Real Utopias: From Dreams to Practice The Creative Project of the Class of 2017 Edited by Dee Ghiloni
Alessandra Cancalosi Oconomowoc, WI
PREFACE: Each year Denison adopts a campus-wide intellectual theme that provides an identity for the new first-year class through their engagement with it both inside and outside the classroom. Classes investigate, challenge and expand the theme and many speakers, performances, reading groups and other academic activities are organized around it. This year’s theme, “Real Utopias: From Dreams to Practice,” asks us to reflect both on why we envision ideal worlds and on how our strivings to make them real succeed and fail. Members of the class of 2017 were invited to send us their creative interpretations of this year’s theme. The art, photography, poems, essays and other creative work contained in this anthology are the product of these efforts. In addition, all of the created works that were submitted can be seen/heard/experienced at the Bryant Arts Center Gallery exhibit in August and September, 2013. We are grateful for the artistic and scholarly talents, visions, observations and inspirations of the members of the class of 2017 and the other members of the campus community who contributed to this project. We are indebted to our expert staff. Dee Ghiloni spent many hours arranging and editing the work that is displayed so beautifully in this year’s publication. Haley Bower ‘s (’14) dedication and hard work were invaluable to making the gallery exhibit such a success. Dr. Mark Moller Dean of First-Year Students
CONTRIBUTIONS BY AUTHOR/ARTIST
Twisha Asher……………………………………………...8 Drew Baker………………………………………………15 Naomi Barker………………………………………...…15 Rachael Barrett…………………………………………..4 Rachel Bowman………………………………………….7 Jay Burgin………………………………………………...11 Alessandra Cancalosi…………………………………..2 Emily Cantrell…………………..…………………33, 57 Zach Cove…………………………………………………24 Hollie Davis………………………………………………23 Caroline DeBoer………………………………………..31 Jake Dennie………………………………………………37 Jessica Ensley……………………………………………18 Amanda Felizardo…………………………………….12 Maryjoyce Gewalt…………………………………..…21 Hannah Goldman………………………………………26 Kevin Herman…………………………………………..32 Payton Hoang…………………………………………...27 Jabari Johnson…………………………………………..34 Jennifer La Count………………………………………20 Taylor Lifka……………………………………………...56 Alexandria Martin………………………………………5
Nestor Matthews………………………………………24 Emily Maxwell………………………………………….19 Gabrielle Mehringer……………………………………5 Bella Nahra………………………………………………19 Lena Nowak-Laird…………………………………….18 Morgan Phoenix………………………………………..17 Emily Pugliese…………………………………………..55 Ridhim Seth……………………………………………...28 Jordan Roberts-Ball…………………………………….4 Landon Slangerup…………………………………….14 Dana Smith……………………………………………….55 Anna Soppelsa………………………………………….36 Margaret Sutter…….………………………………..…33 Rohaan Unvala………………………………………….16 Megan Van Horn……………………………………….55 Allie Vugrincic…………………………………………..40 Marc Weaver…………………………………………….57 Adam Weinberg………………………………………….6 Erin Worden…………………………………………….39 Yuan Yao…………………………………………………..25 Eric Zmuda……………………………………………….31 Matthew Zmuda………………………………………..22
Jordan Roberts-Ball Carmel, IN
Lay down your arms, brothers; Raise your idle hands and Reach. Reach for your neighbor. Reach for equality. For community cannot Be formed without unity, And unity cannot be formed Without you and I.
We share a common homeland, You and I; The World. And the only enemies Who threaten our land? Ourselves. We turn blue to black, Green to gray, Poison the air, And let the Earth decay. But we can change this.
We can make a difference, You and I. Let us unite And create a better world For our sons and daughters. For they are the ones Who deserve to swim In the cleanest waters Of our utopia.
Ends Without Means Rachael Barrett Downers Grove, IL
Nightfall. Green light flares at the end of the dock. It pulses, fading in and out. Brighter now, dimmer now. Brighter now, dimmer now. Almost close enough to touch. Fingers reach, Grasping at the precious dream, But they scrape right through it. Unable to capture at and hold it. Imperfect fingers have left no mark upon perfection. The dreamer turns away, grieving for what he has not yet lost. He was foolish even to try. He begins to walk away, defeat in his steps When he turns back for one last look. The light brightens but does not fade. “Someday,” he whispers. “Someday.”
Angel Men Alexandria Martin Chicago, IL
My vision of a real utopia is simply starting with a dream and turning it into a reality. Real utopias are about really having freedom and being confident in whom you are within your own skin. Having a real utopia is about finding your own happiness within yourself, a real utopia is not at all about what others think because each individual has their own real utopia. Going to the gay pride parade in my hometown Chicago, Illinois was a prime example of how a dream could be made into a reality. For many people in the LGBT community their lives were immediately changed as laws were passed for gay marriage. At one point this was only a dream but as time goes on it is becoming more of a reality. A real utopia makes you stand out in society and helps you express your own uniqueness and individuality. Focusing on the “angel man”, as well as other aspects of my pictorial collage represents confidence, it takes a whole lot of man to walk around the city half naked in heels, let alone put on an angel costume regardless if they are gay or straight. This is why the colors of the rainbow represent pride, because no matter what color you are in the rainbow you are still one of god’s children and you should be proud. Making the “angel man” so significant because he is just another one of gods children and he is still human. Regardless of his/her beliefs he/she shall be accepted!
Denison As The Utopian Ideal Dr. Adam Weinberg, President Denison University
In many ways, the residential liberal arts campus is the utopian educational community. William Bowen, Denison Class of 1955 and former President of Princeton University, elegantly captured this in Lessons Learned:Reflections of a College President (Princeton University Press, 2011). He wrote that colleges “exemplify the continuing power of certain habits of mind and heart, including openness to new ideas and new friendships, respect for both evidence and the beauty of language, appreciation of ‘difference,’ and an even-deeper awareness of the pure joy of learning.” Denison embodies these “habits of mind and heart” extraordinarily well. Every day, we work towards the ideal. One night this summer, my wife and I had some students over for dinner. Throughout the evening, we listened to students talk about how the liberal arts have opened their imaginations, allowing them to find new passions, study abroad in places once unthinkable (one student is headed to Rwanda for the semester), and create intellectual projects from art exhibits and graphic novels to new entrepreneurial businesses and non-profit organizations. It was an evening of people connecting with each other in deeply reflective and exciting ways. As I write this,I have only been at Denison for three weeks, but in that short time I have been struck by the many ways Denison approaches the ideal educational community. This is rooted in the depth of relationships that are formed on this hill. It starts with our faculty and their commitments to our students. They help them learn to ask questions, take intellectual risk, exhibit courage, and be creative. It is deepened by our students’ commitment to each other and to Denison. They respect each other. They are people of integrity who follow their hearts and enjoy themselves. They forge friendships with each other that transcend a lifetime. And it is completed by our staff. They serve as the connective tissue that allows us to build and rebuild community on a daily basis. I love our mission statement, “to inspire and educate students to become autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents, and active citizens.” The future will be shaped by people who can thrive in diverse environments, embrace change as a daily reality, think creatively across categories to see old problems in new ways, and who possess the persistence, humility, conflict resolution and communication skills needed to align people across long periods of time to create things of lasting value. Our mission at Denison is to help students develop into the people who will shape the future. You are joining an academic community that strives everyday towards a utopian ideal. We all count on each other at Denison to work towards this ideal. Be prepared to contribute and learn. If you do, you will have four years of growth, friendship, and fun.
Rachel Bowman Rochester, MI
The Theory of Utopias Twisha Asher Mumbai, India
The theory of utopias The pursuit of perfection perhaps arises from a certain kind of greed. The need to be better often leads us into a futile battle of wants versus limitations. What is potentially harmful in this is that the pursuit of perfection is mundane. Perfection, at least universal perfection, cannot exist. The idea of perfection varies from person to person and there is the real catch. How do we all settle? How do we reach a compromise? If we cannot, are utopias possible? If they are then why don’t they exist? If they aren’t, why dream?
What is a utopia?
It is your ultimate fantasy lived out every single day. It is, in every sense of the world, a subjective and personal paradise.
How different could Utopias possibly be? The Utilitarian Utopia
For someone who is constantly obsessed with efficiency, this utopia would be entirely based on a harmonious relationship between input and output. Therefore, this utopia would be rid of lethargy and filled with people living up to their utmost potential, work-wise. People would do what they’re good at as opposed to what they would like to do.
The Realistic Utopia
In this utopia, everything would be taken at face value. People would not overestimate or underestimate, they would simply be accepting of reality as it is. Moreover, a realistic utopia calls for a lack of “thinking big” and could possibly entail a moderated vision and version.
The stoic Utopia
Similar to the two previous utopias, the stoic utopia could almost be an amalgamation of the two. Rid of all emotion, good or bad, a stoic utopia would follow the famous quotation of “this too shall pass”, absent of revelry, I imagine this utopia would annoy a college student or two. The stoic utopia would be the most moderated, whilst being based on the principle of conquering one’s emotions, which ultimately leads to contentment.
The Epicurean Utopia
In stark contrast with the three utopias stated above, this utopia is the place everyone visits after heartbreak. It is like the time period after a break-up when one vows to avoid pain at all costs even if it means having to never love again. Except Epicurus has it one notch better. He added food and sex to the equation. Although Epicureanism is the pursuit of mental pleasure and the ultimate intellectual YOLO, it gives importance to physical needs, as well (depending on which interpretations one follows). Therefore, an Epicurean Utopia would be a world in which everyone pursued pleasure.
My Utopia- The ideal Utopia
Ideal in the dominion of ideas. In my personal utopia (almost like the world’s a philosophy class and we are but questioners), everyone would question everything. We would live in a demesne of intellectual pursuit to uncover the truths of the world and truly understand our society and ourselves before we made any more progress into the future. This would help us make new mistakes (better than repeating old ones) and learn about what it really means to be the crème de la crème of the animal world.
Do all these utopias have a middle ground?
Possibly, let’s find out. The one thing all the above utopias have in common is the absence of violence or distress. This would be an easy trap to fall into, but we cannot discount isms like masochism and terrorism whilst trying to find a universal utopia. Moreover, the utopias currently stated simplify humans to an unreal extent and puts us in boxes we don’t necessarily fit in. I may be an optimist as well as an Epicurean, which is not difficult to marry. But, I could also be an opportunist and a skeptic, which would complicate matters a little. Is the only thing they share in common individual happiness or contentment? Wrong. There are plenty of people who believe that suffering leads to reward (including Hinduism), which would mean they would want to be unhappy.
Does this mean that everybody should mind his or her own business? Wrong again. The opposition to gay rights is the perfect example that people would be unhappy even if everybody minded their own business. So, no. There is no middle ground. If there were, we’d be in it. We’re smart enough for that.
So are these collective utopias impossible?
They are not. Virtual Realities like the Simms and video games are examples of how one can create their utopias. In this world, you could create imaginary people who aren’t gay or mind your own business if that’s what you wanted. A virtual reality the ideal escape from the real world when one cannot take the imperfections of the real world anymore, which brings me to my next point.
If they are impossible in the realm of actuality, why imagine?
Because everyone wants to believe in something. One dreams because it maintains sanity and gives one a purpose in life. The reasoning behind utopias is selfish. We all wish to believe in an ideal world because either it allows us to believe that everything can be all right or even because it gives us something to strive and work for.
So how did we arrive at the idea of paradise?
Addition. It’s all mathematical. For me, as an example, it was human stupidity + rays of hope in the academics and intellectuals = ideal utopia. For most it would be food + sex + television + money = material utopia. On a more serious note, it is mathematical. Your brain picks up things it likes from various situations and adds it all up to form one big bundle of selfish land. Your selfish land may be selfless, but it’s still selfish. Because I said so.
Utopias aren’t possible. They’re too subjective and the winners of the evolutionary race aren’t around to be a simple people. But in a world where one may not see any glimmers of hope, it may not be the worst idea to hold on to something that will never exist simply because it gives you reason to live yet another day.
The Perfection Gabrielle Mehringer Chapel Hill, NC
Inch Close Jay Burgin
We can never stop working for tomorrow because today is almost done A glint of hope is on our cheeks we found truth in what we had seeked when we pushed toward the sun We progress steadily, we’re evolving readily to see there’s always ways to rise We should never stop dreaming with our minds atop the world for that’s a dream’s true size This is something we must push through We won’t perfect it But we can inch close Words are just release of air and they are nothing when compared to change that we create We are what we make and we must endure mistakes to ensure the great This is something we must push through We won’t perfect it But we can inch close We can never stop working for tomorrow because today is almost done We won’t perfect it But we can inch close An original song written and composed by Jay Burgin Copyright 2013
Amanda Felizardo Monrovia, CA
Dear John, Why didn’t you tell me it was Gertie’s birthday last week? I would’ve sent her something! I’m enclosing some cookies for her, and if the letter smells like lamb and chicken, it’s your fault for not telling me sooner so I could send it in a different package. I wouldn’t mind any more pictures of her, since she’s so cute, especially when her tail’s wagging after you two go for a walk! Mrs. Johnson next door’s doing much better, and she appreciates you asking about her. It’s her second hip replacement, and despite the fact she’s walking slower than when you left, I still think she’ll outlive the both of us. The Smiths have repainted your old house. They left it for a while, but really, after your mom died and you moved, the house really did need a little refreshing. It’s a nice tannish color now, very domestic. Now I know it’s not really something that we’ve talked about before, but we’ve been writing to each other for over a decade and I still miss our occasional harebrained discussions, as Mr. Roberts used to call them, and I think this might be a good one. Do you remember when Mr. Roberts used to call us down from the tree house at the end of the street, after one of our day-long discussions? I can still hear his cane banging against the trunk, telling us our parents had dinner ready. Anyway, I’ve recently come across Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, and I’ve really started to think about utopias outside of the context that we see them in nowadays. In science fiction movies “utopias” turn out to be entirely imaginary, or they’re dystopian models where the world’s gone to hell and not yet returned. Or sometimes those worlds attempt to combine the two together into a perilous combination where only a privileged few live in perfect harmony while the rest of the populous struggle without dignity or honor to survive. But there’s more to utopias than that, I think, and I want to know your opinion. I’ll start. What do you think the purpose of a utopia is? I think a utopia’s purpose is to give us all something to strive for, a type of goal. They allow humanity to accept that the world we’re living in isn’t perfect, and that’s okay. We can dream of a better world, one that we can reach for and achieve. We just have to work hard, have a clear picture in our minds of that dream, and do everything we can to make sure that our dream becomes a reality. Your Anticipating Jane
Dear Jane Julia Child, The letter did smell rather meaty, but I must say Gertie thoroughly enjoyed her treats. She gobbled them down very fast, but I was able to snap a picture of her devouring the one shaped like a Thanksgiving turkey. It’s enclosed. Mrs. Johnson probably will outlive the two of us, but we all know it’s because we kept her young, what with her constantly chasing us out of her hydrangeas. She didn’t care about us traipsing through the roses or the camellias, but those hydrangeas her husband planted when they were married were sacred. I can’t remember if the Smiths replaced the windows. I’m sure they must have, and you must’ve told me, but I can’t think of it. It’s strange how difficult it is to try to alter a picture of something from your memory. I can’t picture the old house any color but yellow. Oh yes, I remember Mr. Roberts and his cane. You used to think it was hilarious, didn’t you, the oldest man on the street watching out for the two of us, the youngest, while our parents were at work. What would he have done if he hadn’t had that tree house, do you think? I swear my old man built that thing before he left; no one else had as many issues making window corners as him. Mr. Roberts’ birthday is coming up, isn’t it? You’ll be leaving yellow daffodils for him like you do every year, right? Would you mind putting some chess pieces on his grave for me? I still haven’t lost any games using his old set. Well Jane, I agree with you up to a point. Everyone has a dream, and we all do what we can to achieve that dream. But how many of us actually realize those dreams? Depending on how feasible the dream is, and the abilities of the dreamer, one may never actually realize their dream. And you’ve said yourself a utopia is a type of dream. Do you believe it’s possible to imagine a perfect world? And would that perfect world allow everyone to live there? Murderers, despots, and the scum of the earth? Monsters like Heinrich Himmler, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin- would they be there, or those like them? A perfect world wouldn’t have people like that. So then I have to ask, is it even worth imagining an imaginary world that we can achieve? It wouldn’t happen. You can’t get rid of those people. They’re the worst of humanity, but they’re still human, and the potential for awfulness exists in every one of us. Those “people” who became such awful individuals succumbed to something deep inside, a temptation as ancient as a bite from a forbidden fruit. Would you allow them in your perfect world?
