesale markets and distribution centres. Some of our food may be produced in faraway places, but we get access to it by the trade and commerce portals in our cities.

Cities provide for us in a multitude of ways. Food is one way. Electricity, heat, protection, employment — these are equally important roles of the modern city. Human beings, it seems, congregate in communities as a way of ensuring their well-being. Politics aside, the city allows for the pursuit of happiness in a different way than, say living in some remote area north of the Arctic circle. City dwellers come to depend on one another for such things as entertainment, education, and religious worship. Living in isolation is simply too hazardous for most of us, and quite frankly, for the select few who have perfected the art of self-survival. After all, even Thoreau eventually left Walden Pond to return to the comforts of society.

And still, that gigantic architectural hodgepodge of the urban landscape is, more often than not, seen as the villain to our fantasies of someday escaping to paradise.

Paradise ... a world in which we dream of finding ourselves, but somehow a place to which we never seem to arrive. For many, that dream is best left a dream. Too often, those who actually do "drop out" and seek a peaceful refuge somewhere in the sun find that their dream of a self-indulgent lifestyle quickly becomes a horrifying nightmare.




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