Maureen Dowd, John Milton, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard!

“The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

Dear Commons Community,

On Sunday, Maureen Dowd in her weekly column compared the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial to John Milton’s Paradise Lost.  I was dubious about the connection but it actually worked.  Here is an excerpt:

“Over the years, when I felt twinges of envy, gazing at other people’s glamorous travelogues on Instagram or visiting friends who seemed to have the perfect lives, I summoned these comforting lines: “The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

It is a fantastic reminder that people who seem to have it all — looks, talent, money, love — can make themselves miserable, while people who are not blessed with any of those things can be perfectly content. It is within our own power to be happy — or to self-destruct.

I knew John Milton wrote those lines of blank verse I loved. But I only just realized, while taking a course on Milton with Prof. Julie Crawford at Columbia University, that it’s from “Paradise Lost.” The line I use to banish the blues is the same line Satan uses to banish the blues after he goes to war against God and is dumped out of Heaven, through stench and smoke, onto a fiery lake of damnation.

Milton’s line is a great insight in a world where illusion rules, and where social media can amplify mis-perceptions and spark depressions. What you see is not necessarily what is happening. It all depends on your perspective.

Some think it was wrong to get hooked on the lurid spectacle of the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial.

And it is true that, watching the degrading spiral of the once-happy pair as it unspooled in court, could make you wince: how she allegedly left feces on his bed, how he texted an actor friend that he wanted to drown and “burn Amber” and then sexually defile her corpse. The best man at the wedding testified that shortly after the ceremony, Depp joked, “Now I can punch her”….

…But the Fall came quickly, and bad acts followed. The once-radiant couple was, as was mankind, Unparadised.”

Aren’t we all glad that the trial is over!



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