‘The longing for Paradise is man’s longing not to be man.’

‘And paradise is the capacity to be happy, not bored, with monotony, with repetition. As animals are, “because only animals were not expelled from Paradise.” “The longing for Paradise is man’s longing not to be man.” Paradise then is not exactly a longing for repetition; a world without repetition’s alternative, without knowledge of the irrevocable, of the once-and-for-all changes that are the very condition of our conscious (and indeed our physical) life. These changes occur to animals too, of course, but (we assume) they don’t interpret then as we do. They think perhaps, they interpret behaviour; but they don’t register change or time, or they register them lightly, merely as the necessary means of measuring continuity and return. Paradise is theirs and can’t be ours; the Fall is not the fruit of sin, it is mere mortality and the consciousness of it; the world of the forgiving novelist.’

Michael Wood, Maps of Fiction

3 thoughts on “‘The longing for Paradise is man’s longing not to be man.’

  1. Some years ago, I realized that there is no need to buy varieties of cat or dog food. As far as we know, a dog or cat does not approach its food bowl and think, “Geez, I had chicken hash yesterday!” Instead, from what we can see, their reaction is, “Yum! Chicken hash!”

    On the other hand, repetition IS often a source of happiness: the happiness of comfort and predictability. People read their third, fourth, twentieth Agatha Christie and P. G. Wodehouse novel because they want more of the same. And far more of our existence depends on continuity than on change, while it’s also true that animals are far better at detecting some types of change–the flicker of a rabbit’s tail in the bushes, for example–than are humans.

    it’s a thought-provoking quotation, but I’m not sure I fully agree with it.

    • Reading a twentieth Agatha Christie might be predictable, but I wouldn’t describe it as repetitive in the sense that Michael Wood intends.

      It chimes well with my own way of looking at life, but here as a provocation more than an assertion.

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