# A Math Problem and a Human Solution to Paradise

I meant to show a fascinating picture from an Islamic manuscript called “The Path of Paradise,” which I saw in the exhibition of Jerusalem 1000-1400 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Muhammad see seventy thousand curtains made of light, fire, precious stones, pearls, or gold. Seventy thousand angels guard these curtains, one of whom leads him through to the throne of God, which is ringed by seven hundred thousand tents of enormous proportions, each housing five hundred thousand angels reciting praise to God.” (The Sarikhani collection, UK) The vivid description shows us a part of heaven that looks like an enormous fabric showroom.

How many angels are you able to count from the grand and imposing scene? Does any angel wish to become human? Perhaps the brilliant red and golden color of the theme is only a backdrop. It seems contrary to a muted vision of the world depicted in Wim Wenders’ Wing of Desire (1987) and its angel protagonist Damiel who was running away from and heading for a mortal life; only the moment Damiel determined to give up his immortality and became human because of love, the monochrome film started shifting into vibrant color. Being mortal is not equal to a mundane existence.

Here is the “confession” from Damiel the guardian angel in the film:

I’d like, at each step, each gust of wind, to be able to say “Now.” Now and “now” and no longer “forever” and “for eternity.” To sit at an empty place at a card table and be greeted, even by a nod. Every time we participated, it was a pretense. Wrestling with one, allowing a hip to be put out in pretense, catching a fish in pretense, in pretense sitting at tables, drinking and eating in pretense. Having lambs roasted and wine served in the tents out there in the desert, only in pretense. No, I don’t have to beget a child or plant a tree but it would be rather nice coming home after a long day to feed the cat, like Philip Marlowe, to have a fever and blackened fingers from the newspaper, to be excited not only by the mind but, at last, by a meal, by the line of a neck by an ear. To lie! Through one’s teeth. As you’re walking, to feel your bones moving along. At last to guess, instead of always knowing. To be able to say “ah” and “oh” and “hey” instead of “yea” and “amen.”

Categories: Spur