In fourth grade, I did lots of weird things. For example, I compiled a list of words which have both male and female versions and attempted to meld them into gender-neutral, “non-sexist” versions. For instance, a niece or nephew would be a nepce. These words are clunky, weird, and lack societal inertia. I had principles in fourth grade, though, and I stuck to them. I believed in a world where you would be defined by what kind of person you are rather than your gender, race, or even, at one point, species.
When my class began an investigation about utopia, I was very interested to envision what utopia would look like. I wrote a long declaration.* It was beautiful, honestly. It had flaws, but I still love it. I remember one main question that I raised for myself. Would there be learning in utopia? On one hand, learning implies that people don’t know everything, so people would make mistakes. And mistakes lead to unhappiness. On the other hand, no learning means nothing new. No games. Everyone knows everything. Boredom would reign. And that is not utopia either.
What is utopia, though? According to Google, utopia is defined “an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.” Note the word imagined. Utopia is not a real place. Utopia is even derived from the Greek ou, meaning not, and topia, meaning place: in fact, not a place. But that is very much the point: utopia is an ideal to aspire to. Each degree closer to utopia is one step closer to prosperity, closer to compassion, closer to justice.
But if utopia were to exist, what would be true? I think the answer rests not in the mechanics, but the mindset. I think that there would be learning in utopia, but each mistake would be treated as something great. It would be a world where people are filled with happiness, hope, and cheer** at all times. It doesn’t matter how the utopia would be framed. Capitalist, socialist, monarchy, oligarchy.
People don’t usually become significantly happier when they earn more money, or material wealth, assuming that they have enough for their basic needs to be met. People usually become significantly happier when they decide to be significantly happier, I think, when they really figure out what makes them happier. I think that being proud makes us happy, and we should do what makes us—ourselves—no one else—proud. (Often, granted, what makes someone else proud makes us proud as well.) So to achieve utopia, make yourself proud.
Thanks for reading the words I wrote. Remember that thorns can be beautiful to find utopia.
Originally aired on February 06, 2019
*I no longer attend the school where I did that investigation. So I lost control of that email account. I copied over a significant number of files. Unfortunately, I did not copy over my utopia declaration.
**Not cheerfulness. Nouns don’t need to be turned into adjectives and then back into nouns.