Mr. John Henri Cartier-Bresson, Thank you so much for the picture! Gertie’s gotten a lot bigger since the last time I saw her! Your camerawork could use some help, though- it’s blurry and off-center. I still love it. I did find it amusing that my parents and your mom asked Mr. Roberts to watch over us during the summers. He enjoyed it, though. And I still think his favorite part out of the whole deal was banging that cane against the trunk. He’d be cackling like a clown when we clambered down. I left the flowers, and I found a miniature complete chess set. I think he’d appreciate it. I can’t deny that humanity has produced some awful people, John, but they’ve also produced some of the best any of us living today can only dream of meeting. No, not everyone would be allowed into my utopia. But it’s still possible to imagine a perfect world. It’s like playing make believe when you’re little. It’s possible- it’s always possible. Imagining a newer, better world for humanity is the basis of the major religions of the world. People have always striven for and desired a better world, if not for themselves, then for their children. People may not be able to achieve their idea of a better world in this life, but they might be able to in the next. There is immense hubris in trying to create a heaven (or utopia) on Earth. It slights everything a greater power has in store for the human race. But you can’t let the fear of something never happening stop you from trying to do it. We can always try for another world, to improve something here, and if that goal we’re aiming for is a utopia, then so be it. We need to imagine a better world, a utopia of sorts, if we are ever to improve the world we’re living in. How else can we try to recreate that new world? Stubbornly, Jane
Dear My Always Obstinate Jane, I must agree that in order to improve our current world, we must have ideas about how to improve it, and those ideas do tend to be a utopia of sorts, as we all hope for improvements in our world. You can’t have progress without a goal to aim for. If you’re hoping and working for something, you already have that idea in your mind of how to improve it. But do we have to rely on critiques of the present when viewing utopian visions? No, but critiques of the present will almost always be compared to an ideal world, and as such will almost always rely on the definition of the comparison to a utopian vision. But do you think real utopias, though something of an oxymoron, given the definition of a utopia, can do any good? Can people do anything to make this stated goal, this dreamed of world, a reality?
Oh My Always Fascinating John, Of course people can do something to make their goals a reality. With effort, stubbornness, and cooperation, a dream that many people share can become a reality. This “oxymoron”, as you call it, can still happen. People will still want to change something in their lives, to improve their lives, or their lives of others who are important to them. And this is the most important ideal of a utopia, a real utopia. Those who personally have little or nothing to gain from improving the lives of others are incredibly selfless and worthy of our gratitude. You mentioned some of the worst people in the world - murderers and despots - in one of your previous letters. But you didn’t mention some of the best, some of those who had a dream that they made a real utopia. People like Mother Theresa, Oskar Schindler, and Gandhi. I know it’s so easy to point out the failings of great people, but those who do their best to initiate a change, to create a real utopia, are those we should look to. They’re some of the most selfless and caring individuals, they’re the best humanity has to offer, and we look to people like them, who initiated a change and improvement, to lead us when we’re lost. They created real utopias and made real changes to their world, all in the service of positive social change.
All My Love, Jane
The Road is Infinite Landon Slangerup Pickerington, OH
A boy is born to his mother. An untainted society encompasses him. His mind and body grow according to his genome. We are perfect. Wonder and curiosity begin to pour into the youthful soul, Yet the drive to expand upon such thoughts is lost. With such respectable qualities, society has become a formula. But we are still perfect. Society hands the boy his desired achievements, Making the boy unable to find his own facet to build upon. The society expresses power that triturates hopeful progress. Perhaps we are not perfect. The boy is one of thousands thriving, yet entangled. Sadness does not exist for him, so happiness is irrelevant. The destruction of flaws has lead to the elimination of human dynamics. Perfection is not perfect.
Naomi Barker Columbus, OH
Drew Baker Lititz, PA Waking up to the smell of fresh grass in the morning, No beautiful ladies in pitch-black veils are mourning. Everyone so kind and genuine right to the core, No one, not even the politicians are at war. One of the few places where honesty is the norm.
Rohaan Unvala Mumbai, India
“Utopia” is defined in the dictionary as an ideal state or place, a world of social and political perfection. What makes a utopia supposedly “difficult” to achieve is the fact that perfection and idealism mean different things to different people. For some, it could be a world in which income barriers do not exist. For others, it could be a world in which everyone is a fan of the same kind of music. Whenever you think of the word “utopia”, chances are you think of “perfection”. That’s usually it. But what is perfection? Perfect teeth? Perfect tense? A perfect world? But what does that mean really? I think a utopia is a world where people can be who they are, be free, with no fear of reprisal, while respecting the dignity and lives of others. Utopia must start from the mind. If we “think” utopian, chances are it will show, somewhat, though slowly, in our everyday lives. How do we think utopian? It may seem a bit simplistic, but I think it could start with the smallest of things: not letting someone feel excluded from a group or in school, not bullying someone for their lunch money, to more “adult’ situations such as not refusing to employ someone because they think differently from you. You’ll notice that these examples have one thing in common: they all show acceptance of other human beings, and that is the most vital part of a utopia. We have no right to make someone else unhappy. As complex and grand as this may sound, it’s really not. The problem today is that everyone has a point to prove. Everyone wants a bigger house or a better position than everyone else. Utopia needs understanding. Understanding that we don’t need to be better than anyone else. We need to be “free” and only prove ourselves to ourselves. When people think of utopias, they seem to only think of grand projects, like ending war in a day or ending starvation forever. But in order to make our world truly progress to an ideal situation, we must simply respect those around us and be compassionate. That will give rise to the freedom that I spoke of earlier. If a man is not oppressed, economically, socially, he is free to live his life happily. A utopia need not necessarily be a world of economic equality. But economic superiority should not decide opportunity. No one deserves to be “looked down upon” or thought of as “different”. Differences cannot exist in a utopia. Yes, people may have talents and may be better at certain things than others, but everyone must be thought of as human and human only. Our talents and economic situations may differ, as may our likes and dislikes, but if we think of humans in this way (and I think we should) we will notice that there is no differences between us that can be deemed as ‘negative’ or that can make us ‘dislike’ someone. ”. As Damian Marley said: “We all came from one place… We’re a big family that just got spread out across the world over time”. So where do we start? Charity organisations are, no doubt, working towards the first steps for a Utopia, feeding the hungry, clothing and housing the needy and so on, and they should be supported. But how do we ‘give’ people this “freedom” we’ve been speaking of? Do educational institutions need to start handing out more merit scholarships? Do more schools need to be set up in impoverished areas? Do posters need to be put up, and slogans shouted out the world over telling people to be “free”? To be honest, I don’t know. But I do know that a “fear” needs to be overcome. A “fear” that people may have of society not allowing them to achieve certain things. A child in the slums has every right to dream and be treated as an equal in mind and spirit with college freshmen like myself, or anyone else for that matter. The world needs to “accept”. People need to feel free enough to live their lives. A poor man should feel free to attain rations or a pension without a fear of going through several painful levels of administration. A child who wants to learn should be let in to an educational institution even if the institution does not make a cent from that child’s attendance. Humans have only other humans to fear. The worst cases of humans being oppressed and treated horribly over time onlytook place at the hands of other humans for the simple reason that they were not utopian in thought; they did not understand that they were harming their own kind. So a Utopia is possible quite instantly for an individual who begins to think it. He will see no ‘negative’ differences in those around him. He will respect people and their property and understand that we are all the same; that we should all be allowed to believe what we like, follow the religions and philosophies we choose to: the only differences between us humans are positive ones No one owns the earth and everything on it. Gandhi once said: “Everything must be held by owners in trust for everyone else” We need to understand and accept that we are an extremely diverse, talented and wealthy family, called Humanity. A Utopia cannot be formed from one man’s idea because it may not be what others consider a Utopia. Therefore, a Utopia is a world in which people are free enough to live a life that THEY consider ideal. “Man lives in the shelter of other men” -Irish proverb
Morgan Phoenix Sacramento, CA
Reasoning Jimi Hendrix felt that â€œwhen the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peaceâ€?, and I take that literally. I believe that when people finally begin to value kindness and compassion over wealth and self gratification, the ideal of a utopian society might be realistic. Its been proven that humans cannot survive on their own, we must be each others guardian angels. All of our hearts must be willing to give flight to our fellow humans, or we will forever be grounded in a world that struggles for a utopia, but only really sees one as a fantasy.
Lena Nowack Laird
Palm Beach Gardens, FL Tried around the world but to no avail, Big Brother always seems to fail. Yet in the eyes of the public, The ardent attempts of the few might leave a clue as to their defeat and fall through.
However, as we analyze what we see, We realize there cannot be, A utopia for all, No matter how small.
Each mind is unique, For what we seek, Is a community, bound to be unfurled.
I have driven past the same barn going to and from school everyday since I was in second grade. One day on my way home this year, the barn was just gone. The entire hilltop that included a farmhouse and trees were gone as well. All that was left was a stark horizon. The avant-garde era of arts in the early 1900s was largely based upon utopia and the belief that it lay at the horizon. Modern dance was part of this avant-garde arts era. It only made sense to me to combine modern dance and the barn that disappeared from the horizon to communicate that utopia is unattainable.
Diversity Smiling Bella Nahra Aurora, OH
Emily Maxwell Lewisburg, PA
Shadows of the Past Jennifer La Count Cincinnati, OH
The sun creeps up over a dew speckled hill, And glances off a fresh yellow sill, But with the rising sun come the morning people, Bursting with energy atop the coffee steeple.
So on this glorious day, a young girl arises, Happy and refreshed, her mother surmises, Bounding down the stairs towards the Cheerios box, Quickly follows her hair, untamed, dark locks.
Her mother stands by the sink, sipping a cup, When her husbandâ€™s entrances makes her look up, Her skin looks like coffee, and his, cream, The family can barely contain their happiness, bursting at the seam.
Their daughter finishes cleaning her cereal bowl, And hastily hurries upstairs, hiding the cookie she stole, But her mother remembers not so long ago, A time where if she stole a cookie, she received a blow.
Her vivid memories flash horridly before her, Fire and fists thankfully are the past, but sadly the norm they were, She grew up in an age of intolerance and ignorance, Where patience was needed, there was belligerence.
She was hated for her skin, dark as night, Sadly, some thought it made for a terrible sight, Despite all this hate, the taunts, and names, Her spirit was not burnt out by the flames.
For there came a wonderful day when the president decreed, That everyone was equal, regardless of breed. It took many years to be treated as such, But the kind efforts of many helped so much.
Now looking at their daughter so happy and free, She knows teaching loving all is the key. Her daughter will learn of events that have passed, But will take comfort in knowing the events did not last,
The world has made progress from its shady past, Many today take comfort knowing they wonâ€™t be harassed, Black, white, gay or straight, The world would be a better place without hate.
It does not matter if you are of different ink, For you are closer to everyone than you think, Biology has proven us all alike, Minuscule differences prove foolish all dislike.
The world is becoming a more open place, A perfect place where none fear to show their true face, The differences of all do not make a dystopia, Rather the opposite, for this is Utopia.
Utopias: From Personal to Global Maryjoyce Gewalt St. Louis, MO
Utopias, ah Everyone needs an escape unique to each soul Sometimes a dog walk or the swing of a golf club one with nature. Peace. Nice to get away could it always be this way? Could it be global? Bring back these ideals from a personal level into the real world We may be crazy Everyone promoting peace? But we can sure dream
Utopia...on the Hill Matthew Zmuda Toledo, OH
Hollie Davis Chicago, IL
Real Utopia - Vegan Cornucopia Nestor Matthews
Dept of Psychology and Neuroscience Program A real utopia depends on its members’ moral imagination -the capacity to envision the potential help and harm caused by a new action. Our increasingly inclusive moral imagination rang saliently during the summer of 2013. In June, the Supreme Court supported same-sex marriage, ruling against DOMA and California’s Proposition 8. In July, Justice-For-Trayvon rallies occurred in more than 100 cities. Both the Supreme Court and the court of public opinion rejected traditional in-group-versus-out-group distinctions as the basis for moral reasoning. The broad sweep of our moral imagination increasingly celebrates diverse ways of being human. Being human is not the only way of being. Indeed, the same moral imagination that affirms the ancestry all humans share with each other connects us to beings across diverse branches of our ~3.5 billion year-old family tree. One branch of this family tree comprises animals, beings who have evolved exquisite sensory systems. Though metabolically pricey, sensory systems pay for themselves by enabling animals to navigate toward energy sources (food) and away from danger. This drive toward some stimuli and away from others rooted our moral imagination in evolutionarily early biological structures –a cellular basis for what is to be sought (good, right, or rewarding) and avoided (bad, wrong, or painful). Cellular phenomena mediate pain in animal nervous systems, which is why neuroscientists study animals –rather than, say, tofu– to understand the physiology of pain perception. Holding all other factors equal, animal-based diets inflict more pain and kill more beings than do plantbased diets. That’s why some morally discerning agents become vegans. This is not to say that vegan diets inflict no pain and no killing. Instead, veganism can be conceived as a vector, a continuous variable (a moral compass) pointing toward a real utopia’s “silver rule”: Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you. Physicists and environmental ethicists have further noted that -per the second law of thermodynamics- the vegan vector points toward less energy consumption and less pollution. Less needless pain, less needless killing, less energy consumption, less pollution: this vegan cornucopia propels us toward a real utopia… one bite at a time… if your moral imagination is up for it.
