Last weekend, I cleaned out and reorganized my books and papers. I had reached a point where my stuff was living with me instead of me living with my stuff. I felt like a rodent in a hole made out wordy scraps of paper and books stacked behind books under three inches of dust. I had to get rid of some clutter and re-shelve.
Now, I am in a much better space, and I can see all my books neatly arranged on shelves in a system that I understand. Oh my books. I love my books. I have awesome books. Awww.
I also went through my papers. Damn, I've written a lot in my young existence. I sorted old journals, scripts, and scraps. I tossed some stuff but kept a lot of it. Like with the books, I organized the scribblings into a system I understand, so I can find it all (in theory). I found some stuff from 2000 and 2001. Damn, we had some crazy nights.
I also found my journals from 2002. Around this time of year five years ago (2002, yeah, that was five years ago), I was traveling in New Zealand and Australia and having the adventures of a lifetime. I can't believe it was five years ago. I think I need some new adventures.
In an old journal from my time in Wellington, I gave myself a writing assignment. It was to write down my paradise. This whole idea of paradise probably came from New Zealand being called a paradise on earth, yet it's not in some ways, it's just a place. Like any other place, it has good stuff and bad stuff. So what is the paradise that a person carries around with him/her?
I made a list of what would be in my paradise. It began with ‘pens that never run out'. It included good sushi, a cool pair of sunglasses, a really good pint, people who understand that I need to be alone, no clutter, no rush, no worries, and two cats. It ended with ‘writing like a house on fire'.
Reading about my paradise in 2002 made me smile. In a way, I was living in my paradise at the time. Maybe in 2007, I'm living in my paradise, and now it's super organized. Hooray! It's not a perfect paradise, but it's good enough for me right now. My paradise will change, but it's flexible. It's a paradise. It can be anything.
I think it's important to be in touch with our paradises. I grew up being told I would go to heaven after I die but only if I was very very good and listened to the nuns. But really, why wait so long? Why not create paradise in the present? Or at the very least strive for it.
As I was working on this piece, I read Blaine's piece about blind Borges and his library. At the end, he asked ‘Is paradise ours for the taking, but accompanied by the cruel joke as well?'
Maybe for old Borges the pleasure, the paradise, was in the presence of books which in their mere existence can bring comfort. Then again, the existence of anything can bring comfort. I suppose it's about how we live with the thing. And why does a paradise just have to be a place? It could be an idea. It could be anything. Maybe it was the idea of books around Borges that brought him comfort.
I believe that all jokes do have a streak of cruelty in them. For a paradise to be pleasurable to me, there should be a sense of humor to it. Without jokes and humor, we descend into mediocre melodrama and epic pathos, and that's just plain yucky. I'd rather have good sushi and no clutter.