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A Perfect World- Revisited
Editor’s Note—A slightly different version of this journal appeared in March/April 2006.
During the early eighties, when I taught English literature and composition to gifted high school students, I asked them to write an essay on their personal utopia. They could create their own fictional, microcosmic community anywhere in the world, and give it any characteristics or qualities they chose. They could adopt an existing political system or religious belief or create new ones, and establish the values, laws, technology, economy and culture of this miniature world, without limits. The assignment allowed the ultimate creative freedom and allowed them to conceive a society over which they had total control—a place where they could create a new—and perhaps even flawless—civilization.
These students revealed a surprising interest in the future of mankind. The societies they imagined focused on high ideals of justice, equality and freedom. Of course, some also envisioned a world of extreme comfort and wealth for everyone (a Mercedes Benz in every garage) that required little or no work. Overall, however, their hearts and minds were in the right place, and they reached for high moral ground.
Envisioning a utopian society is not a new idea. In the 16th century, Sir Thomas More’s Utopia conceptualized his near-perfect world, and the possibilities of utopian communities have been explored in depth in dozens of literary works since then. For centuries we’ve been fascinated by what makes the ideal community, and each of us searches for it in our own personal way. Circumstances often dictate our choices, but to the extent that we can, we choose where, how and with whom we want to live. We ask ourselves: what and where is the most pleasant life? How can I get there? It can be a daunting question because it confronts our most fundamental beliefs, values, and fears.
For twenty-five years at PL, we’ve been documenting what we believe to be the most pleasant life. We’ve published diverse points of view—both personal and historical; we’ve profiled a myriad collection of colorful characters and entrepreneurs; we’ve reviewed dozens of books by regional authors; and published commentary, poetry and articles by regional writers. Altogether, it has been a patchwork quilt of what life is like here—in a sense, an artifact of our utopian vision, captured on these pages.
Of course, no world is perfect, certainly not ours and not even utopias, which actually means “no place.” But we continue to pursue happiness and contentment regardless of how illusive it may be. Right here in the River Country, people have been seeking and many have found their own personal paradise, living the life they’ve always dreamed. At PL, we’ve told many of these stories—of men and women who have left the hum of the city and exchanged it for the hum of cicadas and the watery sounds of the Bay—but we want more. We want you to help us answer the age-old question that has plagued the sages for centuries—
What is the most pleasant life?
If you have a personal answer to this question, we’d like to read it. Tell us in 400 words or less what the most pleasant life means to you. These should be written in first person and submitted to the editor, preferably via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), but we will also accept it handwritten or typed, mailed to our Richmond office at 5 South First Street, Richmond 23219. We of course reserve the right to edit for clarity and length.
As written by Marie Louise Berneri in Journey Through Utopia (1950), “Utopias have often been plans of societies functioning mechanically, dead structures conceived by economists, politicians and moralists; but they have also been the living dream of poets.” This is a chance for you to reveal the poet in you. Tell us about how you’re living your dream. Pl
By Robert Pruett
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