Unreal Nature

June 25, 2009

Felix Culpa

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:54 am

Ezra Pound wrote: “I lost my center fighting the world … I tried to make a paradiso terrestre.” What is the connection between these two failures? And what would we do with that earthly paradise had Pound been able to “make” one after all? The critic Lionel Trilling wrote back in 1964 that there is nothing that we moderns recoil from as much as the idea of Eden:

How far from our imagination is the idea of “peace” as the crown of spiritual struggle! The idea of “bliss” is even further removed. The two words propose to us a state of virtual passivity which is the negation of the “more life” that we crave …  We dread Eden, and of all Christian concepts there is none which we understand so well as the felix culpa and the “fortunate fall”; not, of course, for the reason on which these Christian paradoxes were based, but because by means of the sin and the fall we managed to get ourselves expelled from that dreadful place.

That’s from the last chapter of the book, Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition, by Robert Pogue Harrison (2008). Heres is a little bit from the Preface of the book to give a hint of his position:

… human gardens, however self-enclosed their world may be, invariably take their stand in history, if only as a counterforce to history’s deleterious drives. When Voltaire ends Candide with the famous declaration “Il faut cultiver notre jardin,” the garden in question must be viewed against the background of the wars, pestilence, and natural disasters evoked by the novel. The emphasis on cultivation is essential. It is because we are thrown into history that we must cultivate our garden. In an immortal Eden there is no need to cultivate, since all is pregiven there spontaneously. Our human gardens may appear to us like little openings onto paradise in the midst of the fallen world, yet the fact that we must create, maintain, and care for them is the mark of their postlapsarian provenance. History without gardens would be a wasteland. A garden severed from history would be superfluous.

And, of course, a garden can be a metaphor for all kinds of created things.




  1. So it can … so it can …

    Me, I’m a wilderness garden person … which is probably a metaphor for my mind…

    Comment by Felix Culpa — June 26, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

  2. Like this and this. Yes, I would have to agree.

    Comment by unrealnature — June 26, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

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