While it might appear that "utopia" is a pretty abstract topic for a parenting blog, I'm relieved to discover that I'm not the only one who is struggling to find connections with other parents and family members, and with the future, through the medium of shared ideals. The concept of "utopia" that emerged in dialogue seems to me to be more about finding a better way to live, than it is about the blueprint for a perfect society. For most of us, the extended family my father describes is gone. In the Sixties and Seventies, young people proposed Kibbutz-style communes as an alternative, yet time proved their vision incompatible with contemporary life.
What can replace lost families and lost ideals? It seems to me dishonest for any one of us to claim we have the answer, but we shouldn't stop trying to find one. Antonio Gramsci: "The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born." Gramsci is also the guy who argued for pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the heart.
My friend Karen (mentioned in the first line of "Utopias vs. Families") described in a comment the origins of the "Peace Trek" coloring book, which I think is worth elevating to a post:
Jeremy found the said item hidden behind a big basket of toys, an oversized Richard Scarry book and a picture book of cloud nebulas. It was buried sort of like it was porn. Buried because there are things I find particularly annoying about the Peace Trek coloring book, things which more or less echo Jeremy’s sentiments.
The book was brought into our home by Mark. Mark is Argus’ father and the man that I love. Mark is an engineer/scientist who listens to Deepak Chopra and doesn’t find him kooky. Mark takes things at face value and does not devolve into worst case scenario. Mark thinks not only that the world can be good but that essentially it is good.
When Jeremy looked at the coloring book, I both avowed and disavowed it in the same breadth-saying I was too cynical for that kind of thing, but admitting, no gushing, how cute it was when Mark read it to Argus.
I responded that I love the image of Mark sharing with his infant son the utopian vision in "Peace Trek," no matter how flawed I think it is. It gets to the unstated question behind my post: what positive vision of the future can we impart to our own kids, through both words and actions?
Because I think you have to do that, even if we as adults are too corrupted by our experience to believe fully in that vision. It's a balancing act: we work to realize a vision of a good life and good society even as we try to train our kids to always question that vision, to modify and improve upon it as life and history goes on.
Hats off to Mark for providing us all with an example to follow.