Real Utopia Yuan Yao
Changzhou China People around the world have been longing to live in a real Utopia, a heaven where crime, poverty and depression wouldn’t exist. However, does Utopia exist on earth? In 1516, Thomas More published his book Utopia, describing an ideal and imaginary island society. The term Utopia means “no place” or “good place” in Greek, perhaps implying that the completely “good place” is actually “no place.” But our vision of a better society is never just the castle in the air. It rings true because we are full of dreams, ideas and power. We are learning from history, coming up with solutions that reach the roots of today’s problems, and trying to replace them with emancipatory alternatives.
This essay addresses better interactions between family and society in a real utopia since family always plays a pivotal role in society, and mirrors society. Family creates the bond of love and attachment between parents and children. It is a natural instinct for parents to devote their love and make sacrifice to their children. Filled with love, children learn from their parents and understand the significance of sacrifice. This is an example of the rights and responsibility, which is a necessary virtue for people to succeed in the human community and should be protected and cultivated. Not everybody will behave in the same way in the family and not everybody will be a parent. However, all society endeavors to ensure the kinship and reproduce the moral values: participation, liberty, justice, solidarity, and diversity. Nowadays, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual people are interested in adoption. LGBT adoption has provoked a debate in public. Currently, LGBT adoption is legal in 14 countries and in some territories. Dissenters argue that the absence of male or female role model during a child’s development could cause maladjustment. Also, there could be higher child abuse rates in homosexual families, though this opinion lacks sufficient support. In fact, like their parents, children adopted by LGBT individuals also suffer from discrimination from society. Besides, they would be marginalized and lacking in the sense of social belonging, which is the most basic human psychological need and is crucial to social stability. In a better world, “untraditional” culture should be more tolerant, reflecting the social civilization level. “Untraditional” culture promotes diversity, which is an inevitable trend. If we marginalize them to form a separation, it will finally lead to social instability. Therefore, society must tolerate LGBT parents and their children. Some people argue that LGBT parenting would cause children maladjustment. In my opinion, children are too young to control their lives, and they can be easily affected by their parents in personality, religion, and sexual orientation. All these have a huge influence on their future, but they have no choice. Therefore, the transparency and privacy of parenting would be well balanced in a better human community. More people will participate in the education of children, no matter what they do, how old they are, or whether they have children. As for children, they are exposed to a society with a wide variety of cultures, religions, families and societies, of which they are an essential part. To take as an example the sexual orientation in LGBT families, children might be affected by their parents, but at the same time, they have many opportunities to participate in different families. They can learn about male and female, and how the family roles play in different ways. As they grow up, they are able to make their own choices about sexual orientation. Society should protect children in this case. The family should focus on but not confine to the
development of children, and society should shoulder the responsibility.
In a real utopia, we will never make a distinction between right and wrong, and diversity will be respected. we will provide freedom and help to support everyone’s thinking, problem solving, and growth. A Parent’s Influence on Their Children’s Personality, Safire Lieurance What is Real Utopia? Chris Spannos William Satetan,Adopting Premises, Slate Education for a Participatory Society, Noam Chomsky LGBT Adoption, Wikipedia
A Retelling Hannah Goldman Blue Ash, OH
“I woke up yesterday washed hands and washed knees I said ‘Sun, follow me’ we worked together and it was every other day and later we both rested— I was roused they said ‘Come we are leaving!’ and we ran we sang I watched a man break the sea in two I rushed through it daring not to touch nor stop I watched the sea close behind us, We all stopped and the ground was a different ground the air was a different air and the moon a different moon And we slept where we wanted we said This is what freedom is.
I woke up today and the sun was the same sun the sun said ‘Follow me’ and we set off again walking and I thought These hands are the same hands these knees the same knees this heart the same heart but today these hands are my hands these knees my knees and my heart has always been mine but today is also a people’s and tomorrow and the next and all the years that follow we will be free for each other”
Finally Found My Utopia Payton Hoang Hanoi, Vietnam
Life Through People’s Eyes, Their Reality and Their Utopia Ridhim Seth Kolkata, India
WHY? I lay down on the cool wooden floor. It was silent and everything felt right. I closed my eyes and felt the cool breeze come Through the window and embrace me with open arms. I wish I could sit in my tree house all day, With no worries on my mind. Why must I go to school? I’d love to be curious again. There’s no fun in staying silent all the time..
Why am I scared these days? Why don’t I run around, jump, scream and shout anymore? I am loved, yet I feel incomplete. Why ?
Days are better when I don’t go to school. Happiness is a thing when I don’t go to school. When I’m not at home. Just lying here, in my tree house. All alone.
It’s different when you don’t have to See what everyone else sees. The world is infinite when it is Not limited to the bounds of vision.
I am not sad, about my state. I have things others do not. I have a roof over my head. A floor beneath my feet. I have a wife to love, And feel loved. I would call her the woman of my dreams, Only if I knew what dreams were. With what I have, I am complete. This is my utopia. But there are things I want. Small things.
I wish to see a picture of my mother. They tell me she was a beautiful woman.
“Stand up to the Big kid” says Pa. “Let it be” says Ma, with tears in her eyes.
I wish to learn all the different colours. I want to see how different things are, From what I had imagined. I wish to sail the seven seas. And be able to tell the difference.
The seven seas, But I don’t.
Does Pa know what it’s like to be bullied everyday... When he bullies Ma, himself. The Blind Man MY WISHES
The world could be a mysterious place, If you’ve never seen how it looks. But most people who have, Thinks it’s mysterious too. Life is tough, But I’ve come pretty far. I’ve never left the city. But it’s like I’ve sailed the seven seas.
With these gaping holes, I still feel complete. This is my utopia.
The Everyday Middle Class THE FORCE
I am one you wouldn’t notice. And somehow, I like it that way. I work a 10 hour shift, 6 days a week. I walk the roads you walk, Breathe the air you breathe.
I work to clear a debt, Just like you.
You walk past me, But you don’t feel my presence. Why would you? Because, you too, are me.
We both sit in 5x7 cubicles, Doing the work we’re made to love, While not being the astronaut or ball player, We always wanted to be.
The clock ticks on, disturbingly. Reminding us that time is passing. Slowly. We put our heads down. Taking that minute out. Thinking to ourselves. Are we the ones that Make the world go round? Both of us dread the week before pay day, And don’t think about it the week after. Because all we want to do is Get our sons that mitt they wanted. Get our little girls that dress they liked. Come home after a long day to see Our wives smiling. Our children playing. A shower waiting, cold... Food on the table, warm... In this, We feel infinite, Because however small our limits be, We feel complete. The thought of having more, is sweet, but The knowledge of having what we do, Is the sweetest. ~~ The Elderly Woman
TIME I’ve been cheated, Yes I’m sure. This realization took time to come, But it’s here to stay.
Sometimes the feeling goes away, But it doesn’t make the day any better. Though... Often, if not all the time, I pass by his photograph on my desk. It all comes back to me, Who I am, and what I’m worth.
And it’s not a good feeling...
I remember weeks of planning before His surprise birthday, And he forgets mine.
I remember taking care of him at Three AM, when he was too sick to sleep. And he doesn’t call to ask how I am. I remember giving him my life, Giving him my love... unconditionally. And I get an occasionally message. “Hope you’re doing well, Ma” Does he really hope so?
He does and I know it. My mind refuses to believe so, But my heart tells me he cares.
And at the end of the day, I live with myself. A proud mother. A soon to be grandmother. I don’t blame him for pushing me away. I was just like him. I’m proud because I know I’ve raised a man. I’m proud because I know that he’s doing A magnificent job taking care of his family. Like I did. I’m proud.
What could a mother want, at this stage of her life? The SAME thing she wants at ALL stages of her life. That her children are happy. Mine seem to be so. So I pat myself on my back. And tell myself, I’ve done a good job.
I sit back, on my recline. I look up into the sky, which looks brilliant tonight. I close my eyes, And embraced I am, by a solitary paradise. ~~
The Geek I DON’T CARE It doesn’t bother me that, No one notices me. That no one talks to me. That my lunch table is empty, Most of the time.
I don’t care, if I spend more time With books, than with people. If the library is my second home. If I call Chess a sport, and they ridicule me. If I wear my thick rimmed glasses, And they call me a nerd.
I’m at home. I see. I hear. I feel.
With all this, my life is one I love to live. They don’t notice me, but they beg me for answers, During examinations. They don’t talk to me, but I’m their buddy, When they need an assignment done. My lunch table is empty, But I don’t sit with people who hate me. I feel sad for the ones, who consider themselves, Intellectuals because they read Harry Potter. And now, it’s ‘cool’ to wear the glasses I wear.
Would I want anything different? Money? Worldly pleasures? Indulgences? Work? A roof on my head? No. Money would distract me. I am myself when I have nothing but me. Work, you ask? But I have nothing to work for. No family To feed, no skills to help anyone but myself. A roof on my head? Yes, I have one. Star-studded. The world is my home. I roam where I wish. I rest where I feel. I do what I want. I don’t belong to anyone, as no one, to me. I am, my companion. I am complete. Life is my journey. And I’m not even halfway there. So, What do you do for a living? I just live.
It doesn’t hurt me, When you call me names. Trip me in corridors, or laugh at me. Neither do I feel anything when, No one will go to prom with me.
They can push me down all they want. There will come a day, when they’ll all know me. When they’d wish to be me. When they had wished that they hadn’t tripped me as I walked. I may not have too many friends, but the one’s I do, Have stuck with me, throughout. In the end, I have always been the winner. I still am. And I always will be. ~~
I just live. I walk. I run. I move and keep moving. I eat what I find. I sleep where I lie. I dream.
I dream of tomorrow and nothing more. I think of everything under the sun. So I think of nothing, at night. With the stars as my friends, And the grass as my bed,
I feel everything around me. Not the blisters on my bare feet, But the land beneath it. Not the dirt on my skin, But the breeze that blows by. Not the emptiness of my pockets, But the depth of my experiences. Not the need for a home, But the company of the world.
Epcot Eric Zmuda Toledo, OH
Robo Arigato Caroline DeBoer West Lafayette, IN
Childish Joy Kevin Herman Toledo, OH
This summer, my twin brother and I are employed as conselors at a summer camp that we have attended since we were in 4th grade. The YMCA Camp Storer in Jackson, Michigan may not have the prettiest lake or the cleanest cabins, but it’s been a Utopia for us. For many kids across the United States, summer camp is Utopia. Why? Maybe it’s the freedom from the usual routines of home or of being so close to nature. Maybe it’s meeting new kids and getting the chance to be someone new. The day after my brother and I graduated from high school, we packed our car and headed to camp. A lot of our friends couldn’t understand why we would want to start working so soon. For one thing, we were going to miss all of the graduation parties. Spending the summer before our first year of college at camp was not a problem for us. I took this photo of my twin brother, Michael, while we were at staff training. The image brings back a lot of memories of our summers at camp.....jumping on “the blob” is always a high point. Not a care in the world. This is my little slice of Utopia.
Margaret Sutter Clayton, MO
Balance Emily Cantrell Columbus, OH
Building a Utopia: The Irrational Inspiration A Fictional Essay Jabari Ikenna Johnson Blacklick, OH
There has always been a vision of a better real-
government institutions in regions torn by conflict. By
ity. The concept of a perfect world has been fantasized
January of 2025, most major violent disputes practical-
for an incredibly long time. From the concepts of an
ly ceased to exist. Drug wars were mostly ended with
afterlife to the designs of fictional worlds, the idea of
careful legalization, political disputes in the Middle East
a flawless reality has been idolized, studied, theorized,
calmed down by entirely rewriting government systems,
and dreamt. A universal term for the ideal world would
and global wars were put to rest with new alliances. As a
be a utopia. A Utopia is a fictional idea that has exist-
result, the U.N. was expanded to represent every nation
ed for centuries. Despite the all around admiration of
of the world. The first act was viewed as a major step
the thought, many people would disagree that such a
in human history, but most people speculated that the
society is capable of existing in our society. A utopia is
great changes were only temporary and would never last
an ideal world, not a realistic one. Nevertheless, in the
pursuit of a better world, a global project was formed
The first act of the Eden Plan proved successful,
in order to achieve a peaceful society. In March of
which boosted the confidence of actually building a real
2024, the Eden Plan took action. The Eden Plan was
world utopia. The second act of the Eden Plan however
an arrangement considered to push the world into a
was a bit more controversial. The new U. N. attempted to
more peaceful civilization. Absolute harmony was the
ban all firearms, but some countries highly opposed the
ultimate goal. It was with this goal in mind that the
idea. The United States was one of the main countries
U.N. designed plans to reconstruct the way the world
to resist the banning of firearms, as it conflicted with
worked in general.
American amendments. The firearm banning was quick-
Global leaders figured the only way to cata-
ly abandoned and the second act of the Eden Plan in-
lyze a better future was with an organized strategy to
volved the creation of larger police enforcements. Since
eliminate all possible negative conflicts and conditions.
weapons could not be detached from society willingly,
Hence, the first act of the Eden Plan was ending all
the only way to combat crime rates was with the bigger
international mass conflicts. This act was certainly not
and stronger police force. The new police structure was
an easy task. It took many months to not only diplo-
capable of reducing crime by being watchful and on
matically unite countries that were once formal rivals,
guard practically everywhere. Global crime was reduced,
but also cease all wars. Millions of dollars were si-
but social paranoia was also starting to settle. In order
phoned from military funding and used for rebuilding
to ensure people of the world would not do something
to harm themselves, international governments began
plan nearly single handedly changed the way society
excessively watching everyone. Global police forces
functioned all together. The utopia that was a part of
and security systems reached their new status of power
nations’ vision was near complete. The final act of
by September of 2025.
the Eden Plan was to cure most major diseases. The
Since crime and war was considered dealt
administrators of the organization knew the fourth act
with, the new U.N. moved onto poverty. The third act
would take a very long time to ever be successful, so
of the Eden Plan was to globally secure the poor and
the funding and new studies began for the fourth act
ration food. Global leaders built special sanctions and
back in 2024. During the two years of research, the
communities for those who couldn’t afford it, but the
fourth act showed little progress. The major cause of
rate of poverty was too great for additional assembly
death in the new world was caused by disease, so it
alone. Therefore leaders decided to heavily tax the
was considered the last conflict in the new utopia on
richer classes in order to distribute the money to those
Earth. On June of 2026, the global leaders of the U.N.
in dire need. That new plan did not sit well with the
made a daring decision regarding how to solve the
upper class, but the majority of the world agreed with
dilemma with diseases; the U.N. leaders divided the
the terms. Despite the large sum of money brought by
citizens of Earth so that the unhealthy lived in one area
the new taxes, the Eden Plan still did not have enough
and the healthy lived in another. This way, the healthy
to help the entire world. Therefore, leaders decided
would be able to remain in strong condition until cures
it was better for the entire world to function under
were discovered. This was the Eden Plan’s most criti-
fixed incomes. This decision sparked mass uproar and
cal choice, which led to its downfall. Gathering the un-
debate because the new global income plan would pay
healthy population kept those in better condition safe
some individuals less than what they made prior to
from diseases, but it also worsened their conditions.
the decision. At the same time however, with the new
Despite having the proper conditions and resources
revenue plan significantly helped reduce the amount
to live, the unhealthy region was practically treated
of poverty almost altogether. The third act used this
like a giant quarantine and the unhealthy people were
same strategy to solve world hunger as well. A large
dying faster than ever before. The controversial deci-
sum of the world’s food supply was rationed for equal
sion turned everyone against the Eden Plan and mass
distribution. No one was able to have more than their
protest ensued. Tension from the Eden Plan’s decisions
fixed share. The third act was considered complete by
grew too much over the years and on October of 2026,
February of 2026.
the Eden Plan collapsed and society slowly reverted to
Everything was falling into place for the Eden Plan. Many aspects that weren’t considered possible to change had been improved. The new United Nations
the way it was two years ago. In only two years, the idea that would supposedly change society indefinitely, met its downfall. The
utopia that the world had hoped for slowly changed
cate or coexist in a perfect society. It is out of our
against their favor. In order to maintain a peaceful so-
nature. Nevertheless, even after the Eden Plan fell
ciety, civilians had to be constantly watched, interna-
apart, people still attempt to perfectly reshape our
tional alliances were forced, payments and resources
imperfect world today. This is also part of human
were predetermined, and unhealthy people were prac-
nature. We constantly look to improve our own
tically imprisoned. The dream world that was built
lives so greatly that ideas such as utopias become
slowly became the contrary: a dystopia. This was be-
our motivation. The “ideal world” may forever be
cause the Eden Plan was destined to fail the moment
out of mankind’s reach, but it doesn’t stop us from
the idea was even arranged. Logic would dictate that
extending our grasp. A utopia isn’t our expectation
a utopia can virtually never function on our planet.
for the future, it is our irrational inspiration.
