by Mike Pyatt
Even though such a place is imaginary, an idyllic paradise from the scene of James Hilton’s 1933, novel Lost Horizon, for millennia misguided dreamers have longed for such a place on earth. The movie sequel depicted a place hidden in a Nepalese mountain valley, where greed and avarice were nearly non-existent, and a century old mystic ruled a palace with near peace and harmony. In the end some malcontents revolt against this idyllic setting. Most romanticism, like that naive mystic, overlook or ignore the one element that makes such a place impossible. It’s man himself. That corruptive agent that is part of the equation which always spells doom to such misguided pursuits.
Where is utopia? There’s a Utopia, Texas. Not that one. The concept of a Utopia or Shangri-La existence has a long, storied, and unsuccessful history, from the16th Century, fictional island satire by Sir Thomas More, to current attempts to create the perfect ecosystem. It has eluded us to date, but that hasn’t slowed the pursuit. The Four Coins recorded a 1957, hit, Shangri-La. It began, “Your kisses take me to Shangri-La. Each kiss is magic that makes my little world a Shangri-La.” We’ve all been there before.
The Huffington Post listed “nine fascinating case studies in alternative modes of living.” Most exist along the lines of escaping the trappings of technology, founded on core values such as non-violence and respect for the environment. A commune mentality. One spot in Costa Rica is a sustainableTreehouse community. Swiss Family Robinson on steroids. They describe this experiment, “In general people who live here want a simpler lifestyle. They want a life less ordinary. They’re usually ‘very green,’ environmentally-conscious and want to live off the grid.” In Buckingham, Virginia, or “Yogaville,” a community founded by a Swami, a form of Eastern Mysticism and a hodgepodge of beliefs and unbeliefs. Some have existed for more forty years. Most are a confluence of Karma, Eastern Mysticism and nothingness, rejecting any convention. Shangri-La Lite?
An overwhelming desire for some non-rational experience is nothing new. The 60’s drug culture, and today’s, though different in the degree of danger to the substance of choice, have a desire to find or experience “meaning,” somewhere. One may recall former Harvard Professor Timothy Leary, linked L.S.D. experience with that described in the1964, Tibetan Book of the Dead. This spiritually deadly desire, demonstrated then that such experiences vary little from West to East. Whether it’s the existentialist speaking, or Eastern Mysticism in an American commune, they find a uniform need for an irrational experience attempting to find some sense of life. Ultimately, it ends in despair. Life isn’t a monastic retreat.
The beguiling words of a Tibetan Monk, “The mind of man is like the wind in a pine tree in a Chinese ink drawing.” Man dies twice, according to Zen Buddhist. He’s only a wind, and only a figure in a drawing. The very reverse of Biblical Christianity. Man is real, and Fallen. Shangri-La isn’t possible. But he can be redeemed, and find joy on one’s journey through the vicissitudes of life. The pantheist claim that God and Nature are identical, and the universe is an extension of God’s essence, rather than a special creative act as revealed in Genesis One. That’s the origin of the relatively recent “green ecosystem-everything worship,” that has reached a sacrosanct plateau. That violation and penalty are ancient. Both are found in Romans 1:25-26.
One should dismiss this faulty, naive yearning for a world with no epistemological boundaries, where good and evil are relative, as current educational models insist that are pervasive in American culture. Although it has a miserably failed history, secular humanism, in various forms, is “repackaged” nearly every generation, and unabashedly re-marketed, specifically to the student population of all ages. The false underlying principle is that with just another tweak or twist of philosophy, man can achieve a morally elevated place to reign. Man is at the pinnacle of this movement. That’s why it’s pernicious and doomed to abject failure. That foundation crumbled long ago. We’ve seen this movie before. It’s no comedy. It’s no Shangri-La.
On a practical level, few of us desire such a farcical existence. Most of us are trying to navigate this fragile life that’s punctuated by surprises of joy and disaster. Too many fail to consider one’s eternal destiny, except when death rudely and abruptly jolts our reverie. Whether it assails us by the passing of a friend, spouse, family member, or that terminal medical diagnosis we believed only happened to others. Since ancient days man’s inner voice has signaled him that there’s an internal vacuum. This hole cannot be filled by our feeble attempts. Extreme desperate measures range from abusing alcohol, illicit and prescription drugs, to embracing cults or esoteric sophistry. Even legitimate earthly relationships fall short. They can leave us empty.
Man, because he’s made in God’s image, is quite remarkable. He unlocked the atom and DNA, but not his soul. Not the door to Heaven-he has no key of his own. Unregenerate man wants a “God” he can mollify. Not the righteous, Infinite/Personal God, who tells us the truth about our Fallen state, and what to do about it.
Many know the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, who was offered “living water.” She asked Jesus, “Where can you get that living water?” She didn’t know that this water of which He spoke would satisfy her soul-never to thirst again. That inner longing can only be satisfied by Christ Jesus. Muhammad, Buddha, Joseph Smith, and L.Ron Hubbard have one thing in common-they’re all dead. Unlike the risen, living Christ. His promises transcend Nirvana, Shangri-La, “Celestial Kingdom” or frivolous tautologies, that’ve been foisted on us for eons. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org