Robert harrison gardens an essay on the human condition

January 05, We enter a new year I will complete my 59th cycle on the planet in a couple of months.

Robert harrison gardens an essay on the human condition

Gardens he describes modestly as an essay, but it does, or at least suggests, the same kind of pervasive presence of an underlying human impulse in our relation to the world around us.

He does it with eloquence, grace, and erudition rooted in the literatures of his four native languages including Turkish that informed his earlier books.

Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition – On Art and Aesthetics

The range of his perspective on the human myth suggests that he may be our Bachelard. Merwin An excerpt from An Essay on the Human Condition Robert Pogue Harrison The Vocation of Care For millennia and throughout world cultures, our predecessors conceived of human happiness in its perfected state as a garden existence.

It is impossible to say whether the first earthly paradises of the cultural imagination drew their inspiration from real, humanly cultivated gardens or whether they in fact inspired, at least in part, the art of gardening in its earliest aesthetic flourishes. In this oldest of literary works to have come down to us, there is not one but two fantastic gardens.

Garden like the Queen

Here Utnapishtim enjoys the fruits of his exceptional existence. To him alone among humans have the gods granted everlasting life, and with it repose, peace, and harmony with nature. Gilgamesh succeeds in reaching that garden after a trying and desperate journey, only to be forced to return to the tragedies and cares of Uruk, his earthly city, for immortality is denied him.

More precisely, immortal life is denied him. For immortality comes in several forms—fame, foundational acts, the enduring memorials of art and scripture—while unending life is the fabulous privilege of only a select few. Among the Greeks, Meneleus was granted this special exemption from death, with direct transport to the gardens of Elysium at the far end of the earth, where there is made the easiest life for mortals, for there is no snow, nor much winter there, nor is there ever rain, but always the stream of the Ocean sends up breezes of the West Wind blowing briskly for the refreshment of mortals.

This, because Helen is yours and you [Meneleus] are son in law therefore to Zeus. Men have gone to war for less compelling reasons. By comparison to the ghostly condition of the shades in Hades, a full-bodied existence in Elysium is enviable, to be sure, if only because happiness outside of the body is very difficult for human beings to imagine and impossible for them to desire.

One can desire deliverance from the body, and desire it ardently, but that is another matter. Their bliss is in fact imperfect until they recover in time what time has robbed them of: It is otherwise with the likes of Meneleus and Utnapishtim and Adam and Eve before the fall.

For a very long time, this endless prolongation of bodily life in a gardenlike environment, protected from the tribulations of pain and mortality, was the ultimate image of the good life.


Certainly Meneleus is in no hurry to sail off to his islands in the stream. Telemachus finds him still reigning over his kingdom, a man among men. There is no doubt that Meneleus would opt for Elysium over Hades—any of us would—but would he gladly give up his worldly life prematurely for that garden existence?

Because earthly paradises like Dilmun and Elysium offer ease and perpetual spring at the cost of an absolute isolation from the world of mortals—isolation from friends, family, city, and the ongoing story of human action and endeavor.

Exile from both the private and public spheres of human interaction is a sorry condition, especially for a polis-loving people like the Greeks.Heroic men, heroic women, and animals. See also the section The courage of the bullfighters, which includes material on the courage of the rock climbers and mountaineers, including the remarkable achievements of the free climber Alex Honnold..

This is a very varied section, like some other sections of the page. So much writing in support of bullfighting is suffocating in its exclusion of the. Learning that Robert Pogue Harrison is Rosina Pierotti professor of Italian literature at Stanford supported my hypothesis.

Robert harrison gardens an essay on the human condition

But I was wrong. The book is about gardens as a metaphor for the human condition. One of the common features of an epic is the "fabulous loci" for the hero to visit.


Fantasy novels can have some loci that are quite pretty or terrifying, but science . Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition [Robert Pogue Harrison] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.

Humans have long turned to gardens—both real and imaginary—for sanctuary from the frenzy and tumult that surrounds them/5(15). News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services.

Robert harrison gardens an essay on the human condition

Harrison's wide-ranging exploration of the concept of "garden," how it has changed through time and across cultural divides, and how it relates to the human condition makes fascinating reading/5.

Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition by Robert Pogue Harrison