Utopianism: A Very Short Introduction
Sargent, Lyman Tower
"A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realization of utopias." -Oscar WildeI am assigned to the group that is to MASTER the 16th Century. Although I've been slow at getting started, I have been working hard to get everything figured out- Google+, Blog, Books, History and, mainly, just the vision for this class. I have done a lot of exploring to see others in their posting and participation to try and catch a glimpse and hopefully the whole vision. Here we go. I have a long ways to go, but am getting started.. by small and simple things, right?
I have started reading the novel I am assigned. I have the Title and Author at the top next to the picture. I found the introduction of the book to be interesting. I have never studied much or even been influenced much by the talk of Utopia. It has been intriguing to learn about the term and what it means and what role it may have played in the world, particularly in different civilizations.
The word 'utopia' was "coined by Thomas More as the name of the imaginary country he described in his short 1516 book." The book he wrote in the early 16th century is titled, "Concerning the Best State of a Commonwealth and the New Island of Utopia. A Truly Golden Handbook No Less Beneficial Than Entertaining" and is now known as Utopia. The word utopia simply means no place or nowhere, but More gave the reader a poem that calls Utopia "Eutopia" which means happy land or good place. So then the word Utopia became a reference to a non-existent good place. Although there are early references to Utopia, even before Thomas More, this definition is how we know it today.
All utopias ask questions. They ask whether or not the way we could live could be improved and answer that it could(Sargent, Intro). In his novel, Sargent has used three faces of utopianism- the literary utopia, utopian practice, and utopian social theory. It can get quite complicated and confusing because the word means different things to different people, but the general idea is that utopianism is a philosophy of hope. I found this interesting because of the way we speak of Hope in the gospel sense and what it means. There is great power in hope. The gospel definition we know, as stated by modern prophets and apostles, is "an abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to you... it is believing and expecting that something will occur" (Preach My Gospel p.117). Hope in the gospel is placed in Jesus Christ with an assurance that through exercising faith in him, we will inherit eternal life. This hope that we have is real and will become a reality. In great contrast, the hope as referred to by utopianism is often a societal structure dreamed up by someone that can often be nothing more than a naive wish-fulfillment, such as in some fairy tales. Although there is much that could be said-- much that I can elaborate on -- I choose to simply make this connection because it is what I found most interesting as I read the introduction. I realized that in the LDS culture, we have some utopianism among us and it is very prevalent. That utopianism can be coined as eternal life. It is a societal structure that is perfect and that is real. It is God's life.
Sargent states his argument: "utopianism is essential for the improvement of the human condition, and in this sense opponents of utopianism are both wrong and potentially dangerous." He also argues that if used wrongly, utopianism is itself dangerous. It's easy to find examples, such as some communistic countries, that have used utopianism wrongly. I affirm Sargent's argument and concur with a bold exclamation mark.