Human beings are not perfect, thus we cannot repli-
Anna Soppelsa Dublin, OH
When I first read the topic for this year’s Spectrum Series, I thought the answer to the question was an
easy no: there is no set of rules that will lead to a perfect society, the reason being that there is no set of rules that could ever be agreed upon by all. Any number of differences in belief, religion being the easiest target, forces humanity into uncompromising polarity. Anyone who has read the popular dystopian novels knows that dystopias are created when one group tries to create a utopia based on their particular beliefs. In George Orwell’s 1984, it was, of course, Communists. We see the opposite end of the spectrum in A Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s description of an American society taken over by the ultra-religious right. In these stories, although fictional, we see parallels into our modern world: Communism did actually take hold in many countries and resulted in decades of productivity and multitudes of lives lost. In the Middle East, we see the Taliban creating theocracies built upon Sharia law, which to almost anyone in the outside world, is a discriminatory, dystopian society. In both of these examples, we see groups of people who could never agree on an optimal set of rules: one could not put a member of the Taliban and an average American, let alone a Communist, in a room and ask them to create a set of rules upon which an ideal society could be based. There is no set of rules under which a Communist and almost any other world citizen could happily live. It seems that, given the diversity in beliefs of humanity, there couldn’t be one utopia under which the entire planet would live. Even if there were to be non-global “utopias,” members of them would have to elect to be part of them, unlike we’ve seen in the examples given, both real and fictional, as they would only pertain to one set of beliefs with which only a certain percentage of the population would agree.
However, upon reading the assignment more carefully and seeing the definition that this project is using
for utopia, I began to think that it may be a distant possibility: in fact, something that I was planning on spending my life working towards. Even if not everyone in a society could agree on a set of rules, it might be possible to create that society such that each member had the opportunity to live a flourishing life. This then begs two questions: what does this society look like? And how do we get there?
From an economist’s perspective, this looks like social mobility. Social mobility is the capitalistic idea that
rewards will go to those who are smart, skilled, hard-working, or possessing of good ideas, rather than those with money and privileged. The idea is that someone could rise from the poorest class to the richest, from “rags to riches,” so to speak, with hard work and ingenuity. While this concept is one of the cornerstones of a good economy and will help many live fulfilling lives, it does leave out those without ingenuity. The idea of a utopia, according to this spectrum series, is a society in which everyone can lead a fulfilling life, not just the best and brightest. One could argue that social mobility gives everyone the opportunity to lead a fulfilling life, but it still isn’t always based on hard work, so that those born without superior intellect, bright ideas, or an entrepreneurial spirit, through
no fault of their own, are left out.
So creating a society with high social mobility is a start, but not the entire picture of a utopia. The next
thing to come to mind is a simple lack of poverty. While it is quite possible to lead a flourishing life while in poverty, being vulnerable to disease, accidents, and other small catastrophes that put people under a decent standard of living makes it rather difficult. So while more problems would need to be solved after poverty, as not every rich person lives a fulfilling life, the first step to at least giving everyone the opportunity to do so is to give them the financial, political, and social means to do so.
How to help people live flourishing lives once they have the financial means to do so is a much too com-
plicated process to fully discuss here, so since weâ€™ve started to answer what this utopia looks like, one might ask how to arrive at such a place, especially with such a high goal as a society without poverty. First of all, progress does march on. With advances in technology, the globalization of economies, and the development of almost every poor country, albeit sometimes slow, is propelling us, arguably, toward a world without severe poverty. However, this may not come quickly enough, and it may not bring everyone with it, as capitalism tends to always leave some people behind. Foreseeing this problem, we could come up with a new set of rules for our global society to make the progress faster and more equal, but that brings us back to our problem of being unable to agree on a set of rules, and is otherwise dangerous. Karl Marx foresaw this problem, and tried to counteract it with a set of rules he called communism, which, needless to say, didnâ€™t work out. So an abrupt change in rules might save us from poverty, but could have terrible consequences.
One possibility we briefly visited earlier: non-global utopias, some sort of countries that divide people
into societies based on their beliefs, on what they think the perfect set of rules would be. There is a country of communists, a country of socialists, a country of evangelical Christians, a country of radical Muslims, and countries for everyone in the middle. People could elect to live in whichever country they wished, and each country could address poverty and living fulfilling lives their own way, so that, hypothetically, each person could be happy with their opportunity to live a fulfilling life. The problem is, the lack of diversity within each society will create intolerance of all the others. One of the fantastic things about our collegiate society is that we can live and form relationships with those with whom we are extraordinarily different: we can learn to live with and appreciate those who, if in this country-belief based utopia, would chose to be in very different societies than us. If humans were to live in societies with only those with whom they shared core beliefs, they would lose the tolerance we create through our diverse society and create huge amounts of tension with surrounding countries, creating global crusades to perpetuate their own beliefs. Even if there were some sort of governing faction, if somehow a UN of sorts existed that was not tyrannical but was powerful enough to prevent these conflicts, being forced to choose
a belief-country would create problems. Assuming each society would educate their population enough to make an informed decision on which country to choose, which is extremely unrealistic, someone choosing to leave their society for a new one would have to uproot themselves away from their family and culture. If both family connections and living in a society one supports are necessities for leading a fulfilling life, this situation would prevent many from having that opportunity, disqualifying this idea as a utopia, by Denison’s definition.
Seeing how a real global utopia might look in the real world, a society that gives each and every citizen
the opportunity to lead a flourishing life, is clearly beyond the grasp of this incoming freshman. But it’s okay that it hasn’t come to me: part of the beauty of the very diversity of human thought that seems to be causing these problems is that all of the pieces are out there, floating around in the oh-so-different minds of oh-so-similar humans out there. The creation of the blueprint of a global utopia isn’t one person’s project – that’s been the downfall of many past attempted utopias: the creation of a utopia for many should be created by many. This makes utopianism not just the theme for one project of one summer for our freshman class: it is a lifelong work that can be started here at Denison, where we just might have all the pieces in one place.
Randyland Erin Worden Pittsburgh, PA
Utopia A Work of Fiction Allie Vugrincic Warren, OH
Utopian-adj. impossibly perfect Perfection. I loathed the very idea of it; hated it because in my small world there could be no such thing. The yellow glow of the streetlight gave a bitter sense of intimacy to the conversation I was having with my best friend. Its stagnant light highlighted the tears rolling down her red cheeks, showed all too perfectly the pained look on her face as she revealed to me the secrets that plagued her. And I knew that same light was casting a shadow over my dull features, exposing through absence my complete helplessness and inability to empathize. “I wish I could make it better,” I said softly, afraid to break the silence that had dragged on too long when her story had come to its end. “I know,” she said, and suddenly her tears turned to laughter, because, despite her grief she was still utterly amused by my unrelenting confusion. “I told you that you wouldn’t know what to say,” she muttered, almost hiccupping with laughter. “No, but doesn’t it feel good to have told someone?” “I guess,” she sighed, and leaned forward against her open car door. She had been leaving for nearly an hour now, but didn’t seem to be in a hurry to go. It had been one of those nights that started out wonderful—a party at the Country Club; another glimpse at the luxurious life of the high and mighty. But after the party, as the night wore on, our upbeat spirits had plummeted, and we were left only with despair and the ever-present feeling of absence. Life hadn’t always been like that. I swear it had been perfect once; we had warm summer days with ice cream and laughter. We had sleeping in late in the mornings and swimming in the afternoons. We had everything once. Our own little utopia, caught in a time when innocence ruled and the rouse of freedom was a glorious lie we were all too keen to embrace. But with age, they say, comes wisdom. The children playing in the field had to grow up, and learn the truth about life. There is no perfection.
Life-n. the character or condition of someone’s existence
Victoria tried to open her eyes, but the light was blinding. There was throbbing in her head and stinging in her hand. She sat up slowly, minding all the aches and pains that came with moving, and realized she was on the floor. How long had she been there? An hour? A day? A lifetime? She rubbed her eyes and sighed in disgust at her own reflection in the mirror. “What the hell?” She sighed, examining the new set of wounds she had acquired. The source of the infernal stinging was two long slices across the back of her hand, which had bled enough in the night that her sleeves were stained red. It was another one of those mornings where the previous night had faded away into the nothingness that it already was. Victoria kicked aside a few empty bottles and flopped onto her bed, wondering mildly how she would get the blood out of the carpeting before her mother noticed. She felt a vibration beneath her, and she debated for thirty seconds as to its origin before thrashing around wildly in search of her cell phone. She caught the call at the last second and answered with a gravelly “Hello”. “Victoria?” I murmured, “You sound awful.” “Thanks, Rose. That’s what everyone wants to hear in the morning.” “It’s two in the afternoon, actually.” “Like I said,” she sighed, “Morning.”
“Umhmm.” “Did you call me for a reason or are you just trying to annoy me?” “Well do you still want to go adventuring today?” “Adventuring is always good.” “Then I’ll meet you at three?” “Too early. Make it four thirty?” A sigh reverberated across the line, followed by a soft, “Okay,” and then there was only silence. After a long interlude of lying motionlessly on the bed, Victoria slowly sprang into action. She gathered up empty bottles and broken glass and disposed of them in a neighbor’s garbage can, found a carpet cleaner tucked away in a closet and eradicated the blood stain, and spent a few minutes tending to the multitude of animals that wandered her house before getting ready for the day. By four forty-five she had made it to the deserted parking lot we used as our rendezvous point for our occasional adventures. Victoria climbed from the car, wondering faintly why she was there when she could have been sleeping. But it was a good day, warm and sunny and halfway doused in possibility. It seemed like a shame to waste a good day, when a good night had already gone to pieces. “Hello, Nerds.” She beckoned, giving a sorry half wave to Ann and me, who had been waiting patiently for fifteen minutes. “Not nerds,” Ann said, her dark curls dancing when she moved her head. “You get straight A’s and don’t do bad things. That makes you nerds.” Ann gave an irritated huff as Victoria pulled a backpack out of her car and slammed the door. Her dyed red hair was tied into a messy ponytail and she had on one of her many band tee-shirts; the fresh wound on her hand was still tinted pink. “What happened to your hand?” Ann asked. “Dunno,” Victoria shrugged. “Looks like you had a rough night?” I muttered, attempting to pry more information out of her, not knowing there was no more information to give. “They are all rough. Now let’s walk, damn it!” We set out into the thick afternoon air, down a dirt path that led to the railroad tracks and a desolate world of unattainable ideas. The tracks themselves were not technically deserted; they were used on rare occasion by slow-moving freighter trains that made their way across the country, but more often were home to backroad hillbillies on four wheelers and hopeless wanderers like us. We first happened upon an abandoned building; one originally employed by the railroad in some capacity, though it was too dilapidated for us to even guess its original purpose. We shuffled through broken glass and debris, dirtying our old boots. “This is awesome!” Ann said, admiring a giant graffiti dinosaur tagged on the side of a building. It was her first time out on the railroad tracks, and every sight was entirely new. “You need to get out more often.” Victoria laughed. “This is just so weird…” Ann mumbled, “I feel like I’m living dangerously!” “Believe me, this is not dangerous living.” “What if a train comes?” “Trains never come.” “But what if they do?” “I’ve been out here half a dozen times. I’ve never seen a train.” Victoria was beginning to get annoyed when I stopped, mid-stride and let out a dumbfounded “Um…” “What now?” she grumbled, clearly not in the mood for one of my idiotic comments. “Is that a train?” All three of us stopped and stared down the long, straight lines at the light in the distance. “Well damn,” Victoria laughed. “We should probably move…” The three of us shuffled off the tracks and slid down an embankment. In an attempt to remain inconspicuous, we ducked behind a few scraggly trees (that even on a good day would not have disguised us) and waited
eagerly for the train. “I don’t think he’ll see us if we are down low,” I mused, and we scrunched lower. In hindsight, we might have been better off further down the hill where the foliage was thick, but none of us could resist the urge to watch the metal beast as it passed. So we stood on the edge of light and shadow and, much to our chagrin, made long eye contact with the grizzly conductor as the train puttered by. Ann, in her best effort to recover a little dignity, waved happily. The conductor only sighed and moved along. All three of us burst into uncontrollable laughter. It was a short train, and in no time we were again walking on the tracks. Every once in a while we would sit down somewhere scenic and sip at the water bottles Victoria had in her bag. On one such occasion, Victoria commented on the sound of rushing water, and we found that off in the distance there was a small waterfall. Naturally we made it our mission to find the thing and explore it up close, so we made our way across an old bridge and down into a nearby valley. “This is awesome!” Victoria cried as we climbed over the trunk of a fallen tree to reach the cascade. It was a small runoff from a residential lake that ran into a brook. Beneath the falls was a strip of concrete road, probably used by local four-wheelers. The water ran across it decently fast, but it was shallow enough to walk across, which is exactly what Victoria wanted to do. “Come on,” she coaxed, “It’s fun!” She kicked off her shoes and stepped into the cool water, leaving Ann and I on the other side. “Well are you coming?” I looked at the water and let a smile spread across my face. Victoria waited while I took off my socks and shoes and entrusted my phone to Ann, who was adamant that she stay exactly where she was. The two of us linked arms for support; Victoria panicking where the current was quick and me worrying about slippery sludge. Together we made it through the little river, and smiled and laughed in triumph before we realized we still had to go back. Our next big discovery was a tire swing, which, unfortunately, was strung from the very bridge on which we walked. To reach it we had the options of sliding down a rocking cliff or chancing a shrub-covered hill. In our infinite wisdom, we chose the rocks. Per usual, I was sent first onto the gravel. I took the first few steps with caution, and then squatted down to keep my balance. I had conquered the first half of the slope before the rocks gave out under my weight and I began to slide, pebbles flying around me, down the hill. I stopped at the bottom with a shock and turned towards my friends. I was, remarkably, no worse for wear and after a moment of unwarranted panic, Victoria and Ann followed suit. To reach the swing we traversed a world of graffiti and old brick, surrounded by what seemed like an infinite forest. We were all alone in this strange place of inspiration, and despite our scratches and scrapes from adventuring, we were happy. “Why don’t we do this every day?” Victoria shouted. “Life,” I said, “Work, school, our parents…” “Screw all those things,” Victoria grumbled, and we swung out a little further over the water. Eventually we convinced Victoria it was time we returned home; and reluctantly we left the bridge, and the waterfall, and all of our adventures to the past. As we made our way back, Victoria grabbed a water bottle out of the bag; one she had marked with a red sharpie as her own. When she opened it the feint smell of alcohol floated through the air. “What are you drinking?” Ann grumbled. “None of your business,” Victoria hissed, taking a swig of whatever it was and then letting out a contented sigh. “Why do you do that?” I asked, “Don’t you know it’s going to destroy you?” “Life destroys everyone,” Victoria grumbled, “I’d just rather have fun with it. Why not die young instead of living long enough to regret living?” “I think that might have been really profound,” I murmured, kicking at a loose railroad tie, “Or really messed up.” “It’s both,” Victoria retorted, “And that’s the damn way it should be.” She took another swig from the
bottle and smiled wildly, though the action seemed hollow. Ann and I shared a mutual feeling of concern, but spoke nothing of it. We exchanged a long look and then turned away. Ann took the bag from Victoria, promising grudgingly not to dump her bottle out in the creek, and we walked on. Later that night, long after the sun had set and out footprints faded from the rails, Victoria picked up a bottle. She stared at it for a long time, and then she set it down. She fell asleep instead, because life was like the railroad tracks. Sometimes we get caught up in the current and need some support. Sometimes we slip down a rocky edge, and sometimes we need someone to share in our burdens, as we share in theirs. And sometimes, on rare occasions, we have the opportunity to fly for a moment.
