i write utopia.
i spend most of my time reading, thinking, dreaming utopia and a lot of time agonising over how to express it all in words of my own. there’s usually a lot of blank space and silence involved. but i’ve found that it’s often the gaps and silences that bring multiple possibilities to life through fissures of meaning within & between the words. utopia’s an elusive landscape: crumbling to dust with every fence that’s built up around it or map that tries too precisely to locate it. it may be the perfect place, or no-place [utopia = ‘no place’; eutopia = perfect place] – the faultline lies within its etymological roots.
But isn’t utopia just useless idealism, or worse, political/religious ideology?
visions of utopia are what drives us as a species: for survival, for evolution, for revolution and for hope. utopian dreams have given rise to religions, cultures, civilisations, rebellions, communities, technologies, wars, medicines, societies, architecture, countless works of art & literature… in everything, utopia has its luminosity and its pall. it can be a tonic or become toxic, depending on what we choose to do with it.
if we think that utopia is a place we can build by destroying everything that seems imperfect to us and removing anyone who stands in our way, we’ve chosen the toxic utopia. sometimes, the more we try to define ‘utopia’ the more we choke it with words. it’s this thorn in the heart of utopia that makes it so fascinating for me and compels me to keep on and on writing, though it’s painful and bleeding.
Isn’t it a bit naïve to believe in a utopian future, though?
it’s a paradox. i’m not sure that utopia is necessarily in the future. Thomas More found his utopia on a remote and distant island. but by the end of the nineteenth century, when the globe had been fully ‘explored’ and colonised and there was nowhere left that hadn’t been ‘discovered’, utopia got relocated to the topos of the future in popular fiction such as H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and Edward Bellamy’s Looking Back. in the mid-twentieth century, utopia became an unknown – and often disturbing – region of the psyche, like in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, or J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhbition. one of my favourite twentieth century utopias is Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve, an anti-utopian feminist utopia, humming and buzzing with magical-realist mythos.
for me, utopia is a curious alchemy of the limitless possibilities of the future and the limiting conditions of the present moment. utopian philosopher Ernst Bloch said that utopia is ‘in the process of being’, but he also said that utopia is ‘not-yet’. there’s a paradox of temporality in his writings that i’m exploring for my PhD, both creatively and critically. mostly what it suggests to me, though, is that utopia is in the journey, not in the arrival. since utopia is ‘in the process of being’, it’s something that we can be conscious of right now – really, there’s no other moment in which we can experience it – but since it’s also (and perpetually) ‘not-yet’ we must recognise that we haven’t yet reached the elusive destination, and more importantly, that there’s not necessarily a specific destination to reach.
to me, the journey to utopia is a journey that we must take; but we must always take it in the full knowledge that we can never completely arrive at where we think we’re going. i believe that as we dream our dreams and weave our words, utopian visions rise and fall in the evolution of human consciousness. in this way we co-create the world around us. as co-creators, we have an immense power and a huge responsibility: to remake the world in every moment, a little lighter than we found it before. we’ve got a lot to do.
i’ll be posting regular utopian experimental writing & essays on the blog, so if this is something that interests you, stick around and have a look at the posts and pages here. maybe even get in touch. i’m looking for more feedback on my posts, so please leave me a comment: the writing here is only meant to start the discussion rolling – i don’t have all the answers and i value your opinions and input in this co-creative process. you can also follow my random ramblings on twitter and chat with me that way. really, i’d love to hear from you on this. we all grow through dialogue & exchange, and the universe grows with us.
here we are, trembling at the edge of the known universe in every breath of being: and in words that hold their silence we write utopia now.