When I was fifteen our English teacher gave out a writing assignment after having fielded a heated class debate on the probability of man ever being able to create a Utopian world. This was one of the most emotive classroom debates I had ever witnessed, in fact students were still arguing amongst themselves as they exited the classroom. I didn't have much to say during the class, I was content to listen and observe but what I gained from that observation has stayed with me to this day, although I was not able to tease apart the deepest nuances of what was truly happening until much later.
That evening, being a studious and diligent student - living before the days of the Internet, with only my mind and old print library books to guide my thoughts - I began to hand write my assignment. I knew what I wanted the world to be like, so I created that one. It began very well, and after two pages I felt as though I had mastered the question admirably. Then as I proceeded into the finer details I hit the wall, the one I suspected that our teacher in his wisdom knew all of us in our youthful arrogance would eventually discover one way or another.
I sat back in dismay, staring at the pages covered with my careful, well thought out words, the handwriting neat and legible. I looked at the clock, two hours lost. I still had to complete my assignment, only this time I had no idea what to say. As I sat and puzzled through different paths, I realised that a Utopian world was utterly impossible, at least within the world I knew - there would always be someone who would be given the short end and their discontent would therefore nullify the possibility of a Utopian society being able to exist. In frustration I pushed away from my desk and saw another hour had passed and still I had nothing that could be said in favor of the probability of man being able to create a Utopian society. In distress I realised that I had to complete the assignment stating I had exercised all my faculties in trying to create a society which could work, even ones I personally would not like only to find every single one of them wanting. I grimly completed the homework. There could be no Utopian society. Not for man, it was just not possible. I went to bed late that night and woke up the next morning troubled. It had to be wrong, if we could create the concept of a Utopian world, then it followed that somehow there could be one. But how?
I was only fifteen, I did not know how to approach that question, at least not within the limited framework of the technological times I lived in then. I decided to put the question on hold, to puzzle over another day. I promised myself I would never forget this experience and that one day I would find a way to see a Utopian world being possible. I promised myself never to give up searching for the answer.
Later that day back in our English class, we duly handed in our assignments, everyone chattering excitedly about what they had written. Each had created a world of their liking, and one by one the arguments commenced again as each defended their world as the best one to each other. I felt ashamed as I handed my work in, I had obviously failed, no one else seemed distressed. Perhaps I had misunderstood the assignment, or perhaps I just thought too much. Nevertheless there was no time to change anything. What was done was done. No one asked me what I had written, and for that I was relieved.
A week later my English teacher stopped me in the hallway in between classes.
'I would like a word please,' he said.
I followed him back to the empty classroom, and watched with trepidation as he went to his desk and picked out my assignment from the papers piled there. I felt my heart drop to my toes, dread consuming me. I knew he was going to say something awful about what I had written. I hated to disappoint him, I admired him and longed for his hard-won approval. I opened my mouth to defend myself, but he already had one hand in the air, palm forward to stop me. I closed my mouth.
'There is no such thing as a Utopian society, and with the way we are, there likely never will be.' He handed me my assignment, marked with a good grade. 'I enjoyed what you wrote. I expect you to go into journalism at the very least. Do not disappoint me.' He glanced at the clock. 'You are late for your next class.'
I held the assignment in my hand and left the room, stunned by his words. Too many things had happened, my teacher had singled me out. He had given my work a good grade. He had said there could never be a a Utopian society. Despite my misgivings it seemed I had answered the question correctly - at least for now. But it was not enough. I would prove him wrong, there would be a way, and I was determined to find it, no matter how long it would take.
And so it is that years later I have learned Utopian societies are not impossible - which neatly solves the enigma that a Utopian society can exist in theory even if it cannot exist in reality - rather it is we who are not yet collectively evolved enough to sustain one.