Scar-n. a lasting mark caused by damage
Fluorescent lights filled the early morning with a static atmosphere as Zander stared into the mirror. He was wearing a pair of dark wash skinny jeans that rode low on his hips and he held in his hand one of his favorite V-neck band tees; one he intended to put on, until the moment he caught sight of his own reflection. He stared, not out of vanity, but out of bitter sadness at his own thin form. His skin was naturally dark, and his figure lean to the point of excess. He had dark brown eyes that looked almost black when deprived of light, and hair that was nearly black, except at the tips where some remnants of his last bleaching remained. Zander liked the way he looked well enough. His appearance now was considerably better than what it had been a few years ago, he thought. He had lost weight since then, and started dressing the way he wanted. He would be even more content with his appearance when he could move out of the house and decorate himself with the plethora of tattoos and organized piercings he had considered, but for now his look was acceptable. Acceptable, that is, except for the small scar on his chest; the one permanent blemish that would not relent and allow him to forget the pain of days gone by. He brushed his fingers over the mark, feeling the slightly textured skin. The world would never let him forget what he’d lived through, would never, it seemed, allow him to stop fighting. Zander pulled on his tee-shirt, covering up the blemish, but he could still feel it’s presence in his life. When Zander had been a child he had been diagnosed, by an absolute fluke, with Leukemia. From that day forth his life turned into a war; he won battles from time to time but more often felt the weight of reality crushing him. He endured treatments and surgeries (one that left the pitiful mark on his chest) until at last, he went into remission. It had been almost eight years since then and the disease had not resurfaced. The memory of the great fight remained; and now, still too young for the world’s many tribulations, Zander was in the midst of the second great war of his life—the battle to choose who he wanted to be. “Why do you wear those clothes?” his mother asked as he descended the steps, “Don’t you know how it makes you look?” Her eyes had the same look of disappointment they always held when she looked at her youngest son—a look of failure, of disgrace. “It makes me look the way I want to look, mom,” Zander replied, deadpan, as he tried to contain his anger. Every encounter with his family did not have to be a screaming match, he reminded himself. He could dance around their words if he tried hard enough; he could bury the looks of displeasure. “I just don’t know why…” his mother began, but silenced herself before the situation could escalate. She did not want to fight any more than Zander did, but she found it difficult to ignore what her son had chosen. It’s not a choice, mom, Zander always tried to explain, It’s the way I am. But he could not understand her pain any more than she could understand his. “I’m going out,” Zander muttered. “Where?” his mother asked habitually. Zander didn’t stop to acknowledge her question, only kept moving towards the door and sighed, “Does it really matter?” Then he disappeared, the way he always disappeared.
Zander drove to the mall, and sat outside the little coffee shop with his windows rolled down. He was waiting for someone. “Vicky!” Zander laughed, waving overzealously at Victoria as she strolled across the parking lot. “God, I hate when you call me that.” She sighed, scowling at Zander with a sort of faux-anger. Zander smiled, at this girl, his first true friend in his new life. He still remembered with clarity the moment she chose, for reasons he still could not understand, to side with him when no one else would. It was early in high school, the darkest time in Zander’s world, when everyone was out to get him because he was different than them; because he was a boy that liked boys and that wasn’t okay in their world. One day out of the blue Victoria had turned to him and said, “I hate how you can get hotter guys than I can,” and then laughed a different kind of laughter than that which Zander had grown accustomed; sweet, friendly laughter. That had been the start of something beautiful. Even when the rest of the world turned against Zander, Victoria remained, spewing her profanities and listening to loud music, still on his side. “We need to do something fun tonight,” Victoria declared. “I have to work all next week and if I don’t have fun tonight I’m going to have to murder someone.” “We could go see a movie.” “That costs money.” “Well what doesn’t cost money?” “Skinny dipping. That’s as free as it gets.” Victoria said it like a statement of certainty. “I love a good opportunity to take my pants off,” Zander sighed, his voice dripping with unnecessary sexual undertones. Victoria raised her eyebrows and made a purring sound, which sent both of them into a fit of hysterical laughter. Fifteen minutes later, as dusk was consuming the sun, the pair, still laughing, danced their way across a parking lot and into a cold, dark lake. They then proceeded, with snickers and innuendos, to remove their clothing and pile it on a nearby boat dock. In the cold of the water, all of Zander and Victoria’s problems seemed to melt away. There was, for a moment, nothing holding them back. No stitch or thread of worry; only open space and a pure kind of freedom that can only last a moment. And it did only last a moment, because Victoria’s phone began to buzz on the dock, and the glory of the moment passed. A string of profanities poured out of Victoria’s mouth and she hissed in a panic, “I was supposed to be home an hour ago!” She scrambled out of the lake, attempting to move with some dignity while pulling on her clothes. She tripped and cursed and rolled her eyes, all while Zander sat silently in the water, wishing good moments could last and that bad ones wouldn’t. “Goodbye, my gay!” She screamed as she jumped into her car, “Don’t get too pruny!” Zander sunk back into the water, letting the darkness hide him from the world. He thought, in the silence, that no one would notice him. Zander was surprised, then, when a young man who had wandered away from a bonfire with his friends stopped on the dock near his discarded clothes. The man-or maybe he was a boy, for he was at a time in his life where it was hard to tell-looked out into the water until he spotted Zander, floating alone. “Are these your clothes?” the boy called from the dock. Zander waded a little closer, debating the consequences of his answer. “What if they are?” he said at last. “Then I would give them back to you,” the boy said, and Zander thought me might be smiling in the night, although he could only see a shadow. And Zander, who had known so much unkindness, and was mistrustful of almost everyone, moved towards the dock and reclaimed his clothes while the boy sat patiently at the water’s edge. Zander climbed out of the water, still shirtless but now clothed from the waist down, and examined this stranger. He wore a sweatshirt that partially disguised his shape, but it was obvious he was skinny, like Zander. He wore a pair of skinny jeans and black converse shoes. And he had a friendly face, which seemed to be
such a rare occurrence. The stranger, too, was examining Zander. “You have an interesting scar,” he said, his eyes rising to meet Zander’s. Zander did not know this boy, but they shared a part of the same story. He did not feel shame under the weight of this boy’s stare, no mocking in his tone; only a question left on the tip of his tongue. “Everyone has scars,” Zander replied, “Some are just easier to see than others.”
Escape-v. to fail to be noticed, remembered, or understood by someone.
A girl was standing in a dark corridor with stone walls and no windows. The world was unbearably quiet and completely uninhabited. The only thing in sight was a distant sliver of light, and the girl found herself compelled to walk towards it. Slowly, too slowly for reality, she made her way towards the light, and discovered the luminance was the edge of a door. She laid her hands on the heavy wooden thing and pushed it away, revealing a shadowy patch of forest set comfortably in the color of late afternoon. A short distance away another girl was standing with her back to the first; wearing a long green dress and no shoes. The first approached the latter with caution, and as she turned both realized they shared the same appearance. They had the same dark brown eyes, short dark hair, and pale smooth skin that glowed in the calm light. They were, in fact, the same person. “You’re me,” The first said, and the second smiled. “No Shit,” Said the second with a wry smile, “What are you looking for?” “I don’t know.” “How can you expect to find anything if you don’t know what you are looking for?” The girl cocked her head to the side, befuddled by the other’s strange words. Her other self, still standing nearly motionless in her sage dress, let out a laugh that began like bells and ended in thunder. “Elizabeth!” A voice hissed, “ELIZABETH!” Liz sat up in her bed, groggy and mystified by yet another bizarre dream. She sighed in the darkness and flopped back down, face first into her pillow. She had been accused before of talking to herself, but this was a whole new level of unusual, even for her. Liz had been plagued, for just about as long as she could remember, with strange dreams and an imagination that ran wild, and sometimes ran her right into the ground. She rolled over, wondering if her latest delusion held some deeper meaning or if it was, like they so often were, just a fabulous story that her mind had concocted while she slept. Her thoughts were interrupted with a loud crash emanating from the kitchen. “Elizabeth!” a voice shrieked for a second time, and she rolled over to look at the clock. It was three AM, and as far as she could tell there was no reason for such panic as was ensuing in her house. “Elizabeth, get down here!” “Liz,” She muttered as she rolled from her bed and her feet touched down gently on the ground, “Not Elizabeth, just Liz.” She couldn’t bear the weight or length of Elizabeth, especially because the name, in her opinion, did not suit her. Groggily she wandered down the steps, only hastening her pace when she heard her younger brother shriek in anguish. There was another musical crash as a pot skittered across the kitchen and destroyed some fragile thing—a vase, perhaps, or a plate. Liz burst into the room, her movements flawed from sleep, only to see her father, the source of all the commotion, picking up her younger brother in an attempt to throw him. The thin boy was launched through the air and landed precariously (but safely) on the edge of the couch. With a faint whine he rolled onto the ground and proceeded to sit in silence in hopes that he might avoid further damage. “What the hell?” Liz screamed in anger and terror, and her father turned towards her. “Don’t you talk like that to me, young lady,” he slurred as he chucked another pot through the air. The smell of beer rolled off of him in waves and filled the whole room when he spoke. “Calm down,” Liz’s mother hissed, “Or we are leaving.” “You calm down,” he screeched, throwing a wild punch that landed square on his wife’s jaw. She
stepped back, momentarily disoriented from the blow, and stared at her intoxicated husband for a long second before turning to Liz. “Take your brother upstairs and start packing,” she ordered softly but definitively. “The Hell with that,” sputtered her father, along with a string of profanities that would have even the devil in awe of his vocabulary. He moved as if to throw something else, but Liz’s mother held her ground and the siblings rushed through the kitchen and up to their bedrooms. In near silence they packed two small suitcases while their mother fended off the beast downstairs. The pair cautiously made their way to the car, and sat quietly until their mother joined them and took the wheel. Because there was nowhere else to go, nowhere they would all feel safe; they took refuge in a hotel a few miles away. The front desk added insult to injury by booking the sad trio a room that was already occupied, and attempted to right the situation by giving them the executive suite. There was, of course, no righting a night as wrong as theirs, and the splendor of a fanciful hotel room was wasted on the tired bunch. After a brief settling in the group was ready to attempt the rouse of normality, but the charade was too much to bear. Liz’s mother was crying quietly; trying to disguise the sound as a whisper or a song. Her younger brother was curled up on the bed, fast asleep and thankfully so, because sleep provides an escape from the harder things in life. Liz could not find her refuge in sleep; however, for fear her dreams would plague her more than reality. She tossed and turned for a while before surrendering to insomnia. Still eager to find escape from the tragedy of the earlier evening, she found a hotel pen and a small pad of paper and began to write. She started with a recounting of her most recent dream—complete with vivid description and imaginative background information, then she spiraled into original works that told of valor and friendship. She wrote about good prevailing against absurd odds, and of strong people becoming weak because they sometimes do; she wrote of fantasy, where people could fly and create fire with the wave of a hand; and sometimes, buried deep beneath the plot twists and character development, she wrote a little about herself. It was the only escape she knew. Words, for Liz, hid the imperfections in life with more startling imperfections. On horrible, dark nights it was easier to believe in anything other than what was deemed ‘real’. So Liz did something all people must learn to do; she created her own happiness—in her case, out of blank pages and black ink. It was an impressive thing to do, for a girl who hated the sound of her own name.
