Garden of Earthly Delights and Losing My Religion

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Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights, 1510





In the wise words of art historian Mathew Collings: "What the hell is that?"

Hell. That's precisely what Hieronymus Bosch intended for his Garden of Earthly Delights to encompass.

Bosch illustrates three panels, the left being the Garden of Eden, the central being an extension of the garden, and the right being Hell. However, the Northern Renaissance artist depicts the salvation of humanity through the central and right panels, in which the Garden of Eden is corrupted as a result of human temptation to sin, and they are inevitably damned to hell. The garden teems with female and male nudes, an allusion to lust, among a variety of animals, plants, and fruits. Moreover, the human figures revel in innocent, self-absorbed joy as some cavort in the meadows with various animals and others play in the Lake of Venus subconsciously. And in reaction to the humans who have succumbed to temptations, Bosch creates heinously graphic torments to depict their internal damnation to a world of unknown atrocities and misconceptions of reality.

And if isn't depressing enough that Bosch basically claims that all of humanity will end up in Hell and constructs a scene of indecipherable madness, the artist also touches on the notion of an inescapably tainted world and questions whether God, having made this world and bestowed on man the opportunity for liberty, should destroy his creation in the face of human failure. In fact, as society has only worsens with time, Bosch's very questioning of God and the corruption of humanity becomes prevalent in modern day society.

"That's me in the corner, that's me in the spot light, losing my religion, trying to keep up with you, and I don't know if I can do it."

Oddly enough, R.E.M's "Losing My Religion" touches not on the specificity of religion itself, but on the loss of hope in the singer's love life because of the human temptation and corruption that has risen over time. In the south, the expression "losing my religion" referred to being at the end of one's rope, that moment when civility gives way to anger. Here, R.E.M's somber language depicts the hopeless of humanity and a loss of an ideology (the end of one's rope) through the omnipresence of human indulgence. The song allows us to question the purpose of civilization if the act of sin, be it lust or anger, interrupts the ability to be content and as Bosch would say, sends you straight to hell.

"Consider this, the hint of the century. Consider this, the slip, that brought me to my knees, failed. What if all these fantasies come flailing around? But that was just a dream, try, cry, why try. That was just a dream, just a dream, just a dream, dream."

The song concludes with the illusion of the singer's sin himself, as he acknowledges that that his lover's joy was "just a dream", and now he has awoken to his own Hell, as he loses himself in the free will God has given him and contemplates his purpose on Earth if he has lost his religion.

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