What is Arcadia, anyway?

From Ben Okri’s In Arcadia

“Arcadia is our secular Eden…A place of dreaming, and songs, an oasis, a refuge from the corrupting cities, a semi-ideal landscape, a qualified paradise. A place with the quietly troubling presence of death, and exile, and stony mountains, and suicide, and sinister shadows, a place that cannot be dwelt in for ever. Then, with the passing of centuries, something happened to Virgil’s Arcadia. It became transformed into a terrain of the mind, a terrestrial paradise, a place of tranquility and rural calm, the domain of the yearning spirit.”

* * * * *

The images that the phrases ‘terrain of the mind’ and ‘a place of tranquility’ suggest to me is that of church, followed closely by the sea, and then, quite oddly, a hotel room. Prayer and meditation sometimes bring peace – i am no stranger to kneeling in a pew and crying to God in desperation and loneliness. The seaside always feels romantic and relaxing; there’s something about the swish of the water that brings balm to the troubled soul. The hotel room, well, I love staycations. I live with a lot of clutter, and a hotel stay is a reprieve from my mess, even if just for a day.

What is your earthly Eden, your secular Arcadia?


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