Toni Morrison: can we find paradise on Earth?

Tony Morrison in The Telegraph:

Toni-1-reuters_2272684cThe idea of paradise is no longer imaginable or, rather, it is overimagined, which amounts to the same thing — and has therefore become familiar, commercialised, even trivial. Historically, the images of paradise in poetry and prose were intended to be grand but accessible, beyond the routine but imaginatively graspable, seductive as though remembered. Milton speaks of “goodliest trees, loaden with fairest fruit, Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue… with gay enamelled colours mixed…; of Native perfumes.” Of “that sapphire fount the crisped brooks, Rolling on orient pearl and sands of gold…” of “nectar visiting each plant, and fed flowers worthy of Paradise… Groves whose rich trees wept odorous gums and balm; Others whose fruit, burnished with golden rind, Hung amiable… of delicious taste. Betwixt them lawns, or level downs, and flocks Grazing the tender herb.” “Flowers of all hue and without thorn the rose.” “Caves of cool recess, o’er which the mantling vine Lays forth her purple grape and gently creeps Luxuriant …”

That beatific, luxurious expanse we recognise in the 21st century as bounded real estate owned by the wealthy and envied by the have-nots, or as gorgeous parks visited by tourists. Milton’s Paradise is quite available these days, if not in fact then certainly as ordinary, unexceptionable desire. Modern paradise has four of Milton’s characteristics: beauty, plenty, rest and exclusivity. Eternity seems to be forsworn. Beauty is benevolent, controllable nature combined with precious metal, mansions, finery and jewellery. Plenty in a world of excess and attending greed, which tilts resources to the rich and forces others to envy, is an almost obscene feature of a contemporary paradise.

More here.