It’s all relative, up for debate, and frankly a universal discussion that is deeply rooted in the fabric of mankind and secular institutions for centuries. Some of the world’s greatest operas of artistic and literary works and religious texts describe both existences so vividly — yet the sources of “proof” and/or “imagination” are in question. But if we contemplate the idea of “heaven” (paradise) and “hell” (agony), we can speak of the two polar opposites through what we know best—our own life experiences.
Italian poet and author, Dante Alighieri, declared that “the path to paradise begins in hell” as reflected in one of the most world renowned works of Medieval literature, The Divine Comedy. If we further investigate the magnitude of a few words that lead way to a significance that may have indefinite possibilities, at least we may find a response that directly relates to the lives in whic we’re living and creating.
It would seem probable and perhaps obvious that the majority of humans would choose to live in paradise — if one truly existed here on earth. The absolute comfort of love, joy, and persona interpretation of what the ideal existence would be is of course up to the beholder. But if we ask ourselves, if given the opportunity of creating such perfection, would we appreciate and accept it?
Three simple words: Adam and Eve. However if the majority of humans were asked if they would choose to live in hell—if it truly existed here on earth, it would seem probable and perhaps obvious the answer would be no.
Ironically, why is it that many of us decide to create a hell on earth rather than heaven? I can recall many times from childhood through present day of being a receptor to the stories, news, and updates of others—that described various forms of suffering, fear, heartache, and uncertainty. Yes, there have also been many beautiful recounts of successes and joy, but usually said briefly rather than at length. With age, life experience, maturity, and intuition, I not only listen but now I ask questions to either understand what is being said to me or to see if I could possibly provide support and guidance (when called upon to do so). From personal experience and through those of others I’ve come to learn this: it is entirely up to us to either create or destroy our happiness — which in turn could signify the proverbial “paradise/hell” that we’re responsible for within our everyday lives.
There are situations and circumstances both of manmade and natural impact that alter our individual and collective paths. But if we’re able to make conscious choices of finding a sense of inner peace, stability, and confidence within our strength, even the worst of events that happen pass by with a bit more ease and clarity. If we operate on the contrary by allowing others to take hold of us and we cause ourselves self-inflicted harm through damaging words, doubts, and behaviors, then what happens externally only becomes that much more unbearable and difficult to navigate.
Sometimes all we know is the feeling of numbness, detachment, pain, and isolation so it’s safer to remain in a place that is “normal” to us. But something inside may signify to get out, take action, and know that there is something and someone awaiting us on the other side that is kinder, more gentle, and hopeful. But first, we must await ourselves and find internal points of “paradise” within our personal contexts before we can live it outwardly. This also means accepting that life itself is a series of radiant bursts and dim shadows.
So ask yourself, where is it that you’d like to live? If you respond authentically, that’s the end goal and the journey to get there is equally as enriching. I’ve lived in a personal hell and I’ve lived in a personal paradise…light outshines the darkness.