Paco Almarcha is an anthropological researcher at the University of Alicante, Spain, specialising in people/animal relationships.
A brief Twitter exchange on the notion of ‘paradise’ and I’m glad to host Paco’s latest blogpost and accompanying photos… enjoy, as I do.
Every place is a historical place.
We can find everywhere changing processes and episodic moments of destruction, living beings which subsist on the death of other ones, joy and pain in a similar range. There are no paradises; but we need them. The notion of paradise involves a (religious) sense of perfection, harmony, peace and happiness and in most of the times it is represented in a natural place, a locus amoenus. Paradise is a place without history, without work, without real people. There are no heavens on earth, but we look for this ideal, sometimes anxiously.
The idea of a future paradise used to be very useful to avoid a critical opposition to the real state of things or to encourage a strong feeling of union among community. Today it is one of the most powerful tools of tourism marketing. Relaxation, solitude, purity, communion with nature are the main values related to these idealized sites. Paradoxically, tourism usually destroys the values associated with the paradises that are sold (we have a lot of examples here in Spain), so companies have to look for more distant and “exotic” places every time, in an unsustainable form of fulfilling our desires.
They sell a myth, updated with consumerist elements, but this myth is built on real needs, probably due to a certain way of living that has taken us apart from natural rhythms, from an unhurried contemplation of life or from the pleasure to hear our own thoughts. We seek paradises to regain a lost sense of the value of small things, to find the poetry hidden in the movement of the waves, in the colour of the leaves on the trees or in the flight of birds.
Finding a heaven realises us and heals us.
We seek paradises, in short, to fall in love again with the world, despite history.
And in some strange and magical way, on a few occasions and places, we believe that we have found it.
 I live in Alicante, and I can remember the coast 30 or 35 years ago when urbanization was an incipient problem and the fields were full of sparrowhawks. Today I have to be aware that my feelings could be fuelled by the myth of the lost paradise.
You can follow @PacoAlmarcha on Twitter, please do.