Where exactly is Utopia?
The first time I heard of Utopia I was a child. I imagined a magical world with brightly colored plants and animals, rivers and lakes as clear as just-polished glass, and a gentle summer that never ended. Food was easy to pick from trees and bushes that were ever-blooming, every mossy patch under a tree canopy was a comfortable place to spend the night, and there was plenty of space and safety for everyone.
Decades later, I have a much different vision of what Utopia actually looks like, but it shares the same base principles as my youthful imagining. In my Utopia of today everyone has access to delicious and nutritious food. Everyone has a place to live that's safe and protected from the elements within a thriving community of support and opportunity. Education is available and accessible. Healthcare is abundant and affordable. Everyone is dedicated to being in-process, working to see themselves more fully, and actively practicing seeing and supporting others along their own journeys.
My Utopia of today feels focused on very practical considerations. It is also very human. And it is completely possible. There is sufficient wealth and resources for everyone on this planet to have what they need. There is not enough for everyone to have everything, as appears to be the goal of the ultra-wealthy, but there is plenty. Everyone can have a comfortable and healthy life. Everyone’s life can be full of meaning. It can even be a colorful place, with enough rainbow flags.
I do my best work and my best art and my best humaning when I'm well-fed, well-rested, and feeling safe. Imagine if everyone were in a position to be offering the best of themselves all the time. Or most of the time. Even some of the time would be a decided improvement on the bedraggled existence many folks slog through now. A great many humans are over-worked, under-slept, and lacking in self-care. And yet, we carry on. Tired and lonely and with too much tension in our neck and shoulders, we carry on.
Until we can't.
It used to be the only time I took a break from work was when I got sick. That was the cue from my body that it could do no more and I would be taking time off weather I liked it or not. Catching a cold is hardly a relaxing or restorative version of vacation, but it's hard to argue with a wall. When you hit a wall, you hit a wall. And you stop. I would like very much for humanity to figure out how to care for ourselves and each other before we hit a collective societal wall.
There are many examples of folks leaving to create Utopia separate from the rest of society. Intentional communities and hippie communes and off-grid compounds abound all over the US (and probably the world). On the one hand, I like the idea of creating the antithesis of modern society. Of living more harmoniously with nature. Of existing outside capitalism. Of being the change I want to see in the world.
On the other hand, I could not be satisfied because that kind of Utopia doesn't actually solve anything. Sure, if I have access to enough capital I can check-out from society, head into the forest and build a utopia with a select group of friends and chosen family. But that doesn't actually make me any safer in the world. That doesn't make the climate any less likely to collapse. That doesn't make extremist hate groups any less likely to kill people they don't think have a right to exist. And it doesn’t stop any of those things from invading my Utopia and wrecking everything we built.
So it seems like I need to stick around in regular society instead, and do everything I can to craft it into something much more like Utopia. I can make a mini-utopia out of my internal world, nourishing myself so I can offer the best of me to the rest of the world. Then I can have greater influence over my external world, bringing Utopia to my community by helping to build more equitable systems and infrastructure to support and care for all people. Then the community can bring Utopia to more of the world.
Ultimately, Utopia is not a fixed destination; it's a moving aspirational target. The power to cultivate it is within all of us. No one person exists in a vacuum. Just as no community, city, state, or country exists without the influence of others or without influencing others. We have made incredible progress as a species over the course of our human existence. We live today in a technological Utopia of sorts. We can get to a human Utopia if we try. Utopia is just ahead of where we are, within reach if we stretch a little bit
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.