Something like angels were singing as the epiphany settled in.
“Dad,” said the 7-year-old, riding high in the car’s booster seat, “this is the Paradise City! The grass is green and all the girls here are pretty!”
The driver saw traffic and gridlock outside his window. The kid saw beauty and possibility outside of his. One person listened to the radio wishing that he, too, could find the Paradise City. The other listened with the dawning realization that he might already be there.
One listened to the radio and heard Axl Rose’s laments:
Poverty and hunger are in our midst… we’re stuck inside a game scrambling for riches… the air is hazardous to breathe…
And he, too, wished some all-powerful force would sweep him off to place free of all the strife and lament. Strikes a chord for many of us. Don’t we wish to be swept away from the dischord of our politics, work lives, and personal struggles. We imagine going to a place where none of those things are present (as if Canada is the political Paradise City).
The other listener heard the lyrics and imagined paradise in his midst. He may have even begun to notice how he could help to reveal the paradise around him.
Won’t you please take me home?
The kid certainly gave the driver a glimpse of paradise in his innocent comment: “This is the Paradise City!”
Humanity has long been fascinated by images of earthly paradise. While many religions suggest on a cursory level that paradise lies elsewhere–on some ethereal, spiritual plane. The fact is that the major religions call for the faithful to establish earthly paradise.
Isaiah 2 says this:
Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore. [Isaiah 2: 3-4]
This is a vision of earthly paradise: people of all walks of life coming together in agreement and getting along. They find they have no more use for weapons… and no reason to even take up arms against one another. We’re all one big, content family.
Do you notice an action behind the words? All the actions are done by people. It doesn’t say “God gathered the people… God beat swords into tools… God made them stop warring.” It says the people decided to do those things.
If the world is to become a Paradise City, that’s what it will take, isn’t it? It will happen through the will of the people. It will happen when enough people say: “I’m not interested in being at odds with my neighbors. I feel responsible for hungry people. I’m willing to let go of my weapons and they fear they inspire.”
Imagine not needing weapons. Imagine every one provided for. Imagine a fellowship of humanity united in care instead of competition. Imagine I didn’t just confuse G’n’R with John Lennon. Is it so hard?
I think it would be alright to live that way. After all, it sounds a bit closer to the Paradise City the self-serving paranoia of G’n’R’s “Civil War”:
Look at your young men fighting
Look at your women crying
Look at your young men dying
The way they’ve always done before
Look at the hate we’re breeding
Look at the fear we’re feeding
Look at the lives we’re leading
The way we’ve always done before