Will the Real Thomas More Please…

The Real Thomas More

 

Will anyone be able to pinpoint which voice in Utopia is the historical Thomas More – More the fictional character, or Raphael Hythloday? He seems to split himself between the two. On the one hand, he is Hythloday because everything that Hythloday says is More the author’s invention. He must consider some of the values of the Utopians to be truly noble and worthy of imitating, or else he would not be using them as elements of a society where overall communal happiness is achieved.

            At the same time, however, the author More shows his doubts about the possibility of achieving such a society. He vocalizes these doubts through the character More in the way he confesses his disagreement with Hythloday in the end. The author does not go to great lengths to explain why More “cannot agree with everything he said,” or to make an argument against Hythloday, and even acknowledges that Hythloday is a man of great learning. In this way he seems dismissive and passive in his disagreement, and one could argue that the historical More sided with Hythloday. Yet, if More truly believed in the Utopia he imagined, why would he have given it a name that can be translated “no place,” or given Hythloday’s character a name which means “speaker of nonsense?” With this fact are the apparent contradictions within the Utopian world, such as their placing no value on gold in local exchange affairs, yet finding value in it to finance foreign wars. It also seems unlikely that the Utopian people would embrace Christianity, as they abhorred sacrifices and the shedding of the blood of animals.

            More was a clever author who understood the 16th century English audience he was writing for. It would have been outlandish for him to write a Platonic dialogue detailing each ritual act, custom or state-sanctioned activity necessary to create what he conceived as the ideal society. He wanted to get his readers thinking and reflecting on their own society – its customs, values, and the ideals from which they were derived – by using the alluring images of the mysterious New World to engage their imaginations.

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Where You Takin’ Me in That Time Machine?

[Essay Prompt: If given the opportunity to take a time machine to the future, what time would you visit and why?]

When I was little, I was obsessed with Michael J. Fox’s classic movie, Back to the Future. At the age of three, before I could even pronounce the title, I would demand of my mother, “Back to Foochur, Back to Foochur!” and the tape would roll and roll. When I was twelve I revisited the film and became seriously fascinated with time machines and the concept of time travel in general. Metaphysical and philosophical questions flooded my head: What is time? Do all events occur simultaneously on one long, streaming world line? Could one possibly manipulate and navigate time? Could I experience another period of human existence? These thoughts consumed me as a seventh-grade researcher. I remember making visits to the library to peer through the works of Isaac Asimov and Stephen Hawking while daydreaming about other realms of the space-time continuum.

I never particularly wanted to visit the future. When I imagine the timeline of the world, I see the past on the left – fuzzy images of events from my life and the history of humanity. On the right, I see blank squares of the units of time in white. It was frightening to think about what could be written there. Just imagining it brought me anxiety.

Lately I’ve been writing narratives about my own personal experiences. I love writing about the past because it’s the only concrete thing I have. The present is almost illusory. It slips by so quickly that I never even realize that I have it, much less feel like I know what I ought to do with it. The future is altogether problematic. It is, in reality, completely uncertain, yet somehow I convince myself that I am capable of controlling it. I visualize, plan, and predict. When future moves to present, I wring my hands in helplessness and watch as it slips into the paralyzing ambiguity of “now.”

How can I determine what to do with “now” when I am so focused on all the possibilities of “then” – of tomorrow, some distant time and space? Now? What is Now?

But then, as the moment – carefully dancing with and gripping all the other molecules surrounding it and qualifying its existence – slips into the past, it frees me from this worry. It is over. Its existence, quality, and validity do not depend on me or what I do with them. Conscious effort is no longer required; my only task is to remember. I can laugh. Sometimes it is better to cry.

Linford Detweiler and Karen Bergquist said, “Every day is a one-act play…without an ending.” I don’t want to ask God or Mother Nature or a Time Machine what the future holds. I only wish to ask the pen in my hand as I write the story of my life, myself.

My Last Night in London

So. Here I go. Off to America. To Texas. To my homeland, but not my home.

Do I have a home? Yes. I just haven’t returned to it yet.

While in England and Morocco, I never told people that I was from America. I told them I was from Texas. In Marrakech, the men would always respond, “Oh, Texas! Good country!” You have no idea, I thought.

In my hotel this morning I saw an old man. He was heavy and hunched over and walked with a cane. The BBC morning news program was on and they had some story about how much time my generation spends plugged into media throughout the week. I thought it was kind of funny that I was pulling my laptop out to be my breakfast companion while they were running that story. I wondered what the old man thought of young folks today, always sitting at the computer. Wasting their lives on machines, he might think. A few minutes later, as I was finishing my coffee, I looked over and saw that he also had a little Acer mini notebook! Just like mine! Funny, the way we assume we know what other people think.

Later on, after we had both moved to the lobby to make more room for people in the breakfast area, I walked past him and couldn’t help but sneak a peek at what he was doing on his computer. He had an email pulled up that said in all capital letters: “HEY SEXY WHAT’S GOING ON…” Oh my! I walked away, half silently cracking up and half cringing.

Last night I trampsed around London. I almost decided not to go because I was afraid of navigating London’s public transportation system by myself, getting lost and having to spend a bunch of money to find my way back. Something urged me, however, to just ask the hotel front desk guy how the Underground fare system works, and he informed me that I could purchase a day travel card for all services. That sounded good to me. In the Jack Flanders adventurer spirit, I decided to walk to the nearest station and just find my way to Abbey Road. (How could I come all the way to England and not make the pilgrimage when it was so close within my reach?)

I’m so glad I did it, because in traveling on the Underground I realized that you would have to be a complete moron to not understand traveling on the Underground. It’s so easy. I would have missed a good night if I’d let my fear be my guide by staying in the hotel.

When I got off at St. Johns Wood, I started walking in the directions Google gave me. Google has been more iffy for me on this trip. I wondered if I would be able to find the famous crosswalk and the studio. Well, when I got to the crosswalk where a bunch of people stood around taking pictures of their friends walking across the road, I figured I was in the right spot. People were there from all over the world…at 6pm on a Wednesday night! Incredible. I managed to find some Spanish speakers amongst the barrage of foreign tongues and got them to take my picture crossing the road.

I went from St. Johns Wood to downtown London, not sure where I was headed next. I decided to get off at the stop where the recorded Train Announcer Voice loudly proclaimed, “Get off here for Buckingham Palace.” Okay! I thought. This is a Jack Flanders adventure, after all. Time to just go with the flow and say, “Feets, do your stuff.”

I don’t know if people who live in London realize how beautiful their city is, especially at night (every city is more beautiful at night). Probably not – hardly anyone realizes the beauty of their own home. I walked around and took a few low-light pictures of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey.The London Eye made beautiful reflections over the water – romantic. It’s too bad I always go on these adventures alone. Well, it’s not too bad. These are moments God takes to woo me. I listened to Meet Me By The Water as I walked over the bridge.

For dinner, I went to McDonalds. It was the only place still open where I could pay by credit card (I needed my last few pounds for the bus in the morning). I had been craving a McFlurry since I saw someone on the bridge eating one, and the girl at the register was cool enough to add one as the drink for my meal without changing the price. She was cute – she was from some other country and English wasn’t her first language. She accidentally pushed the “pay by cash” button on the register, so her manager had to come over and spend like 5 minutes fixing it. I didn’t mind because of the McFlurry, and because this girl was too sweet to get mad at.

When I got back home I was exhausted. Yet I woke up super early this morning. I think it’s the sunlight. I just can’t sleep too long past sunrise for whatever reason. My body must be adjusting as I transition in life. Perhaps my soul knows it needs sunlight to recharge me. Opening my solar plexus. Who knows.