Paradise Lost Revisited
When I think about the reasons behind this all embracing futility informing our lives, I immediately find myself plunged into a kind of dwelling which is strange through and through. This all encompassing aimlessness is, I am of a firm and strong belief, the result of human sterility and incapacity for action. It is the outcome of human stagnation and inertia. Each one fixed his eyes before his feet and no attention, no awareness, no point of reference has been assigned to the future. Our lives are measured by the material as well as the sensual but never by the spiritual. There is this painful paucity of any guiding moral principles. There is this utterly disappointing absence from our lives of any spiritual values. There is no need then, to doubt the fact that we are living in an overwhelming desolation. People have become incessantly curious to know everything except what is worth knowing. They know the price of everything but the value of nothing. They are impatiently longing for possessing what is ephemeral. They are ready to invest every effort for the sake of pleasure.
What if we take love? Do people love one another? Perhaps they were right in putting love into books. Faulkner proclaimed somewhere. Perhaps it could not live anywhere else. Do they believe in lofty and noble feelings? La vie se presse dans les coeurs. C’est certain. L’amour fait oublier tout ce qui n’est pas divin comme lui, et l’on vit plus en quelques instants que pendant de longues periods. Mais ou’ est, pour l’amour de Dieu, ou’ est l’amour ? There are only some big words in their mouths. It is increasingly clear that there is only futility and faked emotions. We live in an age of futility when what is essential is made trivial and what is trivial is made essential. We are living in an age, one of them made it this way for some reason, where all the unnecessary things are our only necessities. Nothing seems to be in its place. Everything is at sea. Everything seems to be going through the wrong way. Everything is going badly everywhere.
Were anyone to ask me today my opinion about our age, i would take it to be the age of the transience of experience and the aimlessness and senslessness of life.
Dust I am, to dust am bending,
From the final doom impending.
Je ne suis rien comme ça, sinon cendre et poussière.
Je ne suis rien comme ça, sinon cendre et poussière.
With these awkward ideas warring in my mind, with these strange impulses struggling in my heart, i really find it extremely difficult for me not to remember someone who, albeit his blindness, saw things invisible to mortal sight. I find it definitely difficult for me not to remember him because the things he voiced and confessed are far and far beyond the slutishness of forgetfulness and oblivion. The things he managed to lay bare were not to emanate from scratch or ex nihilo. They were not going to accept being gleaned out of nothing as many would take them to be. There is something then truer and more real than what we can see with the eyes and touch with the finger to deploy, in a way, some authoritarian Hawthornian words. Indeed, this man is absolutely suggestive of many things we, modern men, find past comprehension and at the same time past apprehension. To prove this, let us first have a first glance of perusal at what kind of things he, the man of his age and all the ages that went and still to come, might say:
Thus they in Heav’n, above the starry sphere,
Their happy hours in joy and hymning spent.
Meanwhile upon the firm opacous ° Globe
Of this round world, ° whose first convex ° divides
The luminous inferior Orbs, ° enclosed
From Chaos and th’inroad of Darkness old,
Satan alighted works: a Globe far off
It seem’d, now seems a boundless Continent
Dark, waste, and wild, under the frown of night
Starless expos’d, and ever-threat’ning storms
Of Chaos blust’ring round, inclement sky;
Save on that side which from the wall of Heav’n
Though distant far some small reflection gains
Of glimmering air less vext with tempest loud:
Here walk’d the Fiend at large in spacious field.
These lines, pour donner à César ce qui appartient à César, are remarkably evocative of an outstanding and penetrating frame of mind this man seems to have kept and cherished. It is not within the borders of possibility for us to read them without being touched by their extreme profundity both in form and meaning. What is happening, one should ask now, above the starry sphere? Here there is only the frown of night starless exposed, and ever threatening storms of chaos blustering round the inclement sky. Here walked the fiend (meaning a cruel or evil person) at large in spacious field up and down bending on his preys and fearing from no one whomsoever. Is there nobody here to stand against him? Is there no one to prevent him from doing the harm he has and still continues to engender in the human race? Why isn’t there somebody here to stop him? Where is every body? Don’t they try to stop him at all?
