Beauty engulfs us this splendid afternoon in Paradise Village as the mercury nudges 80˚ Fahrenheit and the clock is seconds away from 4:30 PM. The back door of my neighbors' house is fully opened as the couple sit in comfortable chairs at a rugged rattan table discussing in quiet tones the business at hand. Inside the house, seated in his favorite rocking chair is grandfather, visiting for the day he usually visits twice a week and his own house is just five hundred yards away where grandmother reigns supreme and he is looking through that opened door where his daughter is now laughing uproariously at one of her husband's overworked jokes. As they gaze beyond the small bamboo picket fence, put there merely as an artistic contrivance at the request of the lady of the house to complement and soften the abundant green foliage of her many beds of variegated vegetables, they can see in the distance the banks of a stream running across their real estate, fed by the melting snow from the far distant range of white-capped mountains.
As they gaze they see a variety of animals and birds come singly and in groups to quench their thirst and laze in the shade of tall, broadleaf trees or wander away to their numerous pursuits. Lions and lambs, hippos and hares, antelopes and angonokas, cheetahs and chimpanzees, gazelles and giraffes, red foxes and rabbits, gnus and goats, leopards and lemurs, gorillas and gerbils, mongoose and meerkats, snakes and shrews, hyenas and horses, warthogs and white rhinos and many others besides. The variety of birds is like an artist impression of all birds of paradise painted on a backdrop of radiant tranquility surrounded in silver and edged with schemes of refined gold. A closer look would reveal at this stream, among this hive of activity, redshanks and plovers, gulls and starlings, herons and albatrosses, wagtails and buzzards, eagles and owls, parrots and hawks, petrels and sandpipers, penguins and flycatchers, flamingoes and gannets, terns and robins, kingfishers and cranes and many more exotic species displaying all the colors known to man and each comfortable in the scheme of things and untouched by fear or concern for his wellbeing.
Should grandfather swivel his chair and look in the opposite direction through the opened front doors, he would see a wide shingled path leading up to the front doors and on both sides of this path and extending to some distance some of earth's finest horticultural displays; gardens of awesome beauty, a horticulturalist's exotic dreams come true. The gardens are made into neat beds on a haphazard basis and the aromas given off by the plants and flowers are delightful and mildly intoxicating as each flower seems to be vying with its neighbours to produce maximum fragrance and stunning coloration. The variety of colors and species are just staggering. The poinsettias with their soft reds, the lavandulas with their warm lavender, the azaleas with their deep reds, the pelargonium with their mauve hues, the red roses contrasting with the fluffy paleness of the gardenias, the orange of the amaryllis harmonizing with the green and yellows of the passion flowers, the green of the yucca next to subdued pink of the winter lily, the violet contrasting powerfully with the multicolored kalanchoe which in turn is contrasted with the deep red fuchsias, the shrubbery of greens and browns and pale reds and yellows, some with coloring in combinations of variegated wonder and yet there is more, a lot more to see and enjoy in this front garden but other marvels soon take away the attention.
Should grandfather take a short walk through the front door, along the path to the front gate to the house and look across the way, he would see the villagers at play but mostly their children. Boys and girls of all ages taking part in sporting activities, and games too numerous to detail, but all characterized by one major quality; wholesome, fantastic enjoyment. No need for parents to keep a close watch on their children for the whole village will do that. Each child is seen as the child of the whole village and caring for each other is as natural as walking and breathing; effortless, consistent and pleasant. The old are not just bystanders, they too participate in all sorts of activities; chatting in groups, strolling hand in hand with their partners, enjoying the sights and sounds all around them and enjoying games of their own making and nowhere in sight is a sad face, an alarmed look, a jaundiced eye for this is Paradise Village.
This is life in Paradise Village and if grandfather could climb a very tall tree and see the way the rest of humanity is living he would be gratified to see that all of humanity is living and organized in the very same way as Paradise village. People want for nothing, sickness and disease are unknown, blood is not shed deliberately or otherwise, people everywhere are fulfilled and happy, pollution does not exist, everyone is naturally educated to be useful and productive within their spheres of influence, an angry voice is not heard neither a cry of pain, there are no threats from within or without, nature is at peace with the world, the ecosystems are flourishing and nourishing a dependent world with unending healthiness and all humanity lives in grateful and graceful harmony both naturally and spiritually. This is Paradise Village, as it was then and intended to be ad-infinitum, at the dawn of primitive human civilization.
