The only place that comes to mind when I think of paradise, is, well, paradise. The Garden of Eden, where Adam spent his days avoiding Eve and resting in trees. If you believe Mark Twain's account, which is just hilarious. On a bad day he was eating apples. But the first man was irritated most of the time.
That there is little mention of God in the whole book actually increases the Garden's appeal. Because God is so hard to fathom. Utterly impossible, really. Imagine being omniscient. I for one cannot. There is simply too much to think about. How about you take access to all the information throughout time in the entire universe, and give me back my earliest memories. Because it's as if I never even was.
My mother used to tell me that she could recall her early infancy in explicit detail. I scoffed in disbelief as she recounted lying in her crib as an infant and looking up at her relatives. She described the many faces staring down at her with love and affection as they regarded their newest arrival. Being the first-born of her cousins, she must really have been a cause for celebration. Pity she wasn't old enough to drink the champagne.
And although odd, clear memories of infancy are not that rare. In his best-selling Autobiography, the late Yogananda tells a tale familiar to spiritual adepts. He writes:
"The helpless humiliations of infancy are not banished from my mind. I was resentfully conscious of not being able to walk or express myself freely. Prayerful surges arose within me as I realized my bodily impotence. My strong emotional life took silent form as words in many languages. Among the inward confusion of tongues, my ear gradually accustomed itself to the circumambient Bengali syllables of my people. The beguiling scope of an infant's mind! adultly considered limited to toys and toes.
"Psychological ferment and my unresponsive body brought me to many obstinate crying-spells. I recall the general family bewilderment at my distress. Happier memories, too, crowd in on me: my mother's caresses, and my first attempts at lisping phrase and toddling step. These early triumphs, usually forgotten quickly, are yet a natural basis of self-confidence.
"My far-reaching memories are not unique. Many yogis are known to have retained their self-consciousness without interruption by the dramatic transition to and from 'life' and 'death'. If man be solely a body, its loss indeed places the final period to identity. But if prophets down the millenniums spake with truth, man is essentially a soul, incorporeal and immortal."
I am not like Yogananda nor like my mother. I am like most people, who can't remember existing before the age of three, which is about when I fell into the deep end of the swimming pool and would have drowned were it not for my mother's frantic ministrations. But for her bit of harpooning heroism, I'd now be somebody else. As in reborn. My mother believed in reincarnation. With Yogananda, who writes: "I find my earliest memories covering the anachronistic features of a previous incarnation. Clear recollections came to me of a distant life...amidst the Himalayan snows. These glimpses of the past, by some dimensionless link, also afforded me a glimpse of the future."
I have no memories of lifetimes past or future. I can hardly handle the present. But nowhere does Yogananda tell of life in his mother's womb. And I sure can't remember being an embryo, or a developing fetus. But the womb may be a really great place, rivaling Eden itself in splendor. And thanks to that gestation period, I do have a fully-developed brain, so bear with me as I venture a conjecture about life in the tummy.
First off, I was unconscious all or most of the time. For newborns sleep nearly 20 hours each day, and so it is safe to presume that in utero the infant to be does more of the same. So life in the womb is a lot like dreamland. Or I should say deep sleep. Because without as yet any real-life experience - that is, without any material in which dreams are fashioned - it is unlikely that the fetus has any mental pictures prior to parturition. Unless of course there are impressions carried over from prior lifetimes. But not having any of these myself, I cannot speak to that. What about all the kicks and starts and other acrobatics the fetus engages in, especially late in trimester three? Evidence of wakefulness, you say? We all move in our sleep, so there is no reason why babies about to be born shouldn't do the same. Now I see why I don't remember gestating. For the same reason I don't remember sleeping, only having slept, and waking up to pee. Because I was unconscious. Let's hear it for cerebration.
In the womb all our needs are taken care of. Nestled in a warm, wet and cozy environment, we derive oxygen and other nutrients directly from our mother's circulation. So we have no need to eat or to breathe, or for that matter to excrete, since we don't eat. A world without soiled diapers is a place like paradise. The gurgling of the digestive apparatus, and the accidental expulsion of air, are all the sound you know. Does playing Mozart increase a child's IQ? I don't know, can you hear anything under water? The fetus hardly lifts a finger, except to make a fist, which is the baby's go-to gesture, and also Stallone's, and for that matter Hitler's. I myself am more of a lover. The fetal position is not my favorite. It's basically the missionary position of sleep. I'm more of a "from behind" type of guy. But probably as a developing child I didn't mind. Because I didn't have a mind! A life without a care is what the yogi strives for, and yet we're all born this way. It's starting to feel like we're going in circles.
And yet, thoughtless as you are, your body is busy progressing through the animal kingdom. The fetus re-enacts the entire history of evolution. It becomes first a fish, with gill slits, then has a yolk sac like a bird, and from there a tail like a monkey, before it finally becomes the one staring back at you in the mirror. When you finally regard your own reflection. There's food for thought.
Ah, to be a fetus again! Every day is like Sunday, with nap-time around the clock. But not experiencing life is not really living. (An argument I used to give in high school for pro-choice - I still stand by it.) And so being born and having thoughts seem essential at least to formulating the desire to be back in the womb. But freedom - to move, to make love, to laugh - is precious. And food tastes so good. So I'll stick with my back yard. And my namesake learned to love his wife. When Eve died, he wrote as her epitaph: "Wheresoever she was, there was Eden."
I feel the same way about you.