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In Search Of Eden…
Inspired by the raw beauty of Pavones, I’ve been musing over the concept of paradise. Paradise seems to be one of those collective desires that are entirely subjective. We all want to find our own little piece of it, but what each of us considers as paradise is entirely different. For instance, Tree and I are enamored with Pavones, but I can see how someone else might think it’s too remote, while yet another may find it too touristy.
Still, there is one concept of paradise, or, rather, of paradise lost, that is universally acknowledged as perfect, at least metaphorically, to everyone in the western world: the Garden of Eden. What is it about Eden that makes it so perfect? In The Diary of Adam and Eve, Mark Twain hints to the nature of this elusive paradisiacal quality: At the end of his life, pondering his banishment from the Garden, Adam concludes that it was better to live outside the Garden with Eve than inside without her because, for him, “whersoever she was, there was Eden.” Mark Twain is a man after my own heart!
So why do most of us feel like forced exiles, blindly lumbering in search of paradise lost? The Social Exchange Theory, for starters. This modern theory—rooted in economics, sociology, and psychology—attempts to explain the formula we use when deciding 1) whether or not we want to get into a relationship with someone, and 2) whether or not we want to stay in that relationship.
Social Exchange Theory (SET) states that all human relationships are formed by the use of a subjective cost-benefit analysis and the comparison of alternatives. Benefits include things like material or financial gains, social status, and emotional comforts. Costs generally consist of sacrifices of time, money, or lost opportunities. The outcome equals benefits minus costs (click here to learn more). Basically, according to SET, we’re doing math equations in our head to assess our own worth compared to our friends and partners, constantly weighing the exchange of resources to make sure we’re coming out on top, while also looking over our shoulder to see if we should trade up for the bigger better deal. If this is true, it is no wonder we feel so much anxiety in our relationships, and that our rates of divorce and depression continue to rise. Not only are we being led by our self-serving egos instead of our compassionate hearts to forge long lasting and meaningful connections, we also seem to think, quite curiously, that the purpose of love is to advance our position in our social-economic model of living.
Which brings me to my final point: The sheer irrelevance of the Social Exchange Theory in Eden is why Eden is the quintessential paradise. Without social standards of beauty, wealth, prestige, or power, Adam and Eve didn’t represent potential resource channels to one another. Furthermore, being the first man and woman to ever walk the earth, they literally had no idea of what to expect from themselves, each other, or life itself. Instead, they had the divine pleasure of discovering themselves, each other and their place in the world, separately and together, without any preconceived ideas or expectations.
Towards the end of her life in The Diary of Adam and Eve, Eve ponders why she loves Adam. In a very humorous soliloquy, she first enumerates all the reasons that she doesn’t. She says, it’s not because he’s a good singer, good heavens no; it’s not because he’s particularly bright, after all he thought our first child was a tailless bear, and it’s certainly not for his chivalry–after all he ratted me out when I ate the apple. After exhausting herself, she finally resolves that she loves Adam simply because he is Adam, and that their love is an essential part of her being. She is who she is in part because he is who he is. Throughout their life together, they have each helped the other realize his and her purpose. The purpose of course, at least the only one that brings any real meaning to our life, is to love each other as wholly as we possibly can, which is not 50%-50% as the Social Exchange Theory might advise, but 100%-100%.
Eden is letting go of everything you think you know about the way things should be and accepting what simply is. Eden is opening yourself up, as if you were the first person on earth, to experience without expectation so that every moment bursts with wonder, excitement, and opportunity. Eden is looking at your lover and thinking, my god you are gorgeous and perfect simply because you are. Eden is looking in the mirror and thinking, my god you are gorgeous and perfect simply because you are. –STEVIE