So the Book of Genesis. Adam and Eve were prepared a place to live by God planting for them a garden. God planted it. So it was laid out for their use by him, a gift of love; and so was not like a forest or a piece of wild and natural ground. It was ordered and orderly and a haven within which Adam and Eve whilst sinless were able to live and enjoy their lives and the delights and fruits of their appointed garden.
A kind of early Gated Community perhaps? One guarded over by God’s angels and gifted to Adam and Eve in love and consideration. Likewise angels oversaw Eden in love and consideration so as to protect and keep safe their charges.
In these present times we have such places. Rock stars are a group of persons who like to use them; although many rich and/or famous persons have them. Commonly on Caribbean islands, where the weather is largely guaranteed good; and where real estate is not so pricey and where a large pool of local persons is available to hire for service tasks.
These enclosed spaces are usually palatial and on a grand scale. Every convenience and commodity, commonly and uncommonly available are not spared. They are as much show-off objects of status and wealth as they are secluded private homes and space for the superrich. It is usual for their owners and dwellers to invite guests to stay and so for them to enjoy the expansive leisures of the life they lead there. Thus they become private societies; wherein whom they exclude is as indicatively important as those whom they include. Strictly by invitation only.
These palatial possessions are gorgeously gardened and inevitably they are also walled. Walking in well-kept gardens can raise a reminiscent of a person’s idea of Eden. But these big shot owners don’t garden; or if they do they might dabble; leaving the bulk of, and the heavy work of, maintaining the gardens to paid servants.
Of course these Gated Communities are protected and secure just as was that Garden planted by God in the East; but guarded not by angels; but by hired men on conning towers with armaments and instructions to use them. With instructions to deter those who have no invitation. Thus the established rock star or actor or such has his/her own Praetorian Guard, own Republican Guard; which is established not on love and consideration but on money and a threat of violence.
Adam and Eve were the gardeners of Eden; there were no others helping them. Theirs was for food the fruit and vegetables of Eden which they tended; and their entertainment was to enjoy the beauties and peace and fruitfulness of the garden they tended. God we are told would ‘walk’ in their garden from time to time and himself enjoy the leisure of doing so. A simple and uneventful life of innocence and temperate reward for labour.
Gardens are an occupation. Of body, of labour, and of mind. They are places good for thinking in and for delighting in; places of peace which allow the mind to ease itself and so become more fecund of and of more facility with ideas. That garden planted by God in the East had no modern conveniences; yet it was sufficient; and deemed by man’s Maker sufficient for a man and a woman to live fulfilled lives therein.
Back in the Caribbean whereabouts poverty is a next-door neighbour for most of its populations; and where side by side against this endemic penury are seated the stately houses of ultra-wealthy revellers along with grounds and appurtenances and gadgetry. No angels on guard here. High-tech security; alarms linked to local Police stations; infra-red and microchip technologies; iris authentications and light and movement sensory detectors. There is great temptation to the poor to break in and steal or wreck; but there is for them greater deterrent of death or imprisonment from the hired guards, who are well paid themselves and so therefore loyal; and threat from the alarmed and electrified walls and wires.
Only when Adam and Eve were evicted by God from their garden did God present threat violence in the shape of an angel with a flaming sword turning it this way then that way barring entrance into Eden. With the introduction of sin into the world came the violent expulsion of men and women from Paradise.
These Caribbean Gated Communities of rock stars etc and their cohorts of friends; are run by the labours of huge amounts of local people. Jobs on Caribbean islands are scarce and good jobs a greater rarity and well-paid secure good jobs not heard of apart from with these palatial livers. So who among these menials is going to rock that boat once they have landed a plum job in such a place? Would not anyone of us in such a situation know which side the bread was buttered for us?
Thus the big shot rich guys in their presences on Caribbean islands obtain to some sway among the local authorities, and over their many menial employees. Such is the power of wealth and its manipulations. Are there persons among us who would not use such power in such ways were they also endowed with like wealth and influence? Only the proof of the pudding is in the eating of it.
Adam and Eve were sent out of Eden after their disobedience in eating of the Tree of Knowledge; when sin came into the world and men and women were accursed to live by the sweat of their brows and to face a nature naked in tooth and claw wherein to set up their homes. The beast of the field instead of lying down with the lamb now became a danger and a threat. The garden and its idyll were gone, seemingly forever.
Yet here today we see rich persons to be pretenders to setting up secular Edens so to live out the idyll. They neither toil not nor do they spin, and are arrayed like Solomon in all his glory with the finest stuffs of Paris fashion houses. They also ransack the earth remorselessly to obtain this or that which is scarce or expensive and which whether it uses up or abuses too much of earth’s resource is immaterial. ‘The glory of the garden occupieth all who come.’
But it is a glory not heavenly; it is an imitation of heavenly glory; a shadow of it; a travesty and a parody of it; and has turned on its head the beauty of the story of the Garden in the East. Instead of an idyll this Caribbean travesty is presented to unengaged observers as being a slough, a fen a quagmire of entrapment by the World the Flesh and the devil. Once a dweller in such a palatial gated community has acquiesced in, succumbed to, and committed himself to such a lifestyle and under such conditions (around about and outside of their domain) their spirit is hooked-in and made captive to the ugly gravitational draw of sublunary murk.
Jesus did not say that a rich man cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven; he said ‘it is hard for a rich man to enter’. He said that with God all things are possible. But surely it is not the riches which are objectionable; what are objectionable are the uses they are being put to. A man or woman is able to serve God with his/her uses of wealth. I do not believe appropriating place and position and thereby excluding the world and one’s neighbour, ignoring Lazarus at the gates, and like Poe’s Masque of the Red Death revelling whilst adjacent suffering is all around; I do not feel this is legitimate nor do I feel it is in the spirit of love.
The essence of that Garden in the East as told in story in the Book of Genesis, more than half its glory and beauty, delight and attractiveness, over the course of perhaps all sentient time to date, and an essence which has kept the story alive and current, is that unattainable state of innocence; that not having to watch one’s back, or just as likely to work hard prevent oneself from attacking another’s unwatched back; that place wherein such a Paradise existed.
It is a place of the mind; of the spirit; it reiterates that ‘groaning of the spirit’ which St Paul identifies yearning inside us; it is a place to which one goes in one’s prayers; and a place at which our hopes rest awaiting us. It is the life of Jesus the Lord as presented in the record of the gospels; a landscape of his character and identity. It is far more than just a redundant fable.
Out in the Gated Caribbean, in Qatar, in the many spots and schemes idolising their secular Edens, and at all our other Babylons of currency; there is nothing but an inversion of the law of love, a dulling of the edge of the spirit, and a sharpening of the sword of vengeance – to come whether from above or below is there any telling?
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