Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On Pantopia

            On Pantopia

            The word ‘Utopia’ was Sir Thomas More’s sour joke; it meant both Eu-topia, the Good Place, and also Ou-topia, No Place. The satirical pessimist More meant Utopia as a place literally too good to be true. Somehow world culture missed the joke, and covertly thinks Utopia possible after all; but fears that such perfection might prove to be boring; so in sheer reaction later culture invented the antithesis to utopia: Dystopia, the Bad Place.

            But perfect wrongness is just as unnatural, unsustainable and boring as any other perfection; so I propose a third place:

            Pantopia, the All-place.

            Pantopia is a place where everything that happens everywhere, happens. Anything inevitable, like death or taxes, or cosmic, like birth or beauty, is pantopian. Utopia is about ideals, Dystopia is about despair, Pantopia is about experience. Therefore Utopia is didactic, Dystopia is tragic, and Pantopia is comic. I propose Pantopia as a satire of the Cosmos.

            If Utopia be thesis, and Dystopia antithesis, then Pantopia is synthesis. Pantopia is utopian, dystopian, both and neither. It’s battered but resilient. Pantopia embodies both the brilliant wonder of innocence, and the hard wisdom of experience. Utopia is like a too-perfect small village; Dystopia is like a battleground; and Pantopia is like a big bustling city. Where Utopia is didactic and Dystopia is cautionary, Pantopia is poetic. Utopia is too good to be true; Dystopia is too bad to be true; and Pantopia is too true to be either good or bad.
            Utopias are for the elect, but pantopias are for all. Any pantopia is both a Heaven and a Hell, intertwined, inseparable. It will be benevolent enough to reassure us; but savage enough to attract us.

            Pantopia celebrates the allness of the all. Examples abound. I recommend these as examples:

            “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. LeGuin
            “anyone lived in a pretty how town” by e e cummings
            “This is my Letter to the World” by Emily Dickinson
            “Past Master” by R. A. Lafferty
            “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino

            It seems, from these examples, that true allness can only be fragmentarily related, or even perceived. Pantopian literature therefore tends towards cosmic allegory; vivid intense incidents and visions suggesting more than speech can say.

            If I were to write a story set in Pantopia then it would consist of disconnected but revealing news reports from the middle of a revolution.

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