In order to be generous and provide an answer to the question I of recently have come to mention above (What is happening above the starry sphere? As with regard to the last set of questions, suffice it to point out that one had better have some sort of dependency upon himself and never wait for others to mend the rip), I will say right from the onset that this question is, at its best, badly formulated and posed. Where upon, just by way of consequence, it should never be asked or even speculated upon. My reason for that is the fact that we are Humans with so many ambitions and so few conditions. It is not really up to us nor for us either to ask questions to which there are no convincing answers, let alone practical ones. What is happening above the starry sphere is beyond our knowledge (see the Koran, surat Elanbiae, Aya 22 but also Aya 23). In so saying, I wish I would not be accused of being negativistic or pessimistic. For there does not really seem to be much point in being or trying to be like that. I wish I would not end up by falling in that kind of slippery slope fallacy which stands against things of the future without satisfactory reasons. In the mean time, I have said that because I did not want to dwell on abstract things whose applicability and expediency in our empirical world is most of the time depressing and heartbreaking. Then, in attempting to back up my stance and hence make up for the question I tried to exclude, I would rather have a preference to come up with which is an other question serving the same purpose. What is happening down this round earth?
Let us try to settle it and ask then whatever question we might ask.
In an answer to the latter question, again that man will be found of great service and assistance to us not because he produced one but rather because he produced , and to put it in a sophisticated way, none, and yet was very close to it. His poem is highly descriptive of what is happening down this round earth. He had been aware of the fact that, as I said in the beginning, the task of real intellectuals (not those who pretend, for the examples are thick on the ground as a matter of fact.) consists chiefly and paramountly in analyzing the illusions present in this world in order to discover their causes. He, in this respect wrote:
So on this windy Sea of land, the fiend
Walked up and down alone bent on his prey,
Alone, for other creature in this place
Living or liveless to be found was none,
None yet, but store° hereafter from the earth
Up hither like Aerial vapours flew
Of all things transitory and vain, when sin
With vanity had fill’d the works of men:
Both all things vain, and all who in vain things
Built their fond hopes of Glory or lasting fame,
Or happiness in this or th’other life;
This is exactly what is happening down this round earth. The fiend is doing very well in his job. He confirmed himself in evil and felt how awful goodness is, and then started at once performing his task through the various exercises and drills he set forth for himself and which he incessantly confers on the human race. He was determined to take one way in life and so he opted for the wrong one and yet excelled in it. He excelled in it because he was alone (not now to tell the truth !) and so he took advantage of the entire land where both living and liveless creatures are past everything due to their ignorance and from which most of them refuse and rebuff to escape. He succeeded in playing his hoax and scam upon them when they invested their energies and efforts in things which are transient, passing and worthless. The long series of trivial, clumsy vain efforts born out of frustration and fumbling and dumb instinct. They are playing with sin not in the secret house of shame but rather in public. (See the Koran; Sura 6; Aya 128). Not only sin but also vanity, these are the ideals they imbued their works with. But the most dismal of all according to my perspective
( to analyse the illusions in order to detect their causes) is that they still do not know how to prune themselves. Now, they expectingly want their works to be geared towards Glory and lasting fame. They expectingly long for happiness. Mais la gloire et le Bonheur, comme on le sait, ne s’achètent pas par la vanité. Their reward on Earth, John Milton tells us, is the fruits of painful superstition and blind Zeal. They would find fit retribution empty as their deeds.
They would find fit retribution just as empty as their deeds. For their works are filled with sin and vanity. From this and as Milton expressed it later, what must be worse; Of worse deeds sufferings must ensue with no regard or account whatever to what Hypocrites austerely talk of purity and place and innocence. (See again the Koran; Sura 6; Aya 112 but equally Aya 113). There is no reason for hope in this respect. What is hope in short? It is an unpatterned process of living in life while cleaving to a good prospect of faith. It is the process of living along with an aim of achieving what one thinks he deserves to achieve. There is no reason then at all for them to hope for Glory and lasting fame because what is wrong is always wrong even if the world in its entirety is defending it. (See again the Koran; Sura 6; Aya 116-117). Their final hope is, as Milton had shown in Paradise Lost, nothing but flat despair. It is not easy to think of it otherwise. There is actually no point, there is no good, there is no way of righteousness to come out of things which are transitory and vain. This is perhaps why John Milton takes this round earth to be no more than a windy sea of land dark, waste, and wild under the frown of night starless exposed and ever threatening storms of chaos blustering round the inclement sky.
Save on that side which from the wall of Heav’n
Though distant far some small reflection gains
Of glimmering air less vext with tempest loud.
