Thursday, November 12, 2015

With Wandering Steps and Slow

by Hanna Varghese

In either hand the hastening Angel caught
Our lingering Parents, and to the eastern gate
Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
To the subjected plain – and then disappeared.
They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms.
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.
 John Milton (1608-1674), Paradise Lost, The Twelfth Book, lines 635-647
 Some days I miss my Eden.
But then Eden is a place I’ve never known.  Rather it’s like being dropped off.  And having wished me well the cheerful driver is gone in a cloud of dust. And I suddenly realize I haven’t a clue where I am or what I’m meant to do.  I’m a quick study and I watch the people around me and guess what they are busy about and talking about and I set about trying to fit in.  But there is no map.  There are no directions.  Only a succession of people who think they know what they are doing, who assume I know what I’m doing and that I know where I’m going.  Just like them.
I ‘succeed’.  Doors open. Opportunities avail.  It seems like a good life.  I’m told it is a blessed life.  Some of it is wonderful, beautiful, exciting, breath-taking, thrilling even.  And some of it, well, isn’t.

The eclipse begins when all is bright and sunny.  The sun is so bright that one would never guess an eclipse was in process unless one had seen it discussed in the media.  25%, 40%, 60% - only as the black shroud of the moon stretches to smother entirely the bright burning countenance of the sun, only as light fails precipitously and as dusk falls at midday and startled evening birds pipe their songs does the celestial catastrophe make itself known.  But it was not a surprise to those who chart the skies or those who know the signs.
My world went dark.  It should not have been a surprise.  Had I known how to read the signs long ago I would have known that the bridge was out.  Had I known how to chart the human heart, I would have perceived an eclipse from the beginning.  But I didn’t.
From Eden to the wilderness is just a few quick steps.  But I turn around and can no longer see from whence I’ve come.  The land is new and foreign. That Adam still had his partner when the world went dark, though both had wounded the other.  But my Eve chose a different way. And I am alone.  Strangely I find other travelers here, in this place, others cast out of an Eden they never knew, others more certain of the way.

‘We walk by faith, not by sight.’  I struggle to let go of sight, even though what I see has killed me.  I do know where this is going, or how it may end.  One foot in front of the other. ‘…with wandering steps and slow’.

Joseph Bailly, 'Paradise Lost'

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