Sunday, December 14, 2008

Introduction (3)

Part 3: Pardess vs. Paradise

 As centuries passed, pairi-daēza evolved not only in form, but also in content. Over time, it grew farther away from the concrete reality of the Persian imperial gardens, and instead, it turned into the abstract fantasy of an intangible ideal, an eternal existence, an afterlife, The Heaven—The Paradise. This process began plausibly when “The Septuagint Translation” used the Greek version paradeisos as the synonym for the Biblical Garden of Eden, itself described to have been physically located somewhere in the Mesopotamia (Genesis, 2:8-14). On the other hand, the Hebrew pardess (“orchard” or “garden”) went on to preserve something close to the original sense of pairi-daēza and its material beauty for posterity, as this word had already entered directly into the lexicon of the Jewish Bible.

The emerging idea of a coming Paradise would allow the common man to find a place for his frustrated desires, so desperately out of his reach. Fantasies of exotic gardens, distant in time and space, could have naturally acted as the nucleus of such sweet dreams. Along with the spread of the Greco-Latin Bible, The Garden of Eden, i.e. paradeisos, gradually lost its earthly roots, and instead, it became relocated to a far-away place, equally unattainable to man. As such, the first Greek translation of the Jewish Bible became the portal through which pairi-daēza began its long journey toward today’s pervasive, abstract notion of a Paradise. And yet, within the Hebrew text itself, pardess has continued to remind us of the origins of this Paradise, untouched by metaphysical transformations, somewhere on the earth, in our past, and in our dreams.

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