grasping at space

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  • Thursday, June 23, 2005

    Simplicity, complexity, and Utopia

    The usefulness of a definition depends on the concept being defined. The more complex a concept, the more complex its definition must be. A circle is a simple thing. “The set of coplanar points equidistant from a given point” (if I remember my high school geometry class correctly) is its simple definition.

    Athana says, “The definition of western religion is pain & suffering.” Well, I would have thought there was more to it than that. There is a lot of pain and suffering in life – I dare say, a lot more than can be accounted for by Western religion.

    (I should mention that I recently commented on a posting on Athana’s blog: “The problem is giving God a gender in the first damned place.” That also, I must admit, is defining a complex problem in terms that are too simple. The question I should have asked, which unfortunately took me two days to formulate, is, “Which is greater: Deity’s need for a gender, or humanity’s need to give Deity a gender?”)

    One of my early exposures to Utopian thinking, though I didn’t realize it when I was immersed in it, was Christian fundamentalism, or specifically the notion that once the willing have been converted and the unwilling have been eliminated, the world will be a better place. There are other Utopians, of course. There are certain atheists who insist that the world will be a better place when all religion of whatever stripe has been wiped out. There are certain Goddess worshippers who insist that if we forsook male gods for female gods, most of our problems would go away.

    There are many different Utopian ideas floating around out there, in religion and in other categories of thought, and all of the ideas tend to boil down to the same notion: “When everyone thinks like me, the world will be perfect.” The world is such that everyone possesses a small kernel of the truth (or, if you prefer, Truth). When I mistake that kernel for the whole truth, I delude myself and demean everyone else.


    Blogger Athanasios said...

    Two quotes come to mind. G K Chesterton was asked "What's wrong with the world?" His response: "me." And I think it was Tolstoy who said "so many people want to change the world; so few want to change themselves."

    There you go, utopia is humility. I said it so it must be right!

    Thu Jun 23, 03:16:00 PM PDT  
    Blogger Kirk said...

    "Utopia is humility." Now that's a simplistic definition that I could live with! Thanks, athanasios.

    Thu Jun 23, 03:40:00 PM PDT  
    Blogger AndyG said...

    An interesting post.

    While I am a Christian, although I do not think of myself as a "fundamentalist", I can see the disaster in labeling something or "someone" which exists outside of our frame of reference.

    Is it not the nature of man to desire Utopia? Is it not likely we stuggle to attain that which cannot be attained? Will humankind ever recognize the validity of their fellow human regardless of their personal prejudice?

    The world may never know.

    Fri Jun 24, 01:01:00 PM PDT  
    Blogger Skarr said...

    Try reading the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian epic. Every aspect of good and evil is explored there and the famous Bhagavad Gita is nothing more than a mere chapter of that grand poem.

    Fri Jun 24, 01:10:00 PM PDT  
    Blogger Kirk said...

    AndyG, good questions, and you're probably right about finding the answers.

    Skarr, thanks for sending me back to my bookshelf. I read the Mahabharata several years ago, and I should blow the dust off it and read it again.

    Fri Jun 24, 03:31:00 PM PDT  
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