Façade-n. a false, superficial, or artificial appearance
The hospital room was clean and, regrettably, boring. There was a light blue curtain dividing the room that hung open because the second bed was unoccupied, a doorway leading to a small bathroom, a nightstand with a bedpan slid beneath it, two chairs for family members to sit, and a TV that was useless because the remote didn’t have batteries. And the walls were beige. Beige! The most boring and lifeless of all colors. One would think some doctor in the history of medicine would have discovered that patients tended to act more alive when positioned in lively places. Not a cold room with tile floors and no color; someplace cheerful and warm with the welcome idea of healing. No wonder everyone hated hospitals so much. Sam let a smile dance across her face, usually set in a scowl of annoyance, as a well-meaning nurse puttered through the room, checking her IV and asking if all was well. She wanted to say things were not well, but boring; so boring she might claw her eyes out. But instead she continued to smile, because the nurse was one of those honestly kind people that deserved nothing less than honest kindness in return for her efforts. Once the nurse was gone, Sam sighed and let the look of unhappiness sink back into her features. She stared into the hallway, now just dimly lit, and wished that someone interesting would come through the door. She wished Zander would stroll through with some juicy gossip, or Ann with some wild stories from work, or even me with my tendency to repeat old conversations. But everyone was gone; scattered across the state and across the globe with their summer activities. Earlier in the day the hospital hadn’t been so bad. There was the initial meeting with the doctors, then the movement to a room and IVs and shots and whatever else the professionals deemed necessary. Sam’s mom
had been there for a good amount of time, and although the two didn’t have much to say to each other, at least she provided company. Her sister had come later, and talked on and on about boys and clothes and college and things that didn’t really matter but at least filled the air with sound. Now both were gone, retiring for a few hours to somewhere they could lay down and get a bite of decent food. Sam picked up her phone, hoping it had revived enough for her to resume texting. She had already worn down the battery playing games twice, and had left it charging while she attempted, in vain, to entertain herself by some other means. She smiled now as the screen lit up, and she found her way to the first contact on the list: me. With quick key strokes she typed out two sentences; “Now I know why I never tell my mom I don’t feel good. I end up in the hospital.” I received the text in a dining hall on the other side of the state, where I was studying journalism in a summer program. I laughed mildly and showed my temporary companions the text. “Oh my God,” one girl cried, “Is your friend okay?” “Oh she’s fine,” I said calmly, “This just happens sometimes.” I replied to her text with a less than concerned, “Well now you know not to do that again.” Sam’s face contorted into a look of puzzlement, and then she smiled. She was glad that someone else had the same reaction to the situation as she did; detached amusement, mild annoyance. There was so much panic earlier when she had tried to explain her situation to people on the outside. They didn’t understand that occasional hospitalization was just a part of her life. Sam had been diagnosed abnormally young with Crohn’s Disease, which made digesting everything difficult. So sometimes she just didn’t eat—because eating was annoyingly painful. And sometimes, when she didn’t eat for too long, she would end up sick, and then came the hospital visits. Life was like that, Sam had learned, at least for her. There had been a time in her life when she was angry. Angry because she had to suffer through pain on a day to day basis, and it seemed like no one else did. Her disease, she learned early on, was not considered “curable” and would last an entire lifetime; a lifetime of monthly trips to the clinic, of varying medications and bizarre diets. And it was all so incredibly uncalled for. Crohn’s was a genetic disease, passed down from family members. But there wasn’t a single record of the disease in her family tree going back three or four generations. She shouldn’t have it. All logic said she shouldn’t be cursed the way she was; and logic was precious in her family. With parents rooted in business and engineering, logic and order ruled Sam’s life. Except this one extreme flaw; this one occurrence that could not be explained with math or science. So, she believed, she had every right to be angry. But anger, like all parts of life, is a fading thing. Time wore on, and Sam took it upon herself to be a happier person. The process was slow, and perhaps would have been unsuccessful had she not found an excessively odd group of people who kept her entertained, if nothing else. She learned with patience to smile when things got worse and never beg for sympathy. She didn’t want sympathy. She wanted to be strong in the only way nature would allow: to endure. She built a façade for herself, one so thick and deceiving that no one ever would have to know that she was angry, or scared, or worried about what the future might bring. People would look at her, and not have an inkling of an idea that anything was wrong, and that was exactly how she wanted it. Then the strangest thing happened; she actually began to believe that nothing was wrong. She found that against the test of time the best course of action was a sort of partial surrender: acceptance. So the mask becomes the man. Now her concerns were more limited to the moment, and she was happy enough to have someone to talk with while she waited out the night. Phone in hand, she typed out the basic, “What’s up?” I responded, after a slight delay, “You wouldn’t believe it. The power just went out.”
Coincidence-n. something that happens by chance I had been in the middle of a photography class when the room had suddenly fallen dark and the sound of wild wind swirled outside the window. The rest of the journalism conference had been largely uneventful, due to the lack of power on the campus. Miniature disasters like that, it seemed, followed me wherever I went. The storm that had destroyed the journalism conference had also taken out several dozen trees and left hotels, restaurants and gas stations power-less. Cars, both abandoned and occupied, lined the highway which I was traveling with my less than enthusiastic father. He hadn’t eaten that day because no one had enough electricity to cook lunch, and he’d been traveling for over four hours already as part of the seven hour round trip to pick me up. I had never in my life seen the world look so desolate and hopeless as it did that day; desperate travelers searching out the one or two working gas stations, limbs and branches discarded along mud-soaked roads; this, I thought, surely must be how Armageddon would begin. We traveled that chaos-stricken path for another three hours before, exhausted, we arrived home. I could only hope that my friends, all traveling themselves, had had better luck than me. Ann, as I later learned, had a wonderful time on her mission trip to Ecuador. She ate fruit that was so fresh she couldn’t help but enjoy it, played with children at after school programs, and met the impoverished but cheerful people of Duran. I hadn’t heard from Zander or Victoria, but I could only assume that they were wreaking havoc somewhere and having a good time doing so. Then there was Sam, who was still laid up at the hospital. I’d considered making a pilgrimage to visit her, but another two hours of travel seemed pure torture on top of what I’d already done that day. So I called her on the phone instead, and recounted all of my power-outage adventures while I grudgingly drove to a graduation party I felt obligated to attend. “You went in the creepy basement while the power was out?” Sam grumbled. I could picture her faceher lips pursed, her eyes wide-as she questioned my intelligence. “Of course I went in the creepy basement! How often does one get the opportunity to explore a dark basement with a bunch of strangers and no adult supervision?” “You do realize that’s the beginning of basically every horror movie ever?” “I survived, didn’t I?” I was shouting at my car phone, still planted in the parking lot outside the banquet hall where the party was being held. “I’ve got to go,” I said, examining the cars in the lot, “I really should make a point of actually going inside the hall since I drove all the way here.” “Fine,” Sam grumbled. “Enjoy the hospital.” I teased, knowing without a doubt that she was bored out of her mind. “Uh-huh” she muttered, and then the line went dead. With a half-hearted smile I climbed out of the car, tugging at the blue sundress I was wearing, and slipped through the double-doors of the banquet hall. Going to the party was, as I was just beginning to realize, not how I actually wanted to be spending my time. With the chaos and drama of the past days a graduation party seemed insignificant and a waste of energy that could be spent otherwise. It had been weeks, after all, since I’d seen some of my friends, and even longer since all the people I cared about had been together in one place. And I was spending precious time at a party for someone I hardly even knew. But I was already inside the hall and completely past the point of no return. I stopped just inside the room and stared at the back of someone’s head—someone in particular, who I had not expected to see. A smile curled across my lips as my stationary position began to attract attention. A few heads turned my way with looks of mild confusion, and at last the one that mattered followed suit. “My god!” Ann said, her mouth dropping as she sprung up from her seat, “Rose! Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?” “I didn’t know you’d be here,” I mumbled as she wrapped me in a bone-crushing hug. It had only been a little over a week, but in our fragile world that felt like a lifetime. I sat with Ann at the party, and she told me all her stories from Ecuador. There was something called patacones that I simply had to eat, and half a dozen stories about language barriers causing remarkably awk-
ward situations. I explained to her what I knew about Sam’s hospitalization and talked about power-outages and journalism. For another one of those rare moments, all was right in the world. Out of the hectic randomization of the universe, we were set together at the same place and time for a second of perfect happenstance. And maybe that was one tiny, insignificant string in a larger tapestry, but it made all the difference. Our lives, perhaps, weren’t really chaos, only just some higher order we couldn’t understand. Call it coincidence or dumb luck, but in that instance we were right where we belonged.
Adventure-v. to dare to go somewhere new
The fire crackled and spat at me as I drew my legs back. I felt like they were burning in the orange glow, but every time I moved further away I was seized by a horrible chill, and found myself drawn again towards the warmth. It was Liz’s birthday, and we were huddled in a cluster of lawn chairs around the pit in her backyard. Since the night her father had attacked things had settled at her house, and it was once again the peaceful place full of laughter she used to know. Life moved on, and the little family put itself back together piece by piece until it was manageably whole, and Liz found her peace of mind. That night we were sitting with our backs to the house, where a great light illuminated the deck; and we faced instead the dark expanse of tall grass that filled the family’s fourteen acres. “I love the stars out here,” I mused. The four of us-Liz, Ann, Sam and myself-had been sitting in silence for what must have been five or ten minutes. Liz’s little brother poked at the fire with his foot, just barely singing the tip of his leather boots. “They are better here than in the city,” Sam admitted. She was on her phone, probably playing whichever game was her most recent addiction. We had, earlier that night, gone to see the latest Star Trek movie; a thrilling whirl of lights and colors with the graphics of a new generation in film. It was one of those space epics that was larger than life itself, and looking at the stars I was halfway tempted to recount the plot again as we’d already done half a dozen times. My temptation was stopped, however, by a wild shriek that was accompanied by a splash of something cold against my neck. I turned, mildly confused, to see Zander and Victoria charging towards us, each armed with two cans of silly string and a wild imagination. With that we all sprung up and scattered around the yard, some of us making better time than others and avoiding their rainbow shower of foam. We laughed and danced and cursed a little too, as was our way, until, at last, the pair had run out of ammunition and we were all ready to return to the fire. “Well that was weird,” I laughed. “That was classic us,” Sam said, scooting a little closer to the flames. Liz began to recount, with a sense of epic adventure, her initial reaction to the silly string ambush, while Zander and Victoria snickered to themselves and congratulated each other on a job well done. Ann, for her part, said nothing, and I became suddenly aware of the lost look she wore; the sadness in her face. “Are you okay?” I asked, taking an opportunity to speak quietly while the others were distracted. “Yeah,” she muttered, but it was an insincere word. “That was convincing,” I grumbled, hallway rolling my eyes in an attempt to lighten the mood. Ann stared at me, or maybe past me to our oblivious friends and then let loose a torrent of words. “It’s just, every time I look at the stars I think of how small we are. I think of all the characters in the movies we watch-like in Star Trek, you know-and all the adventures they have.” “We have adventures,” I said. “Not those kinds of adventures,” Ann sighed, a distance in her eyes. “I mean, I’m never going to save the world. I’m not going to travel millions of miles and see interesting things. I might not even have a successful career! What if my whole life is just school and then a dead-end job? What if I don’t ever do anything?” “You will.” “But what if I don’t? I’m not as successful at things as you! I don’t have any talents unless you count being organized, and I don’t ever win anything.”
“You’re going to be valedictorian,” I said, “And god, I’m not successful. I’d lose everything I own if I didn’t have you to tell me where I left it. I’m not responsible with money and I can’t focus the way you can. I don’t know how to help anyone and sometimes I can’t even talk to strangers! You’re good with people, organized, witty and smart. I can never be any of those things.” Ann looked at the fire, trying to decide if my words were truth. Then she muttered sadly, “If I’m all those things, then why does the world always ignore me? My grandparents like all my cousins better; my mom likes my sister better. Even at school…we aren’t popular! Not even close! And my dad is still in Washington on duty and he was the only one who ever took my side…” Ann trailed off, wiping at her eyes to disguise tears. “Just, what the hell is it all for?” I stared at the sky, because I couldn’t meet Ann’s glare. I couldn’t decide what words to say, because somewhere deep down I felt exactly the same way. I had doubts, about a million of them, as to what it all meant. Why did I live and breathe? Why did anyone? But something told me there was a reason. I must be daft and a hopeless optimist, but I believed there was a purpose behind my small existence. I didn’t have all the answers, but I knew they existed, so I began to spout whatever nonsense came to mind. “You’ll do something with your life,” I said, “And even if you don’t who cares? What’s wrong with just living a good, quiet life? Get married and have some kids-find a job where you can help people. Life doesn’t have to be big to be an adventure.” Ann must have known there was doubt laden in my words, for her spirits didn’t improve. “But what if I’m never anything?” “You’re already something,” I said, “Even if you die right now you already are something. At least I think so—people have to be something,” the sound of desperate confusion rang through my own voice as I began to explain something I didn’t understand, “I mean…why else would it matter if Captain Kirk saved Spock in that movie if people weren’t something? We get so invested in those characters because they have meaning, even though they aren’t real—so we must mean even more, right? We live and die for real so we’ve got to believe that there’s some intangible thing that makes us human. There just has to be or else it wouldn’t matter.” “What the hell are you talking about?” Victoria grumbled. I turned away from Ann to see that my other friends had deserted their conversations in favor of the outlandish speech I was attempting to give. “Life lessons through Star Trek,” I said blankly, and Ann burst out laughing. “What the hell?” Victoria repeated, and then she laughed too, because the idea was so outrageous. Ann continued to stare at the stars, but I thought in my hopeful manner that she was seeing them a little differently. The fire burnt on, and Zander and Victoria continued to make their jokes, and Sam continued playing games on her phone, and Liz continued to whirl through random topics of conversation. We were living quietly, but maybe, just maybe, in the great cosmos our lives mattered. I would never be sure, but I had to believe they mattered.
Miracle-n. a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws
and is considered to be divine.
A calm drizzle of rain leaked from the heavens as I trudged through the puddles at the County Fair. It had been raining for nearly two hours beforehand, and according to all official records the Fair was closed. No entry. No events. But I was there anyway. I had received a phone call earlier from someone more important than me at the Chronicle with specific instructions to shoot the County Fair for tomorrow’s paper. It didn’t matter that the whole place was soaked; a job was a job, and I had to do it. I darted under a tree in hopes of keeping the camera dry long enough to equip it with my state of the art rain gear—a plastic bag with a hole torn in either end. I glanced up at the sky as a crack of thunder rumbled overhead and managed to catch a glimpse of a lightning bolt skittering across the sky. My attitude towards the situation was a murky combination of irritation, duty, and excitement as I wandered the fairgrounds looking for signs of life. A surprising amount of vendors were open, servicing other vendors and the diehard fairgoers who were attempting to wait out the rain. Some animal owners were bunkered down with their livestock, sitting on folding chairs with blankets wrapped around them or wandering through the stalls. A few individuals even sat on top their animals—the cows, especially, seemed to make good sofas.
