Utopias III

Utopias are portrayed as lost and inaccessible worlds (Thomas More, Tao Chien, many science fiction settings) or as ideal states of the past. Hence the Golden Age of the ancient Greeks contrasted with the present Iron Age of Hesiod. The Garden of Eden contrasted with history in the era of fallen humanity. Rousseau’s state of nature projects utopia before society and its artificial constraints had altered the innocence of the individual. Perhaps Freud’s oceanic feeling in the womb is the origins of the notion that the ideal resides in the past, not in the present or in the future, and that all of our longing is for this mystic state. Utopias provoke our imaginations to wonder what we should be.
For the solitary-minded, however, nostalgia can be haunting, crippling, especially for individuals whose past has not been idyllic. Yet the accretions of the past comprise the person of the present. If the solitary is not prepared to extirpate the past, no progress can be made. The process need not be violent, nor an idealization like a utopia. It is a forgetting, an irrelevance. The present emerges as the only reality, the only time when we are breathing in and out, when we can do something good and natural, when we can begin the journey on a path that heretofore had frightened us. By not ascribing ideals to the past we become fully conscious of the present, of what the passage of time and the priorities of our lives should be.