Debate and Panel on Utopias Closing Remarks

An end to a discussion and debate on utopias and utopian societies, introduction to the panelists including Isaac Asimov, Allen Ginsberg, and Ram Dass.


9. Any other comments?

Asimov: If, as the decades pass, population is not controlled and reduced; if public hostility to technology continues and grows; if human beings and human societies remain prisoners of their past and continue to find mutual recrimination, quarreling, and war to be more satisfactory than cooperative survival--then my utopia will not be realized and, in fact, human civilization will not long survive.

Dass: We take birth on the plane of reality which includes earth because of our karmic attachments to (1) lust and greed, (2) anger, (3) agitation, (4) sloth, and (5) doubt. These attachments, by means of our thought forms, shape our universe. So perhaps earth is functional just as it is for those of us who have this particular work to do. There already are other planes of heavens, etc., for those whose karmic predicament is different.

Ginsberg: Existence has built-in qualities of suffering, mutability, and soullessness, so any utopia would have to be based on our unprejudiced working with these qualities.

Michener: The important thing, I believe, in striving for such utopia as is practical during one's life, is to retain a sardonic, introspective, judicious attitude toward everything, and to make what might be called "the grand transitions" from the demands of one period of one's life to the next. Change is the order of the world; few people working today have experienced the degree of change in their professions that I have, for all the old patterns of publishing books have altered. Magazines have died, newspapers have folded, motion picture studios have vanished, television has erupted, pocket books have foliated, and both artistically and economically all has undergone revolution. If I had tried to cling to old patterns. I would have been destroyed. I cannot begin to guess what the pattern of writing will be by the year 2000, but it certainly won't be what I know now. It would be great fun to see what happens to my profession. In fact, it would be great fun to see what happens to anything ... the family, the corner store, the movies, the automobile, the airplane, the dentist's office, the university, the multinational corporation. I'd like to watch it all as the convolutions and the changes take place. It's much more exciting than watching NFL football on the tube on Sunday afternoon. For the changes I'm talking about are for real. This is the great game, the one in which winning and losing is of vital importance. The good part is that regardless of what set of decades chance throws you into, the great game is just as exciting now as it ever has been or can be. I would have loved to live in America in the period from 1750 to 1800. But it's no better than the period from 1950 to 2000. And we who live now are no better off than those who will be living from 2000 to 2050. (But I sure as hell would enjoy seeing that one.)

Montagu: Yes. The only philosophically tenable position for a pessimist in time of crisis is optimism. We have to live and work as if by our labors in the desired direction we shall make the difference that counts. There is really no other possible attitude if we are to accomplish what we are able. And what we are able, we ought to do--and that is to live as if to live and love were one.

Untermeyer: Since I'll never live in that perfected utopia, I settle for my private one: listening to Mozart with a cat on my lap.

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