(Review written a few years ago) I love reading books that make me think...that change my perspective and alter my view on my situation...on the world...on God. I just finished reading Utopia by Thomas More, with its idealistic views on a perfect society and found myself in part embracing that lifestyle and wishing I could be a part of it and yet at the same time not sure that I could relinquish my individuality, my independence and lifestyle completely to ever fit in with something so vastly different...so extreme.
In some ways its given me hope and again confirmed the longing for more community in life than we currently have...as we edge away further and further towards complete isolation from those around us that in the end make our life pleasurable... Perhaps following the false illusion that materialism satisfies, that we can entertain ourselves and no longer need others... yet how far can we go down this extreme road of independence and self centredness till we're so far from anyone around us that we dont know how to return to what we once knew. We didnt realise the intricate importance it played on our lives... Taken for granted but once gone its left a canyon.
One thing I love about Utopia is that people eat meals together. When I was a volunteer on a hospital ship in Africa we used to eat all our meals together in the dining hall as ships generally do and it was such a highlight of the day. It was a time for regular connection with friends, just being together in a non pressure environment where we could just have fun and laugh and plan things to do for the evening or the next day after work etc. It was the consistency of it that I really loved and looked forward to and really built good friendships and much needed connection. It split up the day of work and made the overall day a lot more fun. In Utopia different households have turns at cooking the meals for all the others each night... Which would be fun also having a bunch of people together preparing and cooking the meals and all the conversation that goes on all the while.
These community things we have eradicated from our lifestyle have actually taken with them a real source of fun and laughter and connection, which we really need. I crave it... as do probably most of the population of the western world that is losing it. Look at the success of myspace...people longing for some kind of connection no matter how shallow... Look at the success of the tv show Friends I mean who wouldnt love to have that scenario as part of their lives? To have a bunch of really good friends you can rely on and have fun with and do life with. It represents a fulfillment in life to an extent, as in the end without relationships with others life is really meaningless.
At times I despise the materialism and outward focus our world forces upon us...to look a certain way...to dress a certain way... putting all the emphasis on the outer and not the inner, that your looks give you value as a person and value to the opposite sex (for women anyway) and thats it and yet I am as much captive to it as anyone else. More stated in his books that the men were equally interested in and drawn to a womans modesty and good nature (which actually I think some men still are drawn to in women although there isnt enough emphasis on that so the girls are focussing on what they think the men want and therefore come across as utter sluts and tramps). I think its fine that outward appearance plays a part but its just the fact that the character and integrity of a person is no longer valued and is at the mercy of the other... meaning modesty goes out the window for the sake of appearing a certain way...meaning that if some girl is a b**** on tv (and of bad character) and yet portrayed as really cool, that she then is being portrayed as someone more appealing or valuable for some reason than a mild tempered, modest girl. Ever presenting an example to the young minds taking it all in with nothing or no other moral code to challenge it.
Another thing More brought up in Utopia is about how society florishes when the focus is on others and not on self. I guess like team sports...when all are playing for the team rather than for themselves, its always better... and in a sense thats what was highlighted in a Utopian society. For myself Ive always found much more joy in helping others and working with others than doing stuff individually for my own benefit... theres something about being part of a bigger cause that is really motivating. Yet aside from going abroad to mission opportunities, in general secular society there are very few opportunities for people to do too much together or work together on something for the good of many. I think its scary as without that we just get more and more self centred and our worlds spin around us and we lose sight of the bigger picture in life which keeps us balanced. I see people on tv recently, gathering together to protest a new dam being put in because it means they have to leave land they've grown up on or some other thing which seems perfectly legitimate to them. However legitimate it may seem to "their world", it strikes me that they lose the bigger perspective that this isnt about their little empire its about the good of the whole area and that potentially if everyone did that and got their way, no dam could be put anywhere useful...the water would run out and theyd have to leave their precious land anyway or they'd die. Okay so Im being extreme there but just trying to make a point on how small minded people can get towards things when they aren't involved with things bigger than themselves.
So, in conclusion, I recommend Utopia... I will no doubt continue to ponder it and its ideals for the next little while somehow wishing that in the very thinking of it, it would somehow change the world I live in. That it would be more moral and God focussed and others focussed... or even if it just affects me and those about me lifting to a higher level of morality and sense of purpose then it has served its purpose. To momentarily draw one away from the downward pull of todays morality and standards...giving a fresh insight and perspective... that in itself can be as refreshing as a waterfall in a desert.