Okay, so I'm reading More's "Utopia", right? Hands down, this is the best line of the whole book, IMHO:
"...they [the Utopians] never enter into an alliance with any state. They think leagues are useless things and believe that if the common ties of humanity do not knit men together, the faith of promises will have no great effect."
The common ties of humanity!
I have no idea what this means for mankind or the state of the world's affairs; I just know that I am touched by the phrasing.
Now, on to perhaps the most thought-provoking passage of the book. Or, at least, here at Chez Nelson, the most conversation-inducing.
First of all, religion in Utopia is purely individual - everyone believes what they want, in who they want...although most of them acknowledge a Divine Essence (not a man, not tangible, not even visualizable). Huge, beautiful temples exist all across the island, but they are bereft of any particular imagery of "God", because all religions and spiritualities come to worship there - and everyone can then free to imagine the Divine Essence in whatever form they wish. Mind-blowing, yes!? Can you imagine implementation of this particular concept/philosophy in America? Wow.
But, here's the biggie: Utopians do not grieve when one of their own dies. Death is to be celebrated, because it is a time of joyous transition. Going to "God" (Divine Essence, etc.) cheerfully when He calls you is worth exultation. On the other hand, Utopians are very horror-struck and disdainful at those who try to drag their own demise out - they see it as a very disrespectful way to meet the Maker.
This passage impelled Brent and I to think about the concept of death in our culture. Many, many people fear dying and countless others try to prolong it for as long as possible. Scientific and medical technologies have helped us along in that sense, and so, here's the ethical bugaboo: Should we knock it off with the cures, vaccines, treatments for all of our diseases and whatnot? Because it deliberately flouts the natural way of the universe?
There's no black or white answer, and even I am still undecided. I do like the dignity factor, however, and that we spend way too much time mourning loss than we do celebrating journeys.
I did go so far as to state that when I have the first indication that it is time for me to leave this planet, I will go without so much as a fight. Brent agreed with me, to a point: it depends, he stated, on when that time is. When he's seventy (maybe even sixty), then yeah, he'll desist. But, he said, if it's just a few years from now, he'll want to fight to live. Deliberately flouting the authority of the universe. *collective gasp* Nevertheless, I can see where he's coming from.
This turn in the dialogue led to another interesting concept: fear of the unknown. Who knows really what awaits us on the other side? It could be a glorious Heaven/Summerland/Eden or it could be eternal darkness. The fear of this unknown leads most of us to flail desperately at the end our lives, even if maybe the quality isn't that great. Because we know what's here, we are reluctant to give that knowledge up for a trip to a place we have no idea about.
Not that it's bad, of course. I mean, after all, it is human nature. But worth thinking about.
To reiterate: All World Leaders - I know I'm just a measly, inconsequential English major and all, and yes, it's great you all read Plato, and 'Beowulf' and Machiavelli...and yes, you should read Shakespeare and Jane Austen and the Bible. But honestlyseriouslywithallmyheart, you all really, really should read 'Utopia'.
None of the others I mentioned can touch modern-day situations as much as this book can.