I snapped a few pictures here and there and gathered names and pertinent information the best I could, minding the incessant water that dripped on everything. There was a pig show going on, and a few kids were out riding scooters in the rain. Overall, however, there was so little movement on the grounds that it took hours to gather half a dozen usable photos. When at last my task was accomplished the sun was beginning to peak through the clouds, and I drove off, mud spattering either side of my car, with a profound hopefulness. The storm had passed, and there was nothing more glorious than the light that settled afterward. Arriving at home and realizing that deadline was fast approaching, I didn’t hesitate to start uploading my pictures. I sat down at my usual place at the computer, contemplating the proper wording of cutlines, not knowing my life was about to be suddenly and violently changed. My mother was seated behind me next to the empty fireplace, and my father in his armchair a few feet to her left. The dog was curled quietly in a corner and the cat, I imagine, was hiding in his favorite spot next to the sofa. There was a crime show playing on TV, but I had seen it before and knew the dialogue by heart, so the outside world seemed infinitely more interesting. I mindlessly stared out the window, watching as the leaves on the trees swayed violently in what I imaged must be a horrific gust of wind. It seemed to me that the leaves were coming towards me; a branch was about to come down, and a big one. I remember muttering something along the lines of “oh dear…that branch…” before the roof began to crumble above me. My arms shot up above my head in a reflex action, and it occurred to me that more than a branch had come down. Something heavy swiped my arm, and a rain of white powder fell as ceiling came down to my left. The room got darker, and as suddenly as the earth-shattering experience had begun, it was over. I sat motionless, still staring at the computer screen. “Well that was odd,” I said, and laughed because there was nothing else to do. My mother sprung up, hands shaking, and began insisting we call 911, while my father retorted that such a phone call was pointless. “There’s nothing the police or fire department can do,” he said over and over, “We need to call the insurance agent.” And he was right, of course. There was no reason for 911, because no one was hurt. It hadn’t even occurred to me that my mother or father could have suffered injury, because I had believed the damage had been exclusive to where I was sitting. I still thought, mildly, that a large branch had been the source of confusion in the room. And I was unharmed, so my next course of action was to retrieve the memory card from the computer and, after waiting for my dad to move some potentially dangerous debris from my armrest, upload the pictures on a different computer. Only then did I realize that the damage was more extensive than I had imaged, and, as I had begun to guess, an entire tree had fallen on our house. I glanced back in the room, a smile still halfway on my face; the lights on the ceiling had been cracked in half, and they along with part of the plywood, hung suspended in a V over the middle of the room, just a foot or so in front of where my dad was sitting. An actual tree branch, and one of considerable size, had fallen in the space between where my mother and I had been (I suspected that was what I felt graze my arm) and a dune of weather insulation had spilled out on the floor. The French doors leading to the backyard were gone, although the screen door remained standing, slightly bent out of shape but resilient nonetheless. I moved to my bedroom and booted up the laptop, then pulled out my cell phone to call the Chronicle and tell them my pictures would be late. I viciously swiped at the contact for the newsroom, my hands beginning to shake when it wouldn’t dial. “Come on, come on!” I shouted in frustration. Then at once I stopped, looked up at nothing in particular, and sucked in a deep breath. “Okay,” I said to myself, and my hands stopped shaking. I dialed the Chronicle and said in an almost calm voice, “This is Rose, may I speak to the photodesk. Yes, photodesk, this is Rose. I have pictures from the Fair but they will be a little late. A tree just fell on my house.” By then my father had called the insurance company, two neighbors were already over to make sure we were okay (and two more on their way) and my mom had begun a search for the cat, which was the only living creature for whom we could not account. The next thing I did was very odd, I suppose-for a normal person might have been in a panic, or in shock, or just mad-but I began to take pictures. I rescued my flash from the debris and grabbed my second
camera, which had been safely placed in the living room, and began to snap the room from all angles. Somewhere in that interval the cat had been found, and a call made for my grandma to come pick him up and take him to her house. I called Ann, because ultimately there was nothing else for me to do. “How was the fair?” she asked casually. “It was alright,” I said, “I got rained on and there weren’t many people there, but it wasn’t so bad.” There was a pause in the conversation. “Well that’s nice,” Ann said, wondering, I imagine, why I had called her. “Yeah,” I breathed, trying to suppress the mild panic that flittered through my voice every once in awhile, “but I’m probably going to miss deadline because a tree just fell on my house.” “A what?” Ann said. “A tree. Fell on my house.” I said it like it was nothing, because at that moment it almost sounded like a joke. “Seriously?” “Yeah…” “Oh my God!” Ann screeched, ‘Is everyone okay? Is the dog okay? And the cat?” The rest of the conversation was one long affirmation that we were all fine, and that there was really nothing that Ann or her family could do to help us. “I just thought I’d tell you,” I said, “Because you would be mad at me if you found out later from someone else.” “Well…” Ann grumbled, “You’re right about that.” The tree had fallen across the entire length of the house and crippled our cable TV. It destroyed the back wall and one window, and took out two air-conditioning units. The computer, however, was unharmed save for some dust. The lamp stayed on, and was hanging from the side of the desk. The dartboard was still on the wall, as was the mirror, my painting, and the photograph of my dad when he was a little boy. The fish tank survived, along with the fish (even one that we had thought for sure was dead before the tree fell, which seemed to revive after the incident). All three humans, and the dog and cat walked away without bloodshed. Mom had three small scratches on her leg, and I had a sore arm that never even bruised. And the strangest part of all: the crime show never stopped playing. It didn’t even sputter; just went on like nothing had happened. Like the world hadn’t just literally come crashing down around our shoulders. It was a miracle. According to all the experts we shouldn’t have been alive. It was unusual for healthy oak trees to just uproot like that, even with all the rain. It didn’t make one bit of sense that it would fall when it did, because the storm had been over for hours. And the tree should have crushed the house, and caved in the roof. We should have been hit with the debris that filled the entire room, except the three places we were sitting. But we weren’t crushed. We weren’t hit. Just covered in a fluffy coating of insulation. Our lives were saved by two steel pillars holding up a steel beam, according to our neighbor, who was an engineer and knew about those things. If it hadn’t been for that beam, he said, there would have been nothing to absorb the blow and the whole room would have caved, maybe the whole house. It’s kind of funny, because I never even knew there was a steel beam there. Mother will attest that the sound of the tree falling was unforgettable—a loud creaking sort of wail before the thunderous collision with the house. I don’t quite remember the sound. I just remember the leaves dancing outside the window, and then rushing towards me.
Memento- n. an object kept as a reminder or souvenir of a person or event It was a sweltering hot day; the kind of day where clouds were welcome so long as they blocked out the burning sun. Zander and I were relaxing outside the mall coffee shop; he leaning forward on one of the metal bistro tables while I tilted away. We were discussing song lyrics and our theories about life, as we often did when our moods allowed. “The idea is that pain is fleeting,” Zander explained with a passion he reserved for his favorite melodies.
“And so it is,” I said, biting into a partially melted brownie as Zander sipped at his water. “That reminds me,” I added, “I have something I want to show you.” I fumbled blindly around the tote bag lying at my feet until my hand brushed against rough wood. Then, slowly, I placed a sliver of tree on the table. It was maybe six inches in diameter and two or three inches thick. “What is that?” “This,” I said, flipping wooden disc in my hands, “Is the tree branch that didn’t kill me.” Zander stared for a brief second at the thing, which somehow seemed obscene to him, before muttering, “Why would you want to keep that? It destroyed your house.” “Yes,” I said, “But it didn’t destroy me. The thing brushed against my arm and didn’t scratch me. Didn’t even bruise! It should have killed me, but it didn’t!” Zander took the wood from my hands, and examined it for a moment in contemplation before a smile crept across his face. I wondered if he was thinking about the small scar on his chest, his own wooden disc. “Look at us!” He laughed, “Two people who should be dead sipping coffee together.” “It’s great to be alive, huh?” “Most of the time,” Zander admitted. “You hold on to that tree,” he added, and I smiled
Perspective-n. the relationship of aspects to a subject to each other and to the whole Victoria sat on the edge of a long concrete pier that protruded into the water. The waves danced gently over her feet and a calm breeze blew spray in the air. She was, for the first time she could remember in far too long, completely at peace with the world. To either side of her there were massive man-made boulders that took the beatings of water while protecting the shore. It was man’s attempt to stop nature’s power-prevent erosion, save the land for the creatures who walked it-but even the concrete was wearing away against the test of time. The water, at moments, seemed to be winning the battle with the land, slowly proclaiming its ultimate superiority. It stretched out for miles in front of Victoria, beyond where the eye could see, to a place out of reach. She was content to stare into that abyss and think, not of greatness, not of possibility, but of some purer form of happiness that might exist somewhere past where the water met the sky. She kicked at the water, startling a small fish that had wandered nearby. “How odd,” I laughed, following the tiny thing with my eyes. “I’ve never seen a fish do that before.” I was perched on the edge of the pier as well, watching the world with the same awe Victoria had. “He’s on a mission,” Victoria said; and the way she spoke it was truth. “What kind of mission could a fish be on?” She shrugged, “An important one, I guess.” I caught sight of a buckeye floating in the water, and leaned down to scoop it up. Victoria watched, suspended in the mindset between wanting to push me into the cold water and attempting to hold onto me so I couldn’t slip away. Liz’s laughter rose out of the water along with a showering of spray over our heads. She was standing in the lake closer to the shore; the place right where the waves broke, where terror met calm. A look of true joy was etched into her features as she slicked back her short hair and stared into the sun. She was alone where she stood, and content to be so. Slowly Ann and Sam made their way down the slick pier and crouched down behind us. The sun had just touched the surface of the lake, and a yellow streak danced across the distance between our wet toes and the horizon. “You know I’ve never actually seen the sun set,” Ann said, “It just blows my mind. We are moving right now. The whole earth is turning and we don’t even feel it!” “Yeah,” Sam grumbled, “Yeah it is. Thanks for pointing out the obvious.” But even she was marveling at the simple wonder, somewhere under her attitude of indifference. Ann ignored Sam, still staring at the sun. The yellow streak on the water looked like a pathway we could walk on; walk wherever we wanted to go. Maybe we could walk away from our troubles, from the secrets and the lies and the moments that we feared most. Or maybe we would drown in the lake if we even tried. “It just doesn’t make sense!” Ann cried. Somehow I knew she wasn’t just talking about the sunset. She
was talking about all of it, from beginning to end; from perfection and all its flaws to the way the waves broke on the shore. “Well,” Liz said, wading a little deeper into the water, a little closer to the golden pathway, “The world only makes sense sometimes.”
Utopia-n. a community or society possessing highly desirable or perfect qualities This, this was my utopia. It was a perfect community of flawed individuals. Perfection, it seems, is so often associated with order; with porcelain and diamonds. As an artist I can’t believe in those things. I believe in sound waves and cracked edges, fire that leaps from the heath and the warmth it gives. I believe in the choices people make, and these impossible puzzle pieces that were never meant to fit together but somehow did. A utopia, much like an oil painting, is all in the eye of the beholder. For some it is neat and orderly, for others it is efficient. Still others it is freedom, or world peace, or economic stability. For me, the perfect society was the one built upon despair and catastrophe with bricks of hope and persistence; the one where the most unlikely of friends could come together and succeed, not through strategy or the elimination of flaws, but by accepting each other’s faults. It is perfect chaos-not the kind that destroys, but the kind that creates of its own accord. It is a group of people, like dented gears in a machine, which press on regardless of tragedy in a world that can be so terribly unkind. If you want to create a real utopia, look no further than the friends and family you have seated around you. Do not stare at the stars, or the clock, and dream of a future without trepidation. Humanity will always be flawed— we are born into chaos and raised by imperfection; but we the creatures of the Earth have the power to find happiness in the midst of this disarray. We create our own utopias, and maintain them in perfect chaos.
My Real Utopia has been experiencing Lakeside, Ohio for 18 years. This gated community has served as a get-away from the real world. Very few places are like Lakeside; since 1873, very little has changed in this one square mile haven.
An American Utopia Emily Pugliese New Canaan, CT
Megan Van Horn New Concord, OH
Dare to Dream Taylor Lifka
Downers Grove, IL
A perfect world - one without hate, injustice, discrimination. Is it possible? Equality. Opportunity at the finger tips of each and every person; each person that is willing to take the first step. How? Where? When? Never. Now. Dream. A world that allows all people the freedom to dream - the opportunity to think and imagine - the chance to explore all possibilities, that is a perfect world. Find a place: somewhere that will allow for the mind to engage in deep thought - scour the brain for something, anything, to cling to - a glimmer of hope. From there that glimmer will be ignited, and soon enough a roaring flame will stand. Someday you too can change the world. But we must all start small. Dare to dream.
Balance 2 Emily Cantrell Columbus, OH
Obvious Small Details Marc Weaver Keller, TX
Obvious Small Details The characters Morgan Bailey Gunner Joe McKenzie Ballerinas (5) Aliens (2) The setting in three parts a McDonald’s booth the parking lot, behind a car in Gunner’s living room Note I wrote this with a lot of thought towards silence and sonic space. In your daily life, you hear a lot of noises: cars, washing machines, dumpsters, sinks. I would like the world of this play suffused with everyday noises, the ones that catch your attention in the middle of the afternoon and take over your life. The play should have its musical treatment, as well. The tone of the play should be very naturalistic. Overlapping and nuanced dialogue is recommended.
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BAILEY. (realizing) Where’s Joe? MORGAN. He said he'd meet us here at 7 GUNNER. Joe is weird BAILEY. He’s always late or doesn’t show up MORGAN. How mysterious GUNNER. It’s not mysterious at all; he’s doing it for a reason MORGAN. I mean, sure—what is it? BAILEY. Joe is probably playing League of Legends right now MORGAN. Or masturbating (They laugh lightly) GUNNER. Dude BAILEY. What? GUNNER. Next time you just get the ketchup MORGAN. Gunner, it’s okay GUNNER. No it’s not okay! Bailey you’re always doing stuff like this BAILEY. What are you talking about? GUNNER. You’re an asshole, Bailey. MORGAN. Gunner, that’s just Bailey BAILEY. I can’t help it. GUNNER. Oh, you can’t “help” it BAILEY. That’s not what I mean
GUNNER. Look I’m just saying what the hell did you just do? What does it even mean? MORGAN. (to herself) Happy thoughts, happy thoughts. BAILEY. I changed my mind MORGAN. You always ask that...“What does it mean?” Not everything has meaning, Gunner GUNNER. (Silenced) I just—(sighs)—it pisses me off MORGAN. I’m sorry. (Silence. Tone shift.) GUNNER. Do you remember what McCrea told us? His motto in life. (Bailey scowls. Doesn’t like shift in tone) BAILEY. No GUNNER. He said “Find the Light” MORGAN. Oh yeah. That’s right. I love that guy. GUNNER. Well, that’s what I’m trying to do right now. (Long silence. After a long time, Bailey laughs.) BAILEY. Yeah, Joe is not coming. (Silence. Industrial noises.)
