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Curb Scholar Blog: Reflecting on Utopia

Posted by on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 in 2012-2015 AY, Curb Scholars.

This blog post was written by Rachel Anand.

For opening retreat, Mr. John Bielenberg gave us the prompt “Utopia” as part of his “Ingenuity Blitz” program.  After doing a “Think Wrong” exercise, where we took a word we were given and linked it everything our minds related to it, our team randomly selected two words from the favorites chosen from the exercise.  Our team, composed of April, Sawyer, Austin, Ben and myself, got “Bridge” and “Yes Please!”.  Using these words, it was our job to come up with a project relating them to the Utopian theme. 

After much discussion involving everything from helicopters and the definition of utopia, to new city structures and bridges to black holes, we decided that we would focus on the ideology of Utopia.  We asked questions about utopia, talked about dissatisfaction and hypocrisy and discussed what makes people desire change.

Eventually, we came up with the idea of finding a “VUtopia.”  What would Vanderbilt’s ideal campus look like?  We decided to wander around campus and ask people their thoughts on 3 questions regarding their ideal utopia.  We tried to pick a mix of serious and lighthearted questions, and eventually ended up with questions on what would you eat there, where would it be, and what one thing would you be free from.  We planned to video people’s answers and make a video for our presentation.  Surprisingly (to me at least), most people were not willing to be on video, but we did get a good number of responders!  It was interesting to see the different themes that kept popping up again and again.  In our ideal VUtopia, we would probably eat steak and pizza, and live on a mountaintop in Hawaii.  Ideally, we would be free of stress, bills and homework. And expectations—that was one of my favorite answers.  Without expectations, there would be no stress, no homework, and no obligations.

Thinking about utopia stimulated new ideas on society as a whole, and showed me the value of character in our society.  By visiting the Farm and seeing how utopia failed, I came to see the importance of trust – neighbors helping each other and giving back to one another.  I saw how hypocrisy and dissatisfaction become kickstarters for change and revolution.  I saw how history has a habit of repeating itself, and how we as mankind often think that we can be different just by starting over in a new place, with new people, new ideals or new resources.  I saw the importance of connecting resources to people and uses.  Without a channel to distribute our goods and services, we will slowly fade away.  Community is a factor that always stands out to me.  From my personal experiences with communal living, I cannot stress its value enough.  A strong community has common goals, balance, ambition and rules.  Everyone must not only pull their own weight, but also work for the greater good of the group.  A big part of community is sharing skills.  We must all have something to bring to the table, whether it is a love for learning, a desire to teach, a compassionate heart or a strong work ethic.  We should also be willing to broaden our horizons and learn new skills.  But most importantly, through my journey with the thoughts and ideas surrounding utopia, I realized the incredible power of communication.  Without communication, be it through writing, music, words, or art, we will not succeed.  Communication is the key to sharing ideas, meeting new people, and living life.  My goal at Curb is to become a successful communicator, easily sharing and receiving ideas and opinions with the world.