Of this, one needs to talk at length because it seems that even Milton himself did not find much to say about Heaven. “When we have offended against Heaven,” A Chinese good man rightly said, “ there is nowhere we can turn to in our prayers”.(See for instance the Koran ; Sura 6 ; aya 104). Milton did not find much to say about it. Only a small reflection has escaped the ever threatening storms of chaos. A small reflection but an extremely pertinent one without which there can really be no talk of anything worth mentioning or dwelling upon. Milton, I must say again, found it at stake for himself to talk about Heaven except perhaps when he, by way of need and desire alike, attempted to strike a balance between the starry sphere and the firm opacous Globe of this round world. But in truth, Milton desperately failed in so doing and this should come as no surprise to us because Milton is in the midst of life and what is more than this, he did not make a radical choice whether to take this way or the other. He could by no means hope to give a full account of something in which he himself is immersed, plunged and submerged. He must have been greatly affected by both ways which means that he is incipiently victim of division. Milton in his “Paradise Lost” allowed the devil to have his say. The devil, however, was trying to prevent Milton from having his say. Milton failed as a consequence which means that he succeeded. The devil succeeded which means that he failed. The very paradigm of success and failure is not a successful one for those who are reading my paper without enough attention. I said above that I am a master of disappointing and I care very little for that. My brothers and sisters will not be disappointed. I am certain about it. It is as if then that Milton, to go back to him, were saying in the words of Shelley in his essay (On Love): “Ask him who lives what is life; ask him who adores what is God”.
Why does everything around us seem to be at sea except on that side which from the wall of Heaven? What makes, let us ask out of curiosity and inquisitiveness, the glimmering air less vext with tempest loud? So long as questioning is a key to knowledge, we all need to inquire about things before accepting to refuse or refusing to accept them. It is not difficult to ask questions but it is rather difficult to provide answers to them. Everything seems to be at sea because almost everybody lost faith in goodness. But why? It is because goodness is simple and badness manifold. Everything seems to be at sea, i think, because no attention is rightly called to the dreadful deeds human beings are doing. Everything seems to be at sea because instead of fighting against Fiends, we are fighting against one another. Everything seems to be at sea because we are suffering from the lack of direction and conduct and Kant is giving a pretty decent espousal of obedience and its positive harvest. Everything seems to be at sea because we are reprimanding external things quite oblivious to ourselves. What is happening above the starry sphere is absolutely none of our business. What is happening down this round earth, however, is our business. Everything seems to be at sea because instead of having ourselves occupied with our business, we are wasting so much time in things that are far from being our business. Take this earth. It is running to its own destruction, isn’t it? Let us explore just for one moment along with John Milton the precious nature men’s vicious hands have spoiled and sullied for no good reason. Thanks poor Tom, thanks indeed. You have at least come to find out what has long been past finding out. Our lives would not come to an end if we did not end the lives of others. Have we lost sight of what is happening down this earth? Many are those who will say it is not any concern of theirs. Many are those who will let things take place and then start asking: Why aren’t they done the other way round? Many are those who will lose the battle of life from the first encounter. They are those on whom it is said that the bravest men among them is afraid of himself and from whom nothing is to be achieved axcept sheer disappointment. Indeed, there is really nothing to be expected from those who expect nothing from themselves. There is really nothing to come out of nothing. De rien, rient ne sort. Je vois quelque chose de plus faux dans leur position, à eux et surtout à moi.
I have said let us explore along with Milton the precious nature, mother nature men’s ferocious and brutal hands have blemished and tainted for no good reason.
All th’unaccomplisht works of Nature’s hand,
Abortive, ° monstrous, or unkindly° mixt,
Dissolv’d on earth, fleet hither, and in vain, °
Till final dissolution, wander here,
Not in the neighbouring Moon, as some have dream’d;
I can hardly have one single reason for hoping to express in prose what Milton have done in verse but still, I want to express even this inexpressibility which grabs hold of me each time I feel like expressing my self. My reason soon becomes shrivelled up in the fire of emotion and I accordingly wonder why is it that our lives are handled this way and not another way more promising and rewarding. Milton’s lines, to thrust back to our context, depict the kind of conduct human beings are following in their tussle with nature. It is a misconduct through and through. They unreasonably and at times unconsciously destroy the elements of nature and hope then to see and live in a better place in this world. Nature, as Defoe rightly said, appears to be stripped of all the additional Glories, which it derives from religion. It is destroyed instead of being preserved. They, by means of ignorance, fall preys to counterproductiveness because they failed to make a simple distinction between the means and the end, the process and the objective. All the unaccomplished works of Nature, human beings do not seem to know, will melt and break up on this earth. They will dissolve in vain till final dissolution becomes altogether apparent to everyone of them not in the neighbouring Moon as many might have wished and dreamed but rather in this round earth. Human beings with all their trumpery will come to terms with “Vain hopes, vain aims, inordinate desires blown up with high conceits engendering pride”.