In the intervening years since I penned that assignment, much has happened here on Earth. The Iron Curtain fell, the International Space Station was assembled and launched into orbit, climate science became a serious science, the Large Hadron Collider has granted man tantalising glimpses into the foundation of our very reality, challenging everything we thought we knew. We have rovers on Mars, sending us back breathtaking photos of Martian sunsets and sunrises, who are gathering evidence there may be proof life once existed on another planet in the solar system. Our boundaries are expanding at an exponential rate. Whether most realise this or not, we are evolving into the progenitors of a future space faring technologically advanced race of beings.
Dancing in perfect counterpoint to these tremendous leaps in knowledge we are forced to watch as the planet's climate unravels at a breakneck speed while at the same time our consumption of natural resources gallops out of control as previously impoverished nations step up to finally partake of the table of western wealth, placing ever greater stress on an already overburdened planet. But it is all too much, too late. For everyone. We will all share in man's downfall. Rich and poor, clever and facile. All of us. As the Hopi prophecy states, when all the resources are gone, we will find out too late we cannot eat money.
Will we only find the answer when it is too late, when we have passed the point of no return and have annihilated ourselves from our greed and short-sightedness? There are days when I think this is inevitable, that rationally there cannot be any other solution. But then there are days when I cling desperately to the hope man will rise above himself, above the destructive paradigms which pervade the minds of even the most intelligent of humans.
It is much to ask every human being on Earth - for we are all equal within the species of homo sapiens sapiens - to rise above the constructs of thinking which are destroying us. I can see a new reality for man, I envision it so vividly that I am almost already there, we are so close. We must not be destroyed - we have so much to see and learn, to understand. What a terrible, awful, tragic loss it would be to die now, right at the threshold of our cerebral evolution. Right at the point where we will be able to see and shed the shackles of the constraints of our limited minds and open ourselves up to the truth within us.
There is a Utopian world, but to have this world we must understand we live in the world but are not of it. We cannot take anything with us when we die, save that drop of consciousness granted by 'Source'. We must make that connection our priority, it is the umbilical cord to eternal life, to truth. When we understand this, we understand many of the things we struggle and strain against in this material reality are no longer of such great importance, and we are granted perspective. The human race is a species unlike any other on this planet, we have evolved to the point that we can change the face of the very home upon which we live, and can leave this planet to do the same to others. We are many, yet all of us through thousands of years, and thousands of lives, share one thing: responsibility. Do we take up this responsibility and nurture the 'Source' that lives within all things, expanding our consciousness and awareness into science, knowledge and truth or do we scrabble in the dirt chasing after momentary gleams of glass, crowing at others when we find one, only to die and leave our baubles behind for others to fight over?
In a Utopian world, we accept we are material beings and have material needs: we must eat, have shelter, and warmth, but we no longer identify ourselves by the label on the blanket we own or by the name of the restaurant where we dine or by cutting down ancient trees and burning them for momentary warmth without a thought. We are responsible. We are intelligent. We realise we must go from one place to another, so we design vehicles which are intelligent and easy on resources, and for everything we require as material beings to function there is a fitting tool. We have evolved to the level of intelligence required to design and implement these things. We can be responsible. We can make that choice.
Although the world seems to stand against me on this point, I will not give up and I will not give in. Do not deny yourself the path to truth, do not live in vain. Utopia exists within every one of us. It is an understanding. A letting go. Yet we must all have this understanding, if not we shall continue to live in our dystopian world, surrounded by our blinkered beliefs, until it is too late.
To my dying breath I shall fight for man to become an enlightened race of beings, who will exist harmoniously with themselves and each other as equal beings granted awareness by 'Source'. We must begin to move away from materialism to survive, it is the only path forward that does not end in man's annihilation. It is not easy to connect to 'Source' when one is locked in a material reality, but it becomes much easier when one places less importance on material things, buying only what one needs and buying responsibly, with compassion and mindful awareness for those who suffered to bring you those goods, whether they be human, animal or tree.
Compassion, thoughtfulness, mindfulness and responsibility. The path to Source. The path to Utopia. The path to Life.
Originally publised on Breaking Every Paradigm Feb 20 2013