Saturday, February 28, 2009

Axis mundi: Part 3- Eutopia or Utopia

"Every Microcosm, every inhabited region, has a Centre; that is to say, a place that is sacred above all." Mircea Eliade

The axis mundi is a ubiquitous symbol found in just about every religion and civilization throughout history. It is the navel, the center of the world and the universe, a sacred space set aside that has been represented in a variety of shapes be it natural or man-made. They represent man's attempt at unifying around a common deity, concept, or belief. Although the axis mundi is represented by various symbols it is what the symbol represents that unifies Man.

[Left panel (The Earthly Paradise, Garden of Eden), from Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights. This is one part of a three panel triptych. It is a wildly vivid and imaginative painting. Click on the above link to read the full description.]

Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

Utopia. This is the the place that Man desperately seeks to build but struggles against himself to grab the hammer. The word comes from Greek: οὐ, "not", and τόπος, "place". Utopia written in 1516 by Sir Thomas More describes a "fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean, possessing a seemingly perfect socio-politico-legal system." Sir Thomas More used the Greek word Utopia as an allegory and did not consider the place to be realistically possible. Yet, we continue to use this word in our literature and film as a place of perfection, peace, and harmony. Sadly the hope in building our earthly Utopia seems to be fading into non-existence every day.

So what is keeping us from building our own Eutopia ( "perfect" but not "fictional")? I guess we can't stand our neighbor being as happy as us. Or maybe we realize we don't deserve to live in Paradise. If I remember correctly there was a line in the Matrix: Reloaded where the architect built the first matrix as a Utopia; "it failed miserably and many human lives were lost when the inhabitants refused to accept it." So I guess we as a species can't accept living in harmony and peace with each other. We may yearn for it, but deep down inside we can't accept it and even completely hate the idea.

Is it because we find more excitement in conflict? Name one movie, or book you read that is either a box office hit or has been on the New York Times Best Seller list that HAS NO conflict whatsoever. Can you name five more? Ten more? Without conflict, there is no action, no drama, no excitement. If we as a nation can't find another country to start a war with we create an enemy or poke at one with a big stick until they fight back.

Were we like this before Sin? I personally don't believe there was ever a literal Garden of Eden, but the fact that there are over 6 billion of us now means we aren't blood thirsty animals although I can't say the same for some of our extinct gods. (Can gods go extinct?) There may have been a period of time where humans coexisted peacefully before pre-recorded history. Some may call this Atlantis, Shangri-La, or the Garden of Eden. So how do we return to this idealistic society? How do we move forward? Some propose that there will be a global Utopia at the end of history. A few say that a cosmic battle (Kralizec, The Apocalypse, The Last Hour) will be fought and bajillions will be slaughtered. Bajillions. So can we skip over the worldwide slaughter directly into Paradise? I sure hope so, not because I'm an unbeliever (which doesn't help) but because I don't think I could enjoy Paradise if billions of people had to die first. Certain religions shrug this off as "weeding out" those that don't deserve it (i.e. sinners and unbelievers). I believe everyone deserves to be happy, and any personal action, or attitude, that attempts to take that happiness away is exactly what has splintered humanity and caused us to lose paradise in the first place.

Pride. It has served as our downfall and continues to this day. I am willing (although my wife might say differently) to swallow my pride and work towards a better world. We might not have a Utopian society in the next 1000 years but it has to start sometime and with someone (Barack Hussein Jesus Obama?). I just hope we start before we nuke ourselves. Then it will be the apes turn to take over. Good luck Dr. Zaius.


YogaforCynics said...

It seems to me that for a utopia to be a utopia, everyone has to agree that it's a utopia (or at least on the right track to become a utopia)--ultimately, that means everybody has to have the same beliefs, or at least the same ideals. Thus, those who've attempted to create earthly utopias have either found them falling apart due to disagreements (as in the case of the many communes and utopian communities that have been formed in America) or, if they've done so on a larger scale, as in the attempts at utopia in Russia, China, and Cambodia, they've found, like God in the book of Revalations, that there needs to be a lot of weeding out...and weeding out...and weeding out...and even then, there's disagreement...and the utopia never happens, no matter how much blood has been spilled to give it birth....

I agree with you that everyone deserves to be happy, and I think everybody deserves the basic necessities not only to live but to enjoy life (though, certainly, those of us in the west have rather inflated notions of what constitutes "necessities"). In the end, though, I think the way toward that is one of endless negotiation and endless compromise, and an endless commitment to resolving the conflicts that will inevitably come up with the many differences in belief and opinion that will always exist (and I, for one, wouldn't want it any other way). In other words, I think we'll get as close as we can to utopia when we stop trying for utopia....

Eruesso said...

Well said!!

"I think we'll get as close as we can to utopia when we stop trying for utopia..."

I agree that when we stop fighting and pushing our tribal views on one another to make room for "universal" peace we might just come across it by natural means. Until then Man will have to adjust to living with multiple truths, beliefs, and opinions. (I too wouldn't want it any other way.)

Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

I believe that a Utopia is not when all evil is eliminated (as I think this is impossible) but when there is a mutual movement against evil. There will always be evil and poverty but nobility is something I believe to be more beautiful than perfection.

Eruesso said...

I completely agree about evil never truly being eliminated. Yet, at least, Western society has been overtaken by the concept that as long as evil is around no one can enjoy life EVEN if we strive for nobility. In films, the hero must go out and defeat evil before he is granted an ounce of peace. I agree that if we turn this energy towards a mutual movement aganst evil itself we may not be perfect but we may just keep our inner demons at bay. Well said and thanks for the comment!

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