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Time Magazine; Asia Journey's 2003

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Malaysia Journal

The search for paradise

Malaysia is not paradise. Despite the heavenly food, the tropical weather, and the easygoing attitude. This is far from what one would describe as a paradise. It's got it's issues and it's exotic, frustrating and uncomfortable at times.

Where is paradise, can it even be found. Heaven is different from paradise. Heaven is easier to define, heaven is knowing that you're in the presence of God.

Is paradise a luxury hotel resort in an exotic place? What exactly makes Hawaii more of a paradise than, say Columbus Ohio. Or maybe they're right, paradise is a state of mind, and based on who you are, it's a personal thing. Perhaps paradise for me is being home, being loved.

There was an article in Time Magazine Asia, about what paradise looks like in Asia. And from a western point of view, why Tibet, Thailand, and Bali, stretching out to the islands of the South pacific, only to end in Hawaii. Why they've been thought of as Paradise, even though one can go there. Is it the rich exotic culture? that appeals so much to westerners. There's somthing both for critics and admirers of "all things Asian." Angry asian man can complain about the stereotypes, and

You can't find paradise in books. Although they may show you the path. Read Paradise Lost, the Milton's interpretation, James Hilton's Lost Horizon. Even the story about The Beach, an Alex Gartand novel, which turned inot an

I'm reminded of the people in Madmax. Who fully knowing that their world is fallen, and not really sure that on the other end of the road there really exists the place they can only imagine. They believe in it, simply because to the key to their survival, the key to them being able to exist, in the wreched wasteland, was that someday, they would eventually reach that place.

The conclusion is that paradise isn't to be found in a guide book, or even if someone tells you about some secret place. Once you think you found it, it's gone... Or once you touch it, you've spoiled it, and it's no longer Paradise. So if it is so etheral that you can't even go near it does it really exist.

Time magazine defines the quest for paradise as follows:

To believe in paradise is easy, but imagining it is not. Poets and prophets have had to show us the way. Buddha proffered enlightenment, an existence without suffering. The Vikings dreamed up Valhalla, a hall of dead heroes battling by day and feasting by night for eternity.

Dante famously described a heaven ruled by reason, while the writer Jorge Luis Borges confided,

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library."

The list goes on, with each paradise based on different conceptions of God, reality, salvation and delight. How to disentangle a concept that is so personal—and at the same time so universal? The memory of your first kiss, a sip of coconut milk on an infernal summer afternoon, the grasping hand of your newborn child: these are moments we all would have stretched into eternity. As the stories in this fifth edition of Time's annual Asian Journey issue demonstrate, the continent is home to patches of earthly paradise, signposts to a fulfilling afterlife, remnants of a world we have lost. These are not mere destinations.

Paradise can be an ideal, a state of being, a discovery—a candle lit in the darkness.

Nirvana, at its core, is nonphysical. Perhaps the closest we can ever get to touching paradise is to reach for it. Something deeply ingrained in mankind drives us to that quest.

To say anything more would be a stretch, anything less, inhuman.

By Shoe Spaeth

October 1, 2004