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utopia


utopia (n.)1550s, from modern latin utopia, literally "nowhere," coined by thomas more (and used as title of his book, 1516, about an imaginary island enjoying perfect legal, social, and political systems), from greek ou"not" + topos "place" (see topos).  extended to "any perfect place," 1610s.

as the etymological origin states, the nowhere existing place was conceived in words by the writer.  around  mid 1800 there were a few utopian communities formed in the u.s.,  and one so named in texas has a population of 225 according to the last census.   then there is auroville, in pondicherry, india, also described as offering a spiritual utopian living envisioned by and for the affluent westerners.

basic to a living in utopia is a sense of a state of being in communion with nature, a  living with  a sense of equanimity with all things and  beings. this equanimous state of existence happens only when one is not affected by the surrounding unequal forces.  there, as galileo had demonstrated, a feather and a metal object  equally respond to the natural laws. but as that experiment itself showed that such non interference on the heavy  and light  objects requires an airtight cocoon.  in the human affairs that protective encasement is a living in utopia, material or mental.  materialism inspired utopian living requires an amassment of wealth or power. for others it is mental, the day dreaming, a penny pinching to somehow send their children to school in hope that their children will enter the material utopian land. and failing in that, create a make believe world of words. 

by addressing the commander in chief as 'mister president' the u.s. constitution writers have created a political utopia in words, since this mister rivals all past and present kings in pomp, without subjecting himself to even a fraction of the short comings of a mister joe or miss jane.  the presidential residence is literally a 'nowhere land' or an imaginary island  constructed and maintained by the common citizen.  common american mister is deluded in make believing that  by being equated with the dweller of the white house he is in the same league, that he, too, is equal with the commander in chief. despite a vast network of protection   4 u.s. presidents had been assassinated, and there were 21 attempts to kill a sitting president.    unprotected, about 45 common persons are killed every day.   there are hunger and malnutrition issues that do not affect the mr. president and those who serve him.  despite the stark differences between one mister and all other misters,  the u.s.  is perceived as the dreamland by the 3rd world people, especially the educating children and the adults.  they are duped into spending their hard earned money to enter their utopian land of milk and honey legally or illegally, and even get killed in crossing the border. 

utopia,  being formed of thought can be entered only in the non material, non physical form, like words.  and a verbal reality is confined in the cocoon in the world one lives in.  it is essentially a conditioned reflex of the unpleasant experiences one suffers in reality and wishes oneself be away from it by creating a world devoid of all that that one despises.  the visual arts are illustrating scenes from such place. the medium of the digital forms  makes such split second scenes mobile, giving it a visual reality-like appearance.  but, that, too, being made of non material components can be seen only, but cannot be lived in.  shedding tears over a visual or verbal character's misfortune while  sitting in a reclining theatre seat or enwrapped in blanket in bed one only feels sorry for the imagery person.  but feeling sorry does not change the storied event for it is but  a make believe reaction to a make believe happening, or a utopian tough luck.

dreaming, too, is non material,  and yet it  is experiential.  one feels all the joys and sorrows one is  subjected to while dreaming.  depending upon the intensity of the dreamed event one may retain some impression afterwards, like the memories of the past happening.  in fact, once out of it in time or the dream state, both these experiences become only memory  save the physical imprints of an actual injury. 

the physical reality of the residents of the township of utopia in texas  is not in any way utopian enough, except the name, to attract  the nonresident passerby to stop except, may be, to put gasoline in the car.  the similar sized town named 'romance'  in arkansas seems to evoke romantic feeling in some young couples to go there, and marry, or mail letters from its post office with its stamped postage stamp.  beyond that, the local residents of the township romance are not known to have done anything romantic.  it is the same with the 3rd world person entering his version of the american dream world.  an early 20th century poet mirza ghalib had written: "we are informed about the facts of the heaven; but, ghalib! it's not a bad idea to amuse the heart."   that is, if one can afford the time spared from the hard realities of the american life.  with perhaps an unheard exception, an american or european person creating or living in a verbal description of utopia, also has a safety net of the amenities of the conventional american basics of life.  even in their vows of poverty there is the provision for  them a warm dwelling and three square meals without having to go out for begging.  in fact, the book and the tv/movie screen offers the stark difference between  the world of the utopian poverty and the real poverty.

