I watched Big Easy Express tonight, and in addition to just being a plain joy, featuring Old Crow Medicine Show, Edwin Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Mumford and Sons, I started wondering about utopias and notions of time. We have a tendency to think in binaries as well as metaphors, methinks, and the utopic/dystopic view of technological development is typical, but that binary seems to imply some sort of linear movement that might be holding us back. One of the joys of Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed is that in its communistic anarchy, utopia is something that must constantly be striven for, and Ecotopia (which no one seems to read anymore, but which I still think is about as convincing a picture of utopia as can exist) argues that technology involves hard decisions among a population, and that we can step out of the consumerist nightmare that we seem to have enmeshed ourselves in.
No one that I’ve read, though, talks much about utopias or dystopias and their relationship to time, except in assuming that either is a static fixed product, an end point that might or might not be predestined but which without a doubt and Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams takes that one step further and thinks of time in dozens of different permutations, none of them linear. Some of his visions could be considered utopic, while others are perhaps dystopic, but there is no hard-and-fast line.
Which brings us to the film. Some of the songs played were so amazing, energizing large crowds of people and making them feel almost like small communities (I know that the tribal explanation for pop culture is overdone, but man sometimes it seems to fit perfectly), and this made me consider that maybe utopia happens in 3-5 minute chunks, stretching to as long as an hour or two if we’re at a concert, especially with friends. I know that some shows I’ve seen have seemed that way, and I can listen to Iggy Pop sing “The Passenger” or PJ Harvey sing “Place Called Home” for eternity. And I wonder, then, if that’s what utopia ultimately is – some kind of communal pleasure that we share with more than one person (with one person is called ‘sex,’ methinks), one that involves all of our senses and engages our intellect as well as appealing to the lizard brain of our limbic system.