Paradise Lost

If you’re looking for a literature challenge there’s not a much bigger one, I think, than wading through Paradise Lost. This is in large part because John Milton wrote it in 1667, and weirdly he wasn’t familiar with 21st Century English… But it’s also a challenge because it’s not just a book, it’s a poem. A poem of over 10,000 lines… So you have 10,000 lines of 17th century English poetry to try and decipher meaning from.

That might be a bigger challenge than you had planned on though. Personally, although I appreciated the interesting retelling of the story of Eden, I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience of reading it. But to give you a little bit of understanding, the reason the epic poem is called Paradise Lost is obviously because mankind loses Eden. It’s a very long explanation of the events that led to Adam and Eve’s eviction. Most interestingly the first section was written as a fly on the wall in Lucifer’s new domain. He’s be banished by an unforgiving and egotistical God after trying to over throw the power mad deity with his mates. You see the charm of Lucifer, you can see how so many angels followed him in his uprising and you can even feel sympathy for the devil… weird right?

Apparently it was intentional to test your faith in God and you would obviously turn on the devil as you read through the poem. But it just all seemed like six of one and half a dozen of the other to me…

Just like that crazy kid God when he put two people in Eden, Britain’s Channel 4 decided to put 23 men and women on an uninhabited island in March 2016 to see what would happen. Designed as an experiment to see whether these men and women could build a better society than the one they’d be leaving behind for a year, Eden showed roughly four episodes before abruptly leaving the air with no information on when it would return.

I quite enjoyed watching the show and was pretty disappointed after a year when there was still no sign of a return. They’d left these people on a remote Scottish island for a year, there must have been more footage. I wanted to know whether they would turn it around, because all I’d seen so far was a group trying to work together but kind of starving, some terrible bullying and a bit of sexism.

I suspected that they would not create a better society but I wanted to know if they could survive the full year on the island. They were left with sheep, a couple of goats, chickens, all they could need to start a successful vegetable garden, dry rations for 100 days and camera equipment to film the process. Could modern men and women return to their ancestral roots and work the land?

My questions were quickly answered when this week the programme returned to my TV, with a new name… Eden: Paradise Lost. I could only imagine they were also told not to eat from a certain tree and one of those sneaky ladies convinced the men it would be fine before they were promptly booted out of Scotland. Oh how wrong I was.

As it turns out when left alone in a remote part of the world, with no real law enforcement a large proportion of men become disgusting savages that are embarrassment to humankind. Either these men had been away from civilization that they forgot that they became disconnected from what the cameras in their faces meant, or they had gotten to a mental state of being where they saw nothing wrong with what they were doing.

Some of the men, the veterinarian for example, were model citizens. They were everything you could want from a modern man. And the women demonstrated that not only were they unwilling to regress but that they were dedicated to working together as a community to make the project a success.

Unfortunately the bullying, worsening sexism, grotesque homophobia and disgusting “laddish” behaviour led to the good men and women leaving the island one after another. I have only one episode left to watch but I think already it would be very safe to say the societal paradise they had dreamt of was indeed lost.

John Milton, whether it was ignorance or inconvenience, neglected to include Lillith in his telling of Eden. But I would say she is a very important part of the story and very relevant to Channel 4’s documentary.

Before Eve there was Lillith, and seeing that God treated Adam with greater respect than herself she pleaded for equality. For the outrageous request she was booted out of Eden and replaced with Eve. Eve was submissive and happy to be inequal. You could say that gender inequality led to mankind being booted out of paradise. And gender inequality led to the downfall of Channel 4’s Eden too. Men unable to see women as their equals destroyed any hope of a paradise. At least that’s the lesson I take away from the year long project.

S. Hansen

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