First, Keri Smith is great. I’ve known her and her husband for about 10 years. We used to be neighbors. She’s on the advisory board of the Center for Artistic Activism. And she makes great books.
This is her latest, The Imaginary World Of…, and I wrote one page of it. Keri asked me to write a few words on Utopia, so I did. I thought she was asking lots of artists to write a little something she would include. In fact it was just me.
I got the book in the mail, re-read what I wrote, and I still liked it.
My page is licensed under a Creative Commons license, so I’m sharing it here. However, you should check out Keri’s books, because they are good.
by Steve Lambert
download a PDF
The problem with reality is it’s so easy to see.
Look around. There it is.
Go outside. There’s some more.
You can’t leave reality’s presence. It’s always there to remind you and it all seems so tangible and permanent. So real.
In fact, it’s not permanent at all. Things are always changing and in the long term, everything is temporary. Also, our idea of what reality is is never complete — after all, we can’t know everything. On top of that, our idea of reality is usually inaccurate — some of the great moments in life are when we learn things and change our minds. That’s how we grow.
When we think about the future, this reality can get in the way. Our incomplete and incorrect ideas of reality, and reality’s persistence, end up tainting our imagination of what is probable in the world. The resulting visions of the future are tainted as well, and usually not very different than our current sense of reality.
It takes extra effort and imagination to set those tainted visions aside and dream up a reality we’d prefer, not to mention explore the innumerable futures that are possible.
But why do this? It is certainly more difficult.
Well, it’s definitely more fun. The world as it is could be a lot better. If you’re going to imagine the future, it’s a lot more joyful when you can escape from mistakes we’ve already made and envision something radically new. But there is another reason.
Utopia is a combination of three greek words; Eu (good), Ou (not), and Topos (place). Utopia translated is “good not place”. It is important to remember, as a “not place,” it is impossible to arrive at utopia. The reason we imagine utopias is to provide a point on the compass that orients us on our travels. Without utopia, we’re lost — we are traveling without direction, guessing and hoping that we are moving forward. The purpose of utopia is not a destination, it is to give us direction so we can progress.