The other day, I introduced the question: if you could live in another time or place, would you? And where? Including, and perhaps especially, fictional worlds. I included a poll, so you, the readers, could consider and give input on the question as well. You can check out that post here.
I take the title, The Best of All Possible Worlds, from Clockwork Angels by Rush. In the novel – and by extension the album, I suppose – the goal of the Utopian project is to build the best of all possible worlds. In this, one of many possible worlds. I did a post about reading the novel here.
In other words, I have been building to this point for a while. Indeed, really, with my whole series on Science Fiction and Religion. Because to me, the whole purpose of these posts, this sort of thought, is that Science Fiction touches in some of the most important ways on Religion – exploring its future, exploring the things which might disprove it, exploring people who keep their faith even as humanity (or other species) expand out into the stars.
So join me as I consider the question just a bit further: Which is the best of all possible worlds?
The Fan Favorites
There are a number of fictional worlds that we love dearly – by we do I mean people or geeks? I don’t know. However, many of these favorites are not really a safe sort of place to live. So while the idea is great, practically, I think we enjoy them for the escapism.
For instance, Doctor Who. I think really, when it comes to Doctor Who, the fans really just want to be companions. All of time and space. Helping and saving people. However, have things ever really turned out well for the Doctor’s companions? Some of them just get to live out normal lives, haunted by the desire to keep traveling. Maybe in a different time. Or in a different dimension. Maybe remembering horrifying alternate timelines. Or remembering nothing at all.
And as any other character in a Doctor Who episode? All bets are off. Possibly more deaths than Game of Thrones.
Worlds like Firefly are if anything more dangerous. And for the people living on the worlds, actually out in border space, it’s worse. I think I’ll stick with the Board Game. Similarly with Battlestar Galactica.
Or how about in a more Fantasy sort of realm, Star Wars. (I define Star Wars as Fantasy here). Which as I write, no one has voted for yet on the poll. Being a Jedi would be fantastic – but the amount of dark forces in that universe is pretty overwhelming.
We do love the dystopias, don’t we? The apocalyptic scenarios? But there have to be some fictional worlds that are habitable, right?
One of the most Utopian of Science Fiction worlds is Star Trek. Unfortunately, the whole world depends on a number of items that are effectively unobtanium: dilithium crystals, warp drives, transporters, replicators… With scarcity defeated, I would hope we could pull off scarcity.
And we’ve turned to exploration and travel, which are great pursuits when you have the time and the whole galaxy in front of you. More comfortable than Firefly, for sure.
However, even with the pleasures and joys of Utopia, Star Trek is a dangerous place. Outside of the Federation, other races and groups are Empire-forming, violent, sneaky… all sorts of things. And that’s without mentioning the Borg. Or the Q.
So is Star Trek the best world? It’s pretty excellent. Is it realistic as a future for us? While I maybe hope so, I don’t think so. Just too much Unobtanium.
So, something closer to home then? Harry Potter is a fairly realistic and fully realized Fantasy world. With education (a highlight, I suppose), government, rules to the magic, all sorts of things.
And much of the joy of Harry Potter is being drawn in to the world, going through the years with Harry. We can imagine what 7 years at Hogwarts would be like. And from there, we can imagine the rest of life in that world.
However, the books also show us the dark world side of things, the dark wizards. Generally, in magical Fantasy, the dark powers are one of two things: way more powerful than the good guys, or else evenly matched with the good guys. I guess rarely there’s excess of the good guys, but usually that’s a prequel, like the Star Wars prequels.
In Fantasy where the bad guys are way more powerful, there’s usually great hero’s journeys, and epic plots, and a lot of luck necessary – but it’s not a great place to live, really. So, say, Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings would be a rough place to live.
However, Harry Potter is fantastically balanced between the forces of the good guys and bad guys, right up to the end. Dumbledore, the only one he ever feared. Fantastic magical artifacts, like the Hallows, and powers, like the Love protection. It’s like the fantastic scene where the Minister of Magic is having to explain it to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister says that they shouldn’t be having problems – they have magic! To which the reply is, of course, so do their enemies.
Of course, if there’s always a balance of good and evil, is there constant battle? Is this a world much better than ours, really? Or just different? This is the joy of Harry Potter – it’s a world much like ours, just a little different. So is it better than our world? Is it the best? I mean, there is magic… but there are still plenty of problems.
Always, the Question
For me, much of reading, gaming, or watching fictional or historical worlds is imagining myself living there. But as I continue to do so, the question keeps coming back: would this world be a better one than our own? Than even the here and now? For instance, my dad and I once discussed living in medieval times; however, we would both likely have died on birth – he premature, and me jaundiced. Would the past be a safer place to be born?
What about the future? There’s a lot of doom-and-gloom talk about our future. Will the singularity destroy us all? Overpopulation? Will we all get sucked into living in virtual worlds? Climate change? We don’t know what the future holds, but to be a good one, it needs some direction from us today.
Our own world is in a pretty good place right now. Sure, there’s room for improvement, but at some level, going in and trying to effect change on a macro level – government to government, for instance – isn’t the best plan. But smaller impacts, more direct, are effective. We’ve talked about some of our ideas here on the blog – with documentaries like Girl Rising, or ideas of Geeks and Charity. Our world has the potential to improve, and we can be a part of that, which is exciting. We can build that better future with actions today.
But are we living at the apex of human existence right now? Have our best days already come and gone? When is the Golden Age? A concept that comes up frequently in Doctor Who, for instance. I was interested to find this is the advertising campaign for the next Christopher Nolan film, Interstellar. To me, this trailer looks like Nolan trying to make a movie he cares about, trying to – to turn a phrase – Inception the idea of space exploration back into us. I’m excited to see how this film turns out. Check out the trailer if you haven’t seen it:
So I guess, the question again, more directly now: what do you think is best of all possible worlds?
So Finally – That Reference to Religion
So, I’m not here to shove religion down anyone’s throats. I have faith, which should be evident by now. I have doubts, and I keep looking. I find fiction – and especially speculative and escapist sorts of fiction – to be some of the best places to look. So I keep looking there.
Because for me, the question is this: if we can’t imagine a better world than this, then is this, the here and now, the Best of All Possible Worlds? And if it is, does that point to an intelligent creator, who made it so?
I think it does, but I am open to be persuaded. So I keep reading, keep playing, keep watching. Keep immersing. Keep wondering.
What do you think? About any and all of it. Let me know in the comments below!