precondition to imagine anything at all, is an impulse to move away from the unwanted known, real or imagined.  the young siddhartha did not want to see people suffering with the four great pains, that of poverty, old age, sickness, and  ascetic person seeking to lead a life devoid of the suffering.  as the  return to his known pleasant life within the palace did not wipe clean the unpleasant sights, he sought means and methods to eliminate the suffering.  and what he found is an utopia, a nowhere existing place.   because he was kept from even a possibility of experiencing pain, the sight was new to him.  and since he was not personally subjected to the pains, he could see the contrast between the two ways of life, that of the rich and of the poor.   it formed his understanding of a living with neither having more than enough, nor less than necessary.  so he renounced the palace life of over abundance, and later on, also of the ascetics'. these two were the commonly practiced ways life, of which the suffering of the poor was caused by the over abundance of the rich.

but  buddha's personal efforts and renunciation of possessions  missed one  basic ingredient to bringing into being a living in a real utopian land.  begging for the basic necessities like food, cloth and shelter, was for him an immediate  need, which served two purposes, it was seen as the total denial of the living of the rich.; and it sustained his living.  as the prevalent way of life of the vedic india glorified the royalties,  buddha's begging made a demonstrable statement, that despite that, he was griefless.  but living as a beggar as an isolated case, and promoting begging as a way of life are not mutually complimentary, nor it is conducive to  the buddhist utopian land, for it requires having the rich around.

india of budhha's time was not the modern india of the consolidated 533some independent states many of whom were arm wrestled into joining the one democratic state.  in buddha's time there was only one small state that was  ruled by the people's assembly.   all the rest states were ruled by the greedy kings constantly feuding against each other.  for whatever reason gandhi had idealized his childhood family idol, the king raama, and his "raamaraajya" did not fit his own sense of the self ruled free india.  when reading the epic 'raamaayana' without the religion-tinted glasses,  one observes that raama was the racist, sexist and slave holding king, who also went hunting for fun (the "mrigayaa").  raised with the epics like raamaayana and mahaabhaarata, the indians  would not have accepted gandhi  had he been a buddhist, and not a devout believer of raama.  just look at the images of the modern indian idols in print, murals in the parliament house. they are all of the glorified kings;  the international airport of mumbai is named after a minor king, the "chhartapati shivaaji".

people of india have been raised as subjects of the kings from the vedic times.  and their rulers came in many ethnicities and shades of the colour of skin.  so when the english came to rule, it was the feuding  ruling class who  fought the english king and lost.  for the populace it changed very little.  so also the numerically few english survived  and ruled aided by the "yes sir" bureaucracy which managed the affairs of the state.  each ruler had his state's affairs conducted in his native tongue.   so the individual persons who had picked up the rudimentary knowledge of the ruler 's mothertongue served him as the intermediary medium of communication, which was the royal al command and its obeisance.  this reflects in the makeup of the modern english language, not only in the english vocabulary, but also in the whitewash of customs and cultures of the ruler and the ruled as interpreted or outright added by the go between bureaucrat.  as the english raj expanded, it necessitated training the bureaucratic staff, and the primary requirement was knowing the language of the king in order to convey the royal command. 

all the collective composers  and all of the current executives of the modern india are the products of the english education.  so their utopian thinking of a free india is not different from that of the english lords who have their personal freedom at the expense of the english subjects.  it is reflected in the second war era englishman's dream: "english house, japanese wife, chinese cook and the indian servant."   until that conditioned to serve the ruler-kind of education is removed from the syllabus, the educating indians will not be able to even think an utopian thought of being free, save experience the ultimate freedom.

apart from the named utopia townships there are thousands of small  forming and dissolving utopian communities in the u.s. and elsewhere.  and a resident tries to live out one's utopian life in it from six weeks to two years and half before realizing the difference between  what one expected and what was offered to be the utopian life.  

and it was buddha's  utopian perception of the freedom from the want.  it happens only when one is aware of one's ecocentric state of being which is not an identity acquired from the school syllabus and maintained by a ruthless struggle to have a comparative worth, the better than thou notion for which people send their children to school and dream the american dream. 

 


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