Scene 2 (In the parking lot. Bailey and Morgan are laying on top of cement) MORGAN. I’m sorry about Gunner BAILEY. (Way over it) Oh. It’s okay MORGAN. I hate when we fight BAILEY. Look at that star MORGAN. (A little perturbed at his disinterest) Okay. Which star? BAILEY. That one! (He points up. He tickles her) MORGAN. Oh my God! (Morgan laughs. Bailey doesn’t) MORGAN. (serious) Bailey, stop BAILEY. What? MORGAN. Seriously (He stops. For a second they think about kissing. They kiss) BAILEY. Do you ever know how much I enjoy kissing you? MORGAN. No I guess I could never know BAILEY. (He nudges her clothes) Let’s go MORGAN. Oh, I see where this is going BAILEY. I just keep on kissing you, that’s how you know MORGAN. Bailey, stop
(He stops altogether) MORGAN. Oh so now you’re throwing a pissy fit? BAILEY. Meh MORGAN. Oh great. Gunner was right! You do have a problem. You only do what you want...or you become, you become...INACTIVE! BAILEY. Gunner is an asshole (Silence) MORGAN. No he’s not BAILEY. Yes, he is. Why do you keep hanging out with him? He’s judgmental and he acts so entitled. MORGAN. Oh and you don’t! You’re missing an obvious small detail here and it’s that your describing yourself BAILEY. I’m not an asshole. (pause) I’m the bed squid. (Silence) MORGAN. That story is stupid (Bailey laughs) BAILEY. You’re just afraid I’m going to leave you for someone else MORGAN. Yeah I am! (Silence) BAILEY. I want to stop doing this. We just get worse and worse MORGAN. What are you referring to? BAILEY. This coming to McDonald’s twice a week.
MORGAN. We’re do this for Gunner. BAILEY. Exactly MORGAN. He’s leaving soon and we need to hang out. It helps him, Bailey BAILEY. Oh, it “helps” him MORGAN. Yeah. Gunner is my friend. And he’s yours, too. (Silence) MORGAN. Who do you think you are? Some star from the heavens? You’re not worth shit, Bailey. Never were (Bailey smiles, avoiding it. He tries to kiss her. She turns away. Silence)
Scene 3 (Morgan, Gunner, Bailey and McKenzie in Gunner’s living room. Gunner is drunk) MORGAN. Yea, well our high school theatre department sucks compared to Central’s. MCKENZIE. Yah? MORGAN. Yeah, we’ve changed teachers four times MCKENZIE. Wow MORGAN. Oh yeah. And we’ve been. Well a lot of tension this year. Every year. The people. They’re all kind of derpy. BAILEY. (to Gunner) Did you hear about World of Warcraft? (No answer) MORGAN. We had some weird people. We have this girl named Joanna and she’s like mentally handicapped. MCKENZIE. Central theatre kids are dedicated MORGAN. Yeah I saw your One Act rehearsal! I mean, you guys were inspiring. MCKENZIE. Thanks MORGAN. The teamwork, everything! MCKENZIE. Rehearsals have been rough but yeah we all work together. We really wanted it MORGAN. Yeah—and see our department we don’t really want it. We’ve got a lot of druggies and stoners and you know it’s all distracting (Gunner reacts. She’s talking about him) MCKENZIE. I mean, Central kids party, too.
MORGAN. Our department is just sad. You know I tried to transfer— GUNNER. Morgan, what do you even mean by that? MORGAN. By what? MCKENZIE. (senses something) Hey it’s 10. I got to go. MORGAN. Bye! (They hug too loudly. McKenzie leaves. Silence) GUNNER. What the fuck was that? MORGAN. Gunner, don’t be rude in front of my friends GUNNER. I know McKenzie. McKenzie is my friend, too MORGAN. And I know this is natural that you’re just drunk right now GUNNER. What does being drunk have to do with anything? What are you saying about our department? MORGAN. You can’t think straight GUNNER. You’re disparaging it, what, basically that’s what you’re doing MORGAN. No I’m just saying GUNNER. What, what are you saying? BAILEY. Gunner, calm down MORGAN. That we aren’t, weren’t as dedicated, as committed and that’s why GUNNER. That’s why, what? Morgan you’re throwing us under the bus. You’re only saying that—you don’t even know Central—you know like three people there. That doesn’t mean they’re not like us, ya know? You’re situationally biased and well just because you don’t do anything doesn’t mean that we
are any less. MORGAN. I’m sorry, Gunner. I was just joking. GUNNER. You were joking! MORGAN. Yeah (tone shift) I don’t know what I was saying! I just. I’m sorry, Gunner. GUNNER. No you’re not sorry! What did you even mean? What does that mean? Stoners? I’m a stoner? MORGAN. I’m sorry, Gunner. I was joking GUNNER. You were NOT joking! MORGAN. (quickly) Yes I was. Okay. I’m sorry I was talking just joking. GUNNER. NO YOU WEREN'T. OKAY! I’M NOT GOING TO FORGIVE YOU MORGAN. Well, what am I supposed to say? GUNNER. YOU ARE SO DELUSIONAL. YOU HAVE NO IDEA MORGAN. (suddenly angry) Well I’m sorry, okay! I want to go home. (Silence) GUNNER. No. Don’t go home. MORGAN. (Starts crying) Look I said I was sorry I don’t know what else to say. I just want to go. I want to go home. (Silence) GUNNER. (cool) I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go off on you. MORGAN. JUST TAKE ME HOME (Silence)
GUNNER. Alright (Silence) GUNNER. I didn’t mean what I said I just didn’t understand what point you were trying to make. I’m your friend, MORGAN. We’re really close. I don’t— MORGAN. I WANT TO GO HOME! (Silence. Bailey gets up. They leave. Gunner sits there alone. Industrial noises.)
Scene 4 (Joe is in the parking lot.) JOE. This morning I woke up from a nightmare. In the nightmare I was beig chased by a guy with a gun and he was trying to kill me. In one moment he faced his pistol to me and I took some piece of steel for protection—then I woke up and my mom came in and I was crying and sweating. I said, Mom I woke up from a nightmare and she called me in at work and I stayed home all day paralyzed with fear. Sometimes I get so afraid I can’t do anything—and I just get paralyzed with fear. I have a lot of anxiety. It feels... (A group of ballerinas dance in from everywhere. Classical music plays. They dance a dance of despair) JOE. Crippling. Like before you open a can of sardines. I get so scared but I don’t know why. (The ballerinas dance in the McDonald’s and become sluts. They walk off. He broods in silence. In the booth) BAILEY. Seriously, where is Joe? MORGAN. Every time we invite him he’s busy or that he’ll come and he blows us off. GUNNER. He’s weird MORGAN. Let me check my phone. Oh shit. I left it in the car. I’ll go get it. GUNNER. Okay, we’ll just be here. (Ad lib. Silence. Morgan walks outside. She sees Joe) MORGAN. Joe? JOE. Oh my God. Hey!
MORGAN. What are you doing? We’ve been waiting for you JOE. Is it 7 yet? I know you guys told me 7. MORGAN. It’s 8:12 (Silence) JOE. You can’t tell them MORGAN. Why? JOE. I don’t—want them to know MORGAN. Joe, what’s wrong? (Silence) JOE. I get these panic attacks MORGAN. Oh JOE. Yeah MORGAN. I understand. I get them, too. JOE. (Surprised) Really? MORGAN. Yeah, they’re terrible (He laughs) JOE. Yeah, they are MORGAN. Come in with me. Let me just get my phone (She does) JOE. I can’t MORGAN. What do you mean, you can’t?
JOE. It’s—it’s hard to explain—they—I think you guys hate me MORGAN. We don’t hate you, Joe JOE. I can’t go in! Okay! MORGAN. Yes you can. You can do it JOE. I CAN’T! MORGAN. Just take a deep breath. Trust me, it’ll be okay. JOE. NO IT WON’T. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND MORGAN. Yes I do. I told you. I have a lot of anxiety, too JOE. WHAT? AM I NOT ACTING IT ENOUGH FOR YOU? MORGAN. (Confused) No, I’m just trying to assure you, help you JOE. I CAN’T SAY ANYTHING AND IT MEAN ANYTHING ANYMORE. What is reality anymore? Are we just all talking? LISTEN TO ME. What I’m saying is real! I’m panicking! IT’S REALLY HAPPENING (She physically handles him) MORGAN. IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY JOE. THAT’S WHAT EVERYONE SAYS! MORGAN. Do you not trust everyone? JOE. NO. (He lets go. Silence) JOE. Look I never get to say anything, be anything, be who I am. Let me go. Let me be who I am MORGAN. Why are you doing this?
JOE. Because this is what it feels like inside me MORGAN. What? JOE. Constant wrestling! (He screams like an animal and runs off. Silence. Morgan stands there with her phone. It rings loudly. She picks up) GUNNER. Is everything okay? MORGAN. Hello? GUNNER. It’s me, Gunner MORGAN. Who? Oh, hey GUNNER. You coming? MORGAN. Oh. Yeah. (She stays silent. Walks in) BAILEY. What took you so long? (Morgan sits down. Lays on Bailey’s lap. Terrible face. Silence.)
Scene 5 (Gunner is outside in the parking lot waiting for Morgan and Bailey. He is faced one direction. Two aliens walk in, from another. They are serious but have a certain wit) ALIEN 1. What’s on your mind? GUNNER. OH MY GOD. WHO THE— ALIEN 2. Humans, so silly GUNNER. This has to be a joke! Morgan, Bailey? Is that you? ALIEN 1. You are not alone. (Gunner is silent. Starts laughing) GUNNER. Look, whoever the fuck you guys are—it’s not funny . I don’t have a gun but well I know a little karate. WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME? ALIEN 2. Nothing (Silence. Gunner is confused) ALIEN 1. The source of all your worry comes from inside and from all those McDoubles ALIEN 2. All those calories! GUNNER. This isn’t real! This isn’t—this is not real ALIEN 1. You’re not the only one that suffers ALIEN 2. The meaninglessness. The misery ALIEN 1. We live through it, too ALIEN 2. Gravity BOTH. It’s the source of all our suffering
GUNNER. Are you guys figments of my imagination? COME ON TELL ME! TELL ME! (He tries to touch them. Alien 1 flips him back) ALIEN 2. We happen to be masters of karate ALIEN 1. We sympathize with the Eastern civilizations ALIEN 2. Americans are so befuddled GUNNER. How do you know so much? ALIEN 2. We just pay attention to the BOTH. Obvious small details GUNNER. What the? (panics) WHAT DO YOU WANT? ALIEN 1. We lied ALIEN 2. We want you to be happy. ALIEN 1. In peace ALIEN 2. With all those stars (They look up) GUNNER. I’ve given up on all that. It’s not possible. The world has too many problems, warfare, conflicts. We can never be happy. We can NEVER BE HAPPY (He thinks of his friends) ALIEN 2. Yes, you can ALIEN 1. You have to find a way to the stars GUNNER. Morgan! Bailey! (He walks back in the restaurant. Morgan and Bailey are walking out. Aliens are gone.)
GUNNER. I just saw aliens! (Bailey is silent) MORGAN. This isn’t the best time for this, Gunner BAILEY. Just stop. GUNNER. NO. NO! This. I’m not lying. I need you to trust me! I really saw some aliens! They were GREEN! And they were talking! In English! Please! Please believe me! (Long silence. Gunner sits down in despair. The two just sit there. Patient)
Scene 6 (Gunner, Bailey and Morgan in Gunner’s living room just sitting there. Mood changes—they’re laughing. Watching Looney Tunes. They switch off the TV. Bailey tickles Morgan) MORGAN. Bailey, stop! (Gunner joins. They tickle each other and then roll on the floor. They laugh and take a deep sigh) GUNNER. Remember Brad? MORGAN. Yeah BAILEY. Best foreign exchange student ever GUNNER. One of these days. We have to go to Taiwan. (They sit there thinking of Brad) MORGAN. Good times GUNNER. Yup BAILEY. Where were we then? GUNNER. Same place (Bailey is confused) MORGAN. Together (Silence) GUNNER. Together’s a nice place, right? (They don’t answer. Silence. Sink drops)
Scene 7 (McDonald’s) BAILEY. Joe is never going to show up GUNNER. Probably not BAILEY. I miss him GUNNER. Cool guy MORGAN. Shit. Can someone get me some ketchup BAILEY. I’m too tired. (Silence) GUNNER. Oh my God MORGAN. Here we go again BAILEY. What? GUNNER. Did you forget? BAILEY. Forget what? MORGAN. The argument we had last time REGARDING KETCHUP! GUNNER. It’s not like you have anything to talk about MORGAN. Oh my God! GUNNER. Yeah, did you forget that? MORGAN. I was joking Gunner! Okay you can’t hold me down on that BAILEY. You’re the lunatic thinking there were aliens. An angry bitter insane lunatic. MORGAN. You’re just lazy Bailey! You think you’re too good for everyone
GUNNER. I really saw that, those aliens. I’M NOT CRAZY. WHY CAN’T YOU GUYS TRUST ME BAILEY. Oh and Morgan, you’re a liar GUNNER. And you’re delusional MORGAN. OH I’m delusional! BAILEY. Well you are MORGAN. Bailey, I’m not the delusional one! (His face tightens. They fight, yell, argue. Joe walks in) JOE. Hi (Silence) MORGAN. Joe! JOE. I’m here GUNNER. Hey man, what’s up! JOE. I had a panic attack. That’s why I couldn’t come. But today I said I’m going to walk in and say hello BAILEY. Sit down! GUNNER. I’m glad you came in! MORGAN. I’m sorry. We were just fighting JOE. I understand MORGAN. Yeah, I guess I do GUNNER. Do you want any fries? Here take my McDouble. Trust me I don’t need it
JOE. Thanks, guys (He sits there) JOE. You know. It was really hard to do this. But I’m glad you guys are still my friends. (Joe eats. Silence.) GUNNER. So the other day, I saw some aliens JOE. Really? (Gunner keeps talking. Joe eats)
Scene 8 (In the parking lot. All looking up at the stars. Silence) JOE. Have you wondered what a utopia is? (Silence) BAILEY. Not really (He’s disappointed) JOE. Sometimes I think we care too much about unimportant things and don’t trust each other on the important things BAILEY. Isn’t a utopia like world peace or something? MORGAN. Infinite love GUNNER. A football field of hot dogs JOE. Free books! BAILEY. Global sustainability! MORGAN. Unlimited money! GUNNER. The moon! BAILEY. The sun! MORGAN. The end of world hunger! BAILEY. Naked girls! (Morgan punches him) MORGAN. No wars! JOE. Happiness!
GUNNER. Stars! JOE. Stars! BAILEY. Stars! MORGAN. Stars! (Morgan lays her head on Bailey. Gunner puts an arm around Joe) JOE. I’m not anxious anymore MORGAN. I’m sorry, Gunner, I was joking GUNNER. Morgan, I forgive you BAILEY. I’m sorry, Morgan, I was just lazy. Do you want some ketchup? MORGAN. Sure! JOE. How big were the aliens? GUNNER. Green! MORGAN. Joe, everything will be okay JOE. Everything will be okay GUNNER. Bailey, you’re a cool guy BAILEY. You’re a cool guy, too, Gunner MORGAN. Joe, I think we’re all in a nice place BAILEY. Together GUNNER. Together’s a nice place. JOE. I think Together’s a utopia when we’re all looking up at the stars. (Long silence. The ballerinas dance in the background, a level yet optimistic dance. The aliens take off. Ketchup packets fall from the sky. Lights down)
The Office of First-Year Programs Mark Moller Dean of First-Year Students Christie Kasson Assistant to the Dean 740-587-6224