Heaven, What is happening above the starry sphere? Is there no way out of this round Earth towards Heaven? I am sure there is a way without disavowal and xenophobic rejection. There is a way in which the fiend will flee along with his shades of night.( Sura 6 ; Aya 126). But who will take this way? Let us face it. Who will take this way? Those who believe in Heaven and work on earth or those who neither believe in Heaven nor work on earth. As with regard to those who believe in Heaven and do not work on earth or those who do not believe in Heaven and work on earth, they are not at all to be taken into account. The space of this paper allows no room for me to talk about them. We have to do everything ourselves if we want to know anything about Heaven. We have to do everything ourselves without waiting for others to show us the directions and instructions. Nobody knows what sort of thing Heaven is. Nobody knows what kind of things which might be found in Heaven. We have to do everything ourselves in order to know real things. Haven’t we had enough of betrayals and things that are transitory and vain. No matter how much pain being alive will necessitate, we have to be alive. No matter how much trouble this will take. This is the whole point. It is better than being dead to all things central and vital in our lives. Il n’y a pas de temps mort, pour ainsi dire, dans cette vie. La vie, Aziza Lounis a dit, doit etre une chasse perpétuelle vers le Bonheur. Mais quel bonheur ? Il faut également accepter et considèrer le caractère éphémère du Bonheur et le pousuivre pour toujours. We have to be alive in everything around us because life is devoid of meaning otherwise. Let us live with the spiritual because it is, indeed, the spirit that matters most. The material and the sensual will bring nothing constructive with them. For as Friedrich Holderlin articulated it somewhere, who cares for things that will die the earth will have them? Who cares for things ephemeral and passing?
“Nobody thinks, nobody cares, no beliefs, no convictions, and no enthusiasms”. This is really more than one can bear. This is too much for humanity. We are living at a juncture of history when things are starting to portend and bode with nothingness and dissolution. What consolations are there for us mortals who saw and witnessed things unbearable? We are living with so many fiends and so few friends. It is unreservedly pitiable and disheartening to go on living this way without ruminating another way out of this vision of Hell on earth. It is really painful to live in these bleak times when people appear to have forgotten entirely about the reason behind their existence on this round Earth. Work and life should be part of one existence. Most people have curtailed their principles because of the pressures they incessantly exercise upon one another. A group together, depending on each other, knowing what they want, knowing how to get it, this is something like a dream never supported by reality. A unified group of people is all we need in order to stand firmly against degeneration. Nous voulons un tout organisé tendant vers un but unique. The individual toppling is the outcome of the social toppling. It is tremendously important to have our minds completely made up to things essential and fundamental in our lives rather than to get them worked up to and have them set up upon things transitory and vain. Life is not as complex and problematic as many have said and thought. It is not a play of passion. It is not to be arrested through a few organized words heated with emotion after all. We live it and that is it.
To live life the way we set down for our selves without allowing any kind of external imposition to be conferred upon us is the highest aspiration we have both at the individual and social level. It is, in fact, of no use to keep on reiterating the fact that to live is to make things happen and push them to come about. To live is to create and invent. Il faut toujours, Guy de Maupassant a dit, chercher, trouver, inventer, tout comprendre, tout prévoir, tout combiner, tous oser. The purport, in much simpler terms, is to be awake, to be alive. “Arise, awake, or be forever fallen” John Milton would say.
We have everything in our hands in order to look for a way out of this extremely desolating dispensation. One never can tell what will be from what is. Courage and fortitude reside in our hearts. When we are confronted with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage. A’ quoi bon avoir la lacheté? A’ quoi bon ? je voudrais savoir. Seuls les làches, pour une fois pour toutes, se cachent derrière le silence. Courage and fortitude represent then, certainly, fundamental attributes of humanity. Nothing precious and valuable has ever been achieved without their intervention. They are of a great reward to us upon one pertinent ground; They are things of the spirit. When the spirit matters again in our lives, we know how much meaning they add up and generate to us. We have got to settle it from the start in order to see and guess how far we are going to move through life. These are not things we are waiting to be imbued with. These are things of foundation and background. If we do not keep up with them, there will be no use of them. Let us not forget that spiritual values once kept they are inalterable. They never accept, God how repellent this word is to me !, compromises. It is better to have no spirit, as I have argued in the beginning, than to have a compromising one especially as far as moral and spiritual standards are concerned. He who has an uncompromising spirit has the Earth and everything that is in it and what is more, he is a man. The Chinese master said: “Look at the means a man employs, observe the path he takes and examine where he feels at home. In what way is a man’s true character hidden from view? In what way is a man’s character hidden from view?” A man’s character will never be concealed from our sight. What we eat in private, so to speak, will be shown in public. Let us, for God’s sake, face it without wearing masks or painted faces. Have we not seen what kind of life hypocrites are handling? Have we not seen what kind of end many of them have reached? In what way is a man’s character hidden from view?
