Sunday 20 July 2014


Photo: The Procrastinator (some) Times.

Parallel Utopia
by Kerilyn Tacconi

“But the Lord was my stay.
 He brought me forth also into a spacious place.”
Psalm 18:18b

I love spacious places. When everything sucks all I want to do is go to a large white beach before a limitless ocean, or a large green field under a dizzyingly vast sky of stars. I love beach vacations, the countryside, the mountains. Mountains by bodies of water are my favourite.

But I have chosen to live in a city and probably will continue to do so. Cities have their own sort of spaciousness, a spaciousness of opportunity, of culture, of people, of vibrancy. But these very same aspects can feel intermittently liberating and suffocating.

When such pressures and contexts become oppressive I become small: I hunch, I slouch, I go into a fetal position. I feel choked, devoid of energy, like I have a hole in my big toe out of which my soul oozes.

Responsibilities make my time feel limited. Everything on my schedule is something I ‘should’ do. Everywhere I go is somewhere I ‘should’ be. And because my life is dictated by external forces (who are these forces? where did they get their power?) I don’t care. My desires have no place in my life. Desire is limited to sexual encounters, chocolate cake and other carnal urges.

One of my guilty pleasures is not being where I am supposed to be. This tendency unchecked could get me labelled a ‘flake’, could lose friends, could lose jobs. But when indulged in moderation it feels amazing because I elude the system for a few moments or hours, I go where the universe cannot find me. I become like a kid who covers his eyes during hide and seek and thinks he is out of sight.

But the system does not care if I do not show up. It simply disqualifies me from the benefits it offers because I refuse (for a moment) to play its game. So while I may run chuckling for an hour, it is a fleeting freedom.

Hakim Bey described a similar theme with much more ‘poetic fancy’, through research into what he called ‘Pirate Utopias’ which he crystallized in the concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone (T.A.Z.). He describes a T.A.Z. as a “guerrilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then it dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen.”

But my problem with the T.A.Z. is that it is fleeting, set apart and isolated; it is temporary, autonomous and a zone. I want to feel free all the time. Is that irresponsible? Is that gluttonous?

We create or throw ourselves into T.A.Z.’s occasionally in life: we get drunk, go to dark clubs, dance like crazy people, do drugs, go to festivals, participate in immersive art performances, listen to mind-blowing music, create, make love, watch the sunrise, lay in the park reading a book. These are our pirate utopias.

Am I naïve enough to ask if the feeling of freedom could be not just temporary, but steady, but eternal? Is it quixotic to seek a utopia that is not located in a single time or place but is an inward reality? And is autonomy what we want or deep communion?

Maybe spirituality poses a suggestion to these questions. From a Christian perspective, maybe there is an aspect of what God wants to give that I am not receiving. What if the Lord was my stay? Where is this spacious place of which He speaks?

Maybe some constraints are truly externally enforced. Though maybe several things that choke and restrain me are chains of my own design, figments of my own imagination, monsters in dreams that cause my sleeping self to punch the air. Maybe that’s why I wake up tired.

Escapism may not be freedom. Not being where I am supposed to be is only fun until I get back where they are expecting me. I want to find a place where I want to stay.

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