Nature, Technology, and Paradise

It was in the epic of John Milton’s Paradise Lost that in the beginning all of the animals and humans who walked the earth lived in peace alongside each other. The Garden of Eden sustained the lives of all who resided there, and there was a deep connection with the first humans and the nature that surrounded them. Unfortunately, however, after sin entered the world and Adam and Eve were casted out of the beautiful garden, death became prevalent and the deep connection we once had with nature was almost completely lost.

Attempts to find the Garden of Eden and return back to paradise have failed in every quest but for the one described in John Milton’s sequel of Paradise Lost, called Paradise Regained. Somewhere along the way our bond with nature died along with paradise and everlasting life, and instead we all became dependent on a narrow and vertical path of innovation that relied heavily on technology. Our dependence on technology has evolved to the point where even our thoughts about returning to nature seem incredibly daunting. It’s the ecologists and those individuals who are still in love with nature that ask the question, how has something that we once considered paradise become (in our minds) such a terrible way to live?

Then you ask yourself, was Y2K an event significant enough to reveal our heavy dependence on technology? So many people panicked, stalked up on supplies, emptied bank accounts, built bunkers, and went absolutely crazy trying to shield themselves from the effects of life without technology. Even before this event our reliance upon technology had damaged the earth and our ecosystem with the rapid developments and pollution that resulted from our technological and industrial boom.

This doesn’t have to be our final way of life. In fact our dependence on technology is what drove many artists, writers, and peace makers to initiate a movement back to nature. Becoming one with nature was the name of the game for individuals such as Jack Kerouac, John Clellon Holmes, Gary Snyder, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Lamantia, Dick McBride, and Jack Spicer just to name a few. The phrase “Beat Generation” in 1948 characterized a perceived underground, anti-conformist youth movement in New York. The adjective “beat” could colloquially mean “tired” or “beaten down, but Kerouac expanded the meaning to include the connotations “upbeat,” “beatific,” and the musical association of being “on the beat.”

The Beat Generation broke the mold as a group of American post-World War II writers who came to prominence in the 1950s. They inspired a cultural phenomenon and developed a reputation as new bohemian hedonists who celebrated non-conformity and spontaneous creativity. In the 1960s, of course, the elements of the expanding Beat movement were incorporated into the Hippie counterculture and the rapidly expanding industrial movement sort of slowed its pace as the younger generation tried to find their peace and paradise where their ancestors left it all behind—in nature.

It was a way to reconnect with our past and an attempt to insure a better and brighter future. A great example of this attempt to highlight the benefits of returning to nature is Gary Snyder’s epic story Mountains and Rivers Without End,

“We were following a long river into the mountains.

Finally we rounded a ridge and could see deeper in—

The farther peaks stony and barren, a few alpine trees.

Ko-san and I stood on a point by a cliff, over a

Rock-walled canyon. Ko said, ‘Now we have come to

Where we die.’ I asked him—what’s that up there,

Then—meaning the further mountains.

‘That’s the world after death.’ I thought it looked

Just like the land we’d been traveling, and couldn’t

See why we should have to die.

Ko grabbed me and pulled me over the cliff—

Both of us falling. I hit and I was dead. I saw

My body for a while, then it was gone.

Ko was there too. We were at the bottom of the gorge.

We started drifing up the canyon. ‘This is the

Way to the back country’” (Snyder, 55-6).

The importance of returning back to nature still resonates with us today even though the drive for newer, faster, and better ways to connect with each other seems to over shadow that. We are aware today of what we have done and what we are doing now to our planet as far as global warming, mass pollution, and general waste goes. Many individuals, like myself, have become vegetarians, began to recycle, and learned to conserve the resources that we do have because we know that this earth is the only one we have (or at least at the moment). Who knows, maybe one day when everyone is on the same page about the world that we live in today, and how returning to a more natural state is important, we could eventually return to our Garden of Eden and regain paradise.

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