Listening to a podcast of Jordan Peterson, the idea of “grand narratives” was raised. Peterson mentioned a narrative that shaped cultures, unconsciously told by billions of people in their actions and dreams.
The story of Eden. The core of this story is of a utopia that can exist if we make the correct decisions. It is evident in the sentiment of wanting to work hard so that your children can live a better life, in the desire to change jobs or countries, in every change we make to achieve something better, there is the echo of Eden.
Fascinatingly, in this era that is closer to utopia than any previous era experienced by humankind, we are restless. When measuring the median wealth of adults in the world, Australia is revealed to be the country with the richest people (https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/the-wealthy-country-australians-are-the-richest-people-in-the-world-20181109-p50eyc.html). We are the wealthiest people in the world, with incredible systems to support values such as freedom, education and healthcare.
Yet in the complaints about life, our desire to go elsewhere and the high rates of depression, there is still a tangible yearning for Eden.
Perhaps the cliché that wealth does not make one happy can be repeated here. We have achieved Eden externally; there are food banks in almost every suburb where one can pick up food for free, education that is paid for, healthcare heavily subsidized by the government.
In a world where 10,000 children die of starvation every day, we are well fed, well-educated and generally not afraid for our lives. When the external circumstances we associate with misery are removed, and we are still miserable, our society is realizing that the Eden we seek cannot come from our circumstances but must come from our being.
Pastimes of Eden
Whilst we wander closer to the pastures of Eden, our fascination with dystopia rises. Since the 1950’s there has been a rise in dystopian and apocalyptic literature which seems ironic. From nine to five we work stressful jobs with dreams of entering Eden one day.
When we leave that job, many Australians are going home to immerse themselves in stories of destroyed worlds. Perhaps this is a further reflection of the need to express an inner turmoil that seems at odds with a peaceful environment. Perhaps you are not one who enjoys the dystopian genre, but when I write “peaceful environment” you scoff, for the news is filled with grief, for the politicians are corrupt, and there are thousands of injustices visible within our social order.
There are many who live unaffected by what you perceive to be a serious problem. This is not to say the problems are not real. This is to say that you had the choice to turn off the news, but you chose to seek out the dystopian.
Eden as a construct
It was in God’s character to make a perfect world and in making us in his image, we deeply desire to create Eden too. We mistakenly think we wish to live in Eden when we were created in the image of a God who wished to create Eden. The midlife crises I observed in a woman I came across in the halls of the internet is an example of this reality.
She had married the love of her life, built a beautiful home and had kids she loved. She’d said, “My Husband is perfect”, yet she was asking the internet if she should have an affair.
We do not wish to live in Eden. If there is no snake in Eden, we will fill its role, for once the world is perfect, we can no longer partake in perfecting it.
If were created to create good spaces, but we tear Edens apart when they’re beyond our capacity to improve, we must ensure our criticisms of society are genuinely improving it. If not, we risk destroying it like a bored immune system attacking the host.
This is a call to examine our critiques and ensure we direct our inherent creative capacity not to the fruit, but to the protection of what God has declared to be good.
Frances Ducommun is from Brisbane Australia, a student of philosophy and artistic endeavors. She thinks she's funny, is constantly covered in cat hair and will substitute sleep with reading if no one keeps an eye on her.