Friday, November 18, 2011

Utopia??? Just askin'....

One of my favorite books is "Herland", a utopian novel written in the early 1900's by Charlotte Perkins. It's a short, fun story that turns some of our common assumptions on their head and offers a glimpse into what true communal living could be.
Two male explorers hear about an isolated land believed to be inhabited only by women. This most amazing tale captivates them and they plan a risky airplane exploration to this place to learn for themselves. They find the land and discover the tales are true. And they become stranded, taken in by these women in a very foreign country.
They learn that 1000 years before, the men of the country had all gone off to war. Some sort of disaster had cut off natural access to their land and the men never returned. Suspend disbelief a moment. Apparently there were no boys left. Quite amusing is how the society thrived, without men, for 1000 years. Procreation???? Well, it happened miraculously. Suddenly one special woman became pregnant - with a girl, of course. And her offspring were able to spontaneously procreate.
Through the eyes of one of the explorers, we learn about their entire society. They carefully groomed the land and planned for future generations. They worked together to solve all sorts of problems and shared many duties. They cared for children in a communal life. The explorer described a utopian society without greed, without need, free of violence and full of great joy.
Of course, the explorers, once they learned the language, shared information about the society from which they came. When the explorers explained Christianity, the women were quite confused. The thing that confused them most was the idea that in several thousand years, nothing had been added to the book of understanding about Christianity. This one important guidebook stood still and could not be added to or revised or better explained. Their book of understanding had been added to, edited and revised continuously throughout the years as they learned better ways. If this was the most important book of their society, how could it be that no more was learned in 2000 years?
Of course, much has been written in many of our religious communities around the world. Teaching in all religions has continued and been revised in many ways. But the questions Herland raised in my mind are: Why don't we have a better understanding of the human condition? Why have we not been able to follow a guidebook that actually works to create a better society?
Just askin'.

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