The paradise instinct is the survival instinct applied to the spiritual level. The survival instinct keeps us going through the burning deserts of life. It alerts us when the house is burning in the middle of the night, rushes us to wake the kids, and throws the valuables on the front lawn. The survival instinct wants to keep our bodies alive. The paradise instinct wants to keep our souls alive.
The paradise instinct is placed in us at birth. It enables us to view life as endless and good.
One big difference between children and adults is that children do not think about death. They are too busy enjoying life! They are learning and growing and loving and being loved. They are too in the moment to be bothered with thoughts of death. It is almost incomprehensible to them.
This unending outlook on life mostly carries on into youth. They are indestructible. They look before they leap because life will never end. They not only want to live, they assume they will live.
It is the accumulation of years with its accidents and passing of loved ones that gets us focused on our own mortality. It takes dark times to cause us to really see the wall at the end of our life's journey.
Before evil touches us in a significant way, we naturally think in terms of eternity. We may not consciously use that word, but that is how we visualize life. It is like a day without sunset, a road without end, a climb without limit. We are accustomed to births and beginnings, but no one plans their life around a scheduled death — "I plan on living until 48, then I'm out of here."
In fact, when faced with death, our survival instinct kicks in. We fight the rabid dog. We call for help if in a car accident. We don't walk too close to the edge. When life appears at its end, then it appears most valuable. Even if that life has many sorrows and heartaches, we cling to life because somehow, someway tomorrow might be better. We live because we believe our lives are worth living and we hope for a better life.
Putting the immortality of youth together with our survival instinct leads me to conclude that in the heart of every human is a paradise instinct. Whether or not we believe such a Never Never Land exists does not matter. We all want something like it.
We all want an endless vacation in a place that is completely safe and fun and restful and healthy and comfortable. We see no good reason why our lives should arbitrarily end, so we are naturally inclined to view ourselves as rightful residents in paradise, heaven, or that big nameless place in the sky where everyone lives happy ever after.
Almost every culture and religion has legends and versions of heaven. It has mainly been the cynicism of science and/or atheism that has made belief in an afterlife seem irrational. Science has arbitrarily determined that anything that cannot be measured, poked, prodded, or otherwise be detected with instruments to be non-existent and therefore unworthy of time and attention.
Yet, there it is. In the heart of every human burns a flame that does not want to die. An individuality glows with life and there is no good reason to bring that uniqueness to an end. Just as there is no desire to see the flower fade, there is no rational reason to end the contribution of one person to the greater good of humanity. Individually and collectively, we are paradise people. Our limitless potential cannot be realized when our lives are capped with tombstones.
Eternity, infinity, forever, unending life, immortality — all of these are beyond our comprehension and beyond our powers to describe precisely. Yet, it lives and burns within our souls. Even if we have no words to express the essence of the concept, we choose life over death, light over darkness every time. We sense it. We feel it. The paradise instinct drives us forward, keeps us seeking, and lights our minds with hope.
In your words:
Do you want to die? Do you want heaven? Do you like stories with sad, hopeless endings? Can you think of a popular movie or book without a good ending, even though the ending may be sad?