Thoreau went to Walden Pond to escape the world as it was and create the world of his mind. Arthur C. Clarke dreamed of an incredible future and then went to an island to make it come true, at least for him. It is in our natures as humans to muse upon utopian worlds, Garden of Eden style societies in which conflict and want are no more. Unfortunately one man’s utopia is another’s prison. It’s unlikely that we would ever be able to agree on what constitutes heaven on earth much less actually build it. Adam and Eve proved that as have countless groups like the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock.
Somehow it is in our natures to disagree. From a religious standpoint we hark back to the first man and woman to see how temptations even in the presence of what should be perfect contentment sway us to stray from the path of perfection. From a strictly psychological and genetic point of view we see that our upbringings, cultures, backgrounds have a profound effect on our perspectives and thus make it almost impossible to find a universal common ground. Not even cults last forever and sometimes they lead to even more destruction than existed before.
If I were to describe my own utopia it would be quite personal and much like Thoreau’s isolated existence far from most of society. It would be a temporary form of solace because I am realistic enough to know that I would still have to venture out into the world as it is. My utopia would be a haven, a retreat, but not a transformation of all of the world.
In my utopia nature would hold a commanding place. Trees, flowers, birds and all sorts of creatures would live in peaceful coexistence with me and those who choose to go with me. Our setting would be tranquil and free of noise and irritations. Our lifestyle would be simple, quiet, deliberate. There would be no rushing from one appointment to another, no sitting in traffic. I would not be consumed with worrisome thoughts or anxieties about how to get things done. There would be no need for such attitudes because the pace of life would allow us to continually pause to feel our connections with each other and the universe.
Of course there would have to be access to books and learning. I would spend a great deal of time increasing my knowledge and best of all having Socratic-like discussions without rancor or preconceived arguments with my fellow utopians. We would feed on each other’s ideas, parsing them for truth and understanding. There would be no competitions, only the pure joy of expanding our minds and our tolerance for differences. Ours would be a peaceful place devoid of jealousies. There would be an easy going harmony with each other and with nature.
My utopia would bring good health to everyone who lives there. Our doctors would find ways to eliminate horrific diseases and pain. We would exercise our bodies as well as our minds and eat the healthy bounty of unprocessed foods. Caring for our lovely surroundings as well as ourselves would be a community project and another avenue for bringing us together. More importantly there would be peace and joy and equality. Each person would be a treasure and know that he/she is loved unconditionally. There would be no want going unmet or unjust treatment being accepted.
Of course I sound naive just describing my utopia. I may as well suggest that there will be rainbows everyday, ice cream covered mountains, and unicorns roaming on our lawns. There is a reason why humans dream of a perfect society but never achieve it. Indeed we are flawed and those flaws lead us to bickering and anger and turn us into green eyed monsters begrudging the good fortune of others. Trying to bring all of our points of view together has never been accomplished and taming the dark side of human nature has never been fully achieved. I suppose that many would not even like my ideas for a utopia. To them my perfect world would be a kind of hell. Thus it is and thus it has always been.
We have managed to tame our wild spirits with education, peaceful philosophies and certain forms of government but we have yet to be fully successful. A true utopia would not need guns or police or soldiers because we would not fight with one another nor hurt one another. We would be as loving as Jesus was and we would not have hung him on a cross for having ideas that frightened us.
I dream about a perfect world because I think that it is possible to improve the one we have bit by bit. It’s somewhat difficult to see that right now because of the sickness, divisiveness, injustice, suffering, wars and evil that seem to surround us throughout the world. Still, I find places where it feels pretty darn close to heaven right here on earth. I still believe that when all is said and done most of us are very very good. We are moving in the right direction and I think I can see a slice of utopia way up ahead.