My Utopian Dream

by Christopher Lovejoy on March 9, 2014

Paradise is where I am.

Paradise is where I am, regardless of my surroundings, regardless of my circumstances, and I can experience this as truth when I know the Tao of bliss, feeling “this is my utopia – here, now.”

If circumstances don’t matter, and only state of being matters, what is to stop me from cultivating a state of being that attracts and manifests favorable results, regardless of the circumstances?

And by favorable results, I mean favorable experiences, as well as, or in lieu of, favorable outcomes.

But is there a danger of being too passive? A most persistent question arises, one that I’ve contemplated throughout this series on the ancient wisdom of the Te Tao Ching: let it be or make it so?

Is it enough for me to practice radical appreciation for what I have, here and now, and to see that paradise is where I am? Or is there something more, something better?

Tao Te Ching, Verse 80

Verse 80 is a culmination of sorts, a penultimate statement of the Tao Te Ching.

The timeless wisdom contained herein is both conclusive and essential, as if to say: “this is how a whole and wholesome community of persons in harmony with the Tao looks, sounds, and feels.”

Imagine a small country with few people:
they have weapons and do not employ them;
they enjoy the labour of their hands and
do not waste time inventing labor-saving machines.

They take death seriously and do not travel far.
Since they dearly love their homes, they are not interested in travel.
Although they have boats and carriages, no one uses them.

They are content with healthy food, pleased with useful clothing,
satisfied in snug homes, and protective of their way of life.

Although they live within sight of their neighbours,
and crowing cocks and barking dogs can be heard across the way,
they leave each other in peace while they grow old and die.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

Does this sound like the kind of life you would like to live?

If so, why? … If not, why not?

My Impressions of the Verse

When I first read this verse, I was wowed. I love the simplicity of what it has to offer and I resonate with its vision of a good life. I like that it so comprehensive, so essential, and yet so simply expressed.

This response of mine is quite interesting to me, considering that I would have been full of doubts about it earlier in my life, given my inclination to soar without limits.

After reading this verse a few more times, I retained my heartfelt appreciation of it, but reservations began creeping into my view of it, which I offer below for your thoughtful consideration.

Imagine a small country with few people:
they have weapons and do not employ them;
they enjoy the labour of their hands and
do not waste time inventing labor-saving machines.

The story of Howard Storm is one of three accounts of a near-death experience that I find the most fascinating, all the more for having been given a vision of life on earth two centuries from now.

Out of context, this might sound strange, but he claims to have had a prolonged conversation with a group of light beings who were willing to answer his questions about anything and everything.

Although not exact, his vision of life on earth accords well with the first portion of this verse.

Two centuries from now, life on earth is envisioned to be radically different, technologically simple yet spiritually sophisticated, comprised of small idyllic communities, each with their own theme.

They take death seriously and do not travel far.
Since they dearly love their homes, they are not interested in travel.
Although they have boats and carriages, no one uses them.

This is a vision of a people who prize their souls, perhaps at the expense of their spirits, foregoing as they do the spirit of adventure, the spirit of discovery, and the spirit of striving to better themselves.

Still, this vision speaks strongly and eloquently to the value of contentment in community.

They are content with healthy food, pleased with useful clothing,
satisfied in snug homes, and protective of their way of life.

This is the vision of a people who know what they value, who know what is essential to the task of living, and who are willing to protect it assiduously in harmony with the Tao.

Although they live within sight of their neighbours,
and crowing cocks and barking dogs can be heard across the way,
they leave each other in peace while they grow old and die.

After all is said and done, peace is what matters to the heart of soul.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

The Fulfillment of Desire has been a constant underlying theme in my thinking and reading and writing, even before I began to explore it in earnest on this website back in the summer of 2010.

Before that summer, I was contemplating this theme in depth and at length in terms of soul and spirit.

Where soul is religious, spirit is … spiritual; where soul is concerned with sanctity, spirit is attracted to divinity; where soul is nourished by quality of encounter, spirit feeds on the vitality of experience.

The realm of “let it be” belongs to soul; the purview of “make it so” belongs to spirit.

I could go on and on, but the point is this: the difference between soul and spirit is not merely semantic; the distinction is real and it can be grounded profitably and imaginatively in and with earthly reality.

Having said all of this, I recognize the wisdom in verse 80 as a pointer to soul and its concerns, as a way of grounding spirit, as a means to giving the divine spirit a platform upon which it can soar.

In light of all that I have written in this post, I find myself asking: what is my utopian dream? What is my vision of a good life?

My answers to these questions are astonishingly simple: there are no bounds, there are no limits.

From the soul of contentment, in the spirit of discovery, for the sake of realization as soul and spirit, whoever I can be, I shall be; whatever I can have, I shall have; and whatever I can do, I shall do.

Honestly, transparently, authentically, how can it get any better than this?

Next up: Living Conclusively (Verse 81: final verse of the Tao Te Ching)

This post is one of many in an ongoing series that began here.

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