Prostrated are those who prostrate without ever knowing what it means or what it entails. One needs to be better equipped with knowledge before taking any move forward or backward. But most important of all, we all need to stop looking backward. Can any sense be made out of those who move through life while latching on to ignorance? Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense. There are many people who are not only ignorant but also inflexible and egotistical. Can anything be made out of what they do or say? Nothing, nothing, nothing. Au fond, comme dit STENDHAL, Vous et moi, nous ne voulons certainement pas vivre avec ces gens-là; mais sur beaucoup de questionsn nous pensons comme eux… Nous ne sommes de ce parti que pour en partager les malheurs. The best thing we can do, I am more than obliged and bound to say it, in order to stop catering for this, is to let them be what they are, stay where they are, have what they have and go where they want to go. Not very far will they be able to go. Not very far will they really be able to go. Why then? It is because they are not Jacks of all trades, Are they? Ils savent tout, il font tout. Mais, as they say in French, c’est pas à eux que je dois ma taille. They do not know how to change for the proper benefit of their own selves. They do not know how to make themselves at once useful for themselves and then for others. Not very far will they be able to go if they do not change. Only the fools will not change. Only the dead will not change.
This is by no means the substance of my predicament. This is the very start of it
as a very long journey I want to take in this life that is mine and not theirs. For as the bird flies away after flapping its wings, I, too, yearn and look towards a similar kind of thing. To fly away high up and up and never go down. To fly away like the eagle whose own flesh, read this, as well as space is still a cage. We do have time to look about things and manage our plans. Do we need to forget that Carthage is our country of origin? Do we need to forget that our task is to protect and fortify Carthage and that we are its eagles? People abroad know Carthage better than we do and know as well that we are the eagles. But again, if one seems to find it incumbent upon him to say it without reservations, isn’t life too short to be wasted on things transitory and vain? Isn’t life too short, my brothers? Day unto day, we see, life wastes and wanes like a candle burning its oils away till nothing but charred wick remains. Isn’t it too short, my brothers? Let us strive, dans un moment de répit, to figure it out. Life is a course and passage. It is unclear for me to take it to mean something besides. From this it will surely ensue the fact that we need to be very careful about it. One needs to be very careful about his life lest it should turn out so unconstructively. And if of life we keep a care, let us shake off our slumber and beware in order to voice it in the words of william Shakespeare.
Why is it that we are always held blameable for things we have not done ourselves? Why is it that we are always admonished for others’ deeds and not ours? Il me semble après tout que nous somme pas de ceux qui posent les questions jusqu’au bout. Let us then flap our wings and fly away high up and up and never go down. Let us try to forget this way of life and work very hard upon obtaining our freedom. Freedom is so much needed and wanted if we are now to be very careful about our lives. More importantly, let us set ourselves free from those habits that we are very fond of calling ours. Always when anything gets to be a habit, it also manages to get a right good distance from truth and fact. We have so many bad habits. If only we could get them out of our lives with a view of living differently but also of evaluating differently. This is, as a matter of fact, to be made and become possible only after learning how to think differently. Some drastic and radical changes are more than important to be implemented. Our lives will never but fall into tedium and monotony if we are to do and act otherwise. Impossible de prendre ce chemin. Mais pourquoi? Is it not possible to change and reconstruct ? L’homme a besoin de ce qu’il y a de pire en lui pour atteindre ce qu’il y a de meilleur en lui. Il y a toujours, mon Dieu , quelque chose à faire. Alors, pourquoi rester dans les ténèbres ? Il y a toujours quelque chose à faire sur cette terre. Soyons comme la revière qui déborde et non pas comme (l’étang ??? what a shame !) qui contient toujours la même eau.