The News International, August 10, 2008 http://jang.com.pk/thenews/aug2008-weekly/nos-10-08-2008/foo.htm#2
Remember those fourteen years in school, waking up every morning, at the same time for over a decade. It’s a good experience for some, but only in retrospect, when years have passed. By the fifth year all I looked forward to was the recess and the final bell saying that the six hours of slavery were over, and then the weekend. Eventually, I stopped looking forward to it. It never lasted long, it wasn’t that great anyway and the food at the canteen had no variety.
Then, I imagined that a bench in a green field, under a blue sky dotted with nimbuses and cirri, with the sun shining and a cool breeze blowing would keep me happy forever. I honestly thought it would. I imagined it would be perfect, utopia… until the idea became mundane.
And then the typical image of eternal heaven reels me in with its golden gates and streams of honey and milk, with nymphs and wine and gems and perpetual happiness. I didn’t even want that, unless of course they had ice that was mild, and a sun that wouldn’t burn, and the sort of music I like, and the people that I loved.
It’s like working in the most exclusive restaurant in the city. It doesn’t matter if you get to eat shrimp or strawberry gateau every night for dinner. Sometimes you just want an oily cheese burger smothered in deep fried onions.
None of these instances, or states, is even mildly alluring. They are stable, constants that will just wrap you in their monotony, chew up your adrenaline glands and turn off the red lights in your brain that show high activity.
I don’t want to be stuck in a thankless job. I just want to be a kid in school. I want to eat fried food from the street. I want to jump off a cliff tied to a rope. I want a new phone, and a different stereo.
The key word is not ‘want’, the key word is ‘new’. We want change that can lead to something new. And this search for novelty is not out of greed, or being restless, or thankless, or consumerism. It’s the simple fact that monotony is torture. If you lock a man in an empty room for a few days, he’s going to lose count of days. It breaks you down and is a means of administrative control in prisons. Hell may actually be being alone in our rooms with no pictures on the walls, no books on the shelves, only static on the television and our cell phones with empty directories catching no signals.
I guess heaven shows itself in flashes here, while we are alive and have vision. It’s a mother’s child, a new car, an Ivy League scholarship, a friend telling you a secret, a song. The fact that these are temporary, and change what is in you, or around you, give them value. Joy comes after intervals. It has no point if it’s always there.
When we desire something, it’s not only wanting more of it but wanting it to be better than before. That’s why we wanted to see the remake of Ocean’s Eleven and listened to U2’s cover of Unchained Melody. Utopia for me is change to a better state. A sustained acceleration to what is superior. We have moments of pain, and we know it because it’s better when it’s not present. In a life (or afterlife, if there is such a thing) without pain or the harshness of reality, the lack of pain would only make sense if the pleasure was ever increasing. Utopia, as I see it, would extract the best from life, the desired best, and create an exponentially increasing series of it. Real utopia would not just be ecstasy, but accelerating ecstasy.
You can’t sit and stare at the Mona Lisa forever, no matter how beguiling her smile is. You can commit her to memory; she will sit and smile back in the same way that she did three days, a month, a decade ago. But what if, as you looked at her, she started becoming more alluring. You see more colour in the cheeks, her eyes start shining, and her hair becomes fuller. The more you looked at her the more you wanted to know the reason behind the half smile, until each moment that comes will give you something more beautiful than before.