Utopia Distilled from Dystopia
Creative thinking challenge and writing prompt
Set your sights
on a moving
target. Our dreams
must adapt their color
to the hue of the flame’s
intensity and yearning,
the heights of our evolving
imaginations bend, free
form and loop back until their essence
is some new material, unknown
in our hands. Matter
utopian, in a world
only days and weeks
The limits once ingrained, drifting,
grey and falling.
And we hold something
gleaming and sifted
from the ash of what has
How are you?
In many conversations, I’ve heard the word tired, exhausted.
Attention spans are short. Energy is fluctuating, flickering. Emotions are high. And low.
The creative victory of the week is, well, not always related to writing.
After much reflection, I only want to present the following challenge:
Shift Your Utopia — a creative challenge, for your art or your life.
Something has shifted my foundation in the days since George Floyd’s murder and the waves of humanity it sent into the streets.
Utopia is probably not the word you were thinking of just now. But I’d like to invite you to share a moment. Share a future.
Share some hope.
There are so many things to say about where we’ve been.
I will start simply with what I know.
I was 16 and living some miles East of LA when I first saw the Rodney King being beaten on the evening news.
No matter what words I heard afterward — in excuse or justification — there are some things you never unsee.
I remember armed police on motorcycles cruising through our highschool.
I remember the 9-foot iron fences erected around our high school — “Not to keep you in, but to keep danger out.”
I remember all that not making me feel very safe. All of that force just seemed to imply that we were about to explode from the inside. I didn’t have words for what I wanted. Just not this.
And I remember the images of the LA Riots, the silhouettes of people running against a backdrop of flames and smoke — and knowing in my body before the words could even form:
People do not burn things down unless there is something big, unimaginably heavy, and impossible to bear.
There are moments in life that show you — you have something to learn.
Maybe unpacking the history of racism in America is something that you discover over a lifetime. A truth you open one package at a time with trembling fingers. When you think you are ready to face what’s been wrapped up in that yellowed paper all these generations.
Sometimes you learn how you’ve played a role. That you’ve benefited from the injustice. That you are not who you think you are. Or that you must become someone better.
So often, what you find is more horrific than what you were ready to see.
And, yes, racism and violence have been here from the beginning.
So who am I to ask you to hope?
I know. We’ve all hoped for things before. And we’ve been disappointed.
I’m asking you anyway.
Because this is our creative challenge. The creative challenge.
We must dig into ourselves, into our pasts, our histories, our experiences…know them.
We need to do more than demand better. We need to wash out the old paintings handed down to us. And to paint with bold strokes something new for the future.
To rethink what might be — and believe it.
Not sure what to do yet?
Try writing it out. Brainstorm, just scatter the words onto the paper.
Think better in pictures or images? Grab them, collage, cut, glue, or doodle.
Take a break, go for a walk, do your dishes.
But come back. Try again.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel powerful. Don’t worry if you’re not sure ‘it will work.’
This is creative work, full of sketches and drafts, and false starts.
You may discover something only you can bring to this battle. But you won’t know until you try.
Not American and are thinking we have our own brand of insanity?
Well, that’s only partly true.
I’ve been to some other places and I’ve lived in France now for about 10 years.
If the characters and the settings are different? The themes and the central conflicts are often the same.
I think you have your own creative work to do — wherever you are.
So go out and create a vision of beauty for the future.
Bring it here and share it with us — in simple words, in poetry, in prose, in prayers, in images.
It does not have to be literal…but it can be.
Any interpretation on this theme, any musing that comes to mind…
And if your new vision of the future leads you to take some small action? Some small step — a first one…or yet another?
Feel free to send me an email or a PM and tell me about it. I totally get that some of our actions are sacred and quiet. But no less important.