THE SIMPLICITY OF AN ENGAGED SOCIETY

In my heart, absolute necessities come to mind when I envision my ideal society. I often fantasize about living a simpler life, and when I travel, I’m always drawn to small towns. I know that Americans face criticism for this proclamation, and I don’t mean to say I don’t appreciate the conveniences offered to me in a large city. I’ve instead grown to understand that they should not determine the reason for my happiness. In fact, it’s sometimes these conveniences that allow me to be discontent.

I went on a reality show once as a visitor. The show was called Utopia – a social experiment of strangers chosen to start a new civilization. Set in the Malibu mountains, the contestants’ goals were to see what they could accomplish while working together.

Now, of course, they were from all different walks of life, all opinionated, all had specific things from their wheelhouse to offer the group. Seeing what they created was captivating until they incorporated money.

I went on-set during their first “open house,” a kind of Saturday market. The idea was that they would utilize their skills for monetary gain (sell handmade goods, teach classes, etc.), and use the profit to buy things which made life easier – such as seeds to grow food or conduits for electricity. The show was canceled shortly afterward, but it’s had me thinking ever since about what my ideal world would look like if I were able to start from scratch, just like them.

In my perfect world spirituality is understood. It’s without race. It’s without nationalism. It is personal, and it is private. It exists within us all and around us all. It is solitary, and it is united all at the same time. Here, God is not a problem. People in my society don’t get worked up over religion. We don’t hurt each other in the name of Something Higher.

I find it fascinating that here, in the real world you and I both occupy, we are all on our soap box, fervently adamant about something that none of us know the answer to. All history books and religious texts aside, I think we can agree that none of us knows the first thing about the origin of man or consciousness. We have theories that we debate and debunk, and have since the beginning of time. The fact remains that none of us are wrong, and none of us are right—at least not in a way that we can all agree. There are few other questions—that educated men and women are so passionately opinionated about—to which have no answer.

In my perfect world, the community is strong and focused in its efforts to provide a life for all of its members. It’s a simple life. There is no money, no large companies, no get rich quick schemes. Everyone works hard and offers something to the group as a unit. We trade skills and pass knowledge down. It takes a village, right? I believe the idea of a simple life is appealing to many, even if we don’t always admit it. I have the strong suspicion that if we attempted a world census of everyone, many people would agree.

Would third world countries agree? Well, good question. In fact, this reminds me of a story. I have a friend from Africa. He’s a working artist, and he often travels to music and arts festivals to do live painting. One day we were discussing Coachella, and we were deciding on what to do for accommodations. I was talking about a new tent I had purchased, an upgrade from my ‘two person dome tent’ (which everyone knows is a ‘one adult if you’re 5’5″ or shorter’ tent) and he sort of shuttered when I asked him about his camping plans. I laughed and asked him what was wrong to which he said, “My people fought so hard to get out of fraking tents and here you hipsters are acting like it’s a fraking holiday!”

This stuck with me.

It made me think about what it would be like for him, someone who grew up praying they’d never have to sleep on the hard ground again. Praying for shelter. Living a life that was entirely dependent on the weather and crops; Little to no automation in his day to day existence.

So let me be specific. When I talk about my ‘ideal world’ I’m assuming that we all have houses, weather resistant structures in which to raise our families and shelter ourselves. I believe that humans, in general, share the same values. 

I think most people would be happy in a community in which they:

1.) Feel they belong

2.) Feel they contribute

3.) Can be left alone

4.) Have a voice

5.) Have access to what they need

Having things in your life that are automatic makes you realize you miss the process of doing ‘it’ on your own. If you’re young enough, you never knew the process to begin with. Having the knowledge of ‘how’ would make most swell with pride. I would give up the prospect of becoming rich if it meant I could take part in a community like this.

What does your ideal society look like?


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