Fast forward if you will to Paradise Village today. As I write I am more than a little perturbed by the abundance of greed, ill will, bellicosity, terror, mendacity and wanton slaughter of innocent people occurring all across the world. The rich and powerful upper class by virtue of their handhold around the neck of society and by the skillful use of their henchmen and puppets in government and their wannabe stooges everywhere continue to possess and abuse disproportionate scarce resources to the detriment of all others especially the poorest in society. The world's majority, honest, hard-working, poor, despised, over-policed, starving and malnourished, struggling to survive, festering with diseases that can easily be cured, crime ridden, resources deprived and often used as cannon fodder to establish and enhance the pernicious schemes of inept and vacuous leaders, are in a state of pitiful existence, unfulfilled, bereft of lasting joy and merely glad to have survived to see another day.
As I write the current headlines in all the media outlets are symptomatic of a decadent world gone mad with no redeeming features and every indication that the mindless horror will not only continue but will intensify to some point of deadly climax which may very well render great swathes of the world uninhabitable for generations to come, maybe even forever. To pertinacious document all the revulsion presently inflicting humanity would take a separate work, but some situations are compelling and must be noted even if the objective is not to engage in polemic, detailed analysis.
As I write there is a dreadful situation in Iraq which has been going on for years and although hostilities have reduced they have not ended. It was only recently that the United States and some of its allies were engaged in war in that country, many deaths and injuries took place on both sides and in the middle thousands of innocent people were slaughtered. In Afghanistan the United States and some of its allies are engaged in more war but on a smaller scale to that in Iraq but the results are the same; death and destruction to many innocent people. In Israel and the Palestinian areas reports are coming in daily of fighting and death and injuries, mostly to innocent civilians, and this long running conflict is constantly on the brink of larger and more serious warfare as happened recently involving some Lebanese citizens.
Apart from the Arab uprising other countries of the Middle East are in ferment to varying degrees and news trickle in of people being killed; the mainstream media reporting only those which fit in with their ideological and corporate objectives.
In Africa there are serious fights going on in several countries not just the legacy of civil wars and wars of liberation but developed countries interfering and skewing development to suit their foreign policy objectives which are wholly at odds with the aspirations of the indigenous population and often use corrupt leaders as their "Trojan horse" to infiltrate and pilfer the country's resources.
Africa, not yet fully savvy to the machinations and mendacity of deceitful friendships, have not as yet escaped the prolonged agony of the effects of sustained and brutal enslavement nor have they inculcated the art of conciliation in a framework of competing ideologies. Hence conflicts abound in 19 countries according to the United Nations report to the Security Council on children and armed conflict (A/61/529-S/2006/826) and several of them being African countries inflicting death and injury to innocent people including many young children. These conflicts range from countries like Burundi, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan to Uganda.
Beyond Africa and the Middle East conflicts causing death, injuries and destruction are taking place in Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Colombia. In addition, the report explicitly mentions 40 parties, both State and non-State actors, for the commission of grave violations against children.
As I write, a casual perusal through the statistics of countries reporting on crime in their respective countries, states or regions shows that the world is being swamped with criminal activity of every description. The crime statistics for the richest state of the richest country in the world, California (The California Crime Statistics for 2005 from California Public Records) shows that the proliferation of crime is of growing concern to all right-thinking people. According to these statistics California had 1 crime for every 25.98 people (a total of 1, 390, 710 crimes) and of these 190, 178 were of a violent nature. These figures are replicated across the United States of America and similar figures are obtained, with the expected annual fluctuations, across the entire world. The picture is hideous in the extreme and getting worse; murders, forced rape, robberies, aggravated assaults. People are afraid when walking the streets. People are terrified to be found in certain areas after dark and even in their homes they are still fearful of the prowler, the burglar and the opportunist petty thief all of whom can resort to lethal violence in an instant. Violence in the homes, violence in the streets and deadly violence in the schools and work places. It is as if violence and the spilling of blood is the ritual dance for the existence of benighted humanity whose time has passed and its residual uselessness is to fill up to the brim the remaining empty space in perdition.
Here is the $60, 000 question to be answered. How did humanity get from the state of blessed Paradise Village, as previously described (more or less), to where it is today? How was a world that was wholly pleasant to live in, a joy in which to raise families, uplifting to the human spirit, convivial and pleasing; physically, spiritually and emotionally congenial degenerated so rapidly? How was a world characterized by an absence of greed, violence, mendacity, fear, decadence and countless human aberrations declined inexorably to where we are today? The answer is sure, compelling, and deeply significant and resonates with all spiritually aware people and can be summed up in two simple words: THE DEVIL. We play Satan's game to our sure destruction whereas it is to Jesus we look for blessed restoration. Jesus tells us, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10) Even so Lord let it be.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013