When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:4-5)
Chris wrote an article, reflecting on the notion of striving and working from the above Bible passage, about our own frustration when our striving bears no fruit (or fish in the above case) and about the discerning of the when for our striving versus simply striving for. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been starting to watch and catch up on the Supergirl series, something that has been way overdue. During the season 1 finale of Supergirl, (spoiler alert!) she helps the city overcome the mind control it has fallen under by broadcasting a message of hope to them. Thinking about it, the mind control wasn’t totally malicious. The main antagonist, Non, united the city through mind control in hopes of alleviating social problems such as poverty, global warming and the likes by controlling the city to work on these problems together as a whole. While he does do some pretty bad stuff while mind controlling these people (which in itself is already morally questionable), the main idea of unity and a betterment of society is quite a good one. In fact, this same theme has always been around in popular works of fiction, most notably in utopian/dystopian novels such as Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-four, The Giver amidst many, many others. Even if in some of these novels, the means towards the ends may be morally unacceptable, the end result seems tantalizing. Who wouldn’t want to live in a utopia?
This notion triggered a memory of watching an interview done with Bishop Robert Barron, where he mentions that the Bible is always suspicious of all these forms of societal structures and policies that promise utopia. He also mentions a quote by Pascal: “Man is neither angel nor beast, and the misfortune is that he who wants to play the angel plays the beast” to help depict that utopianism always leads to sacrifices, be they human lives, free will or emotions. If the above example from Supergirl or those of dystopian novels weren’t enough to convince you, look at Nazism or Communism. Both began as utopian visions. Both ended with either a piling up of corpses or a loss of human rights and freedom. Frankly, I think it is simply human nature that we will never be able to achieve the perfect society without giving up our values or our rights as humans. As Pascal mentioned, we are both spirit and body. We are not purely rational, spiritual beings and neither are we fully basal. This means that, as with all dystopian fictions, a culling of opponents of the utopia (both human opponents as well as opponents in the form of our emotions) have to occur for the utopia to exist.
As impossible as it is, I cannot deny that I want a perfect society but without sacrificing anything that makes me who I am. The problem with utopianism is that we act in these situations out of fear. It is fear of upheaval of the status quo that causes the elimination of the opponents of the state. It is the fear of desires that causes elimination of emotions. It is the fear of the imperfect that leads us to search for the perfect utopia. However, the Bible and our faith tells us to not act out of fear, but always out of hope and love. Jesus died on the cross not out of fear for us but out of hope, hope that man will be able to reach a state of union with God, just as He has shown us as the ideal, the Perfect man. In our quest for utopia, we must dismiss our fear driven actions and act in hope, hope for a better future, a more perfect future. Instead of eliminating in our quest for utopia, we should attempt to include. After all, did not God create all things to be good, including our emotions and desires? If we attempt to create a perfect society by eliminating that which makes us God’s created, then what is the point? It is only a false dream that we have fabricated, especially when God has promised us true Paradise with Him. As such, maybe the way forward isn’t to see what is wrong with the world but to embrace the small goods that we see, even amidst larger sufferings and wrongs. Mother Teresa said, “we can do no great things; only small things with great love”. Maybe the key is to then not see utopia as the big large goal of humanity to strive for but as an idea helps us to strive with one another to reach God’s Paradise together.
© 2018 Christ Centered Conversations/Gregory Adrian Gunawan