Posted by: HAT | April 16, 2009


A happy place?

A happy place?


(Jameson quotes a line from Roadside Picnic as a summation of the utopian impulse: “Happiness for everybody! . . . Free! . . . As much as you want! . . . Everybody come here! . . . HAPPINESS FOR EVERYBODY, FREE, AND NO ONE WILL GO AWAY UNSATISFIED!” (Jameson, Archaeologies, 295) Compare that to “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Is. 55:1) Or even to “Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.” (Rev. 22:17))

Trying to respect Levitas’ definition of utopia (“an expression of desire”), wondering whether we could also understand “the desire called utopia” as the desire for happiness? Because I agree with Jameson, that happiness seems to figure prominently in the utopian imagination. The promise of happiness. (And therewith, another definition, from Balzac: beauty as a promesse du bonheur.) The representation of happiness.

Note something strange in this. Happiness seems strictly opposed to desire. Desire perturbs happiness. Happiness excludes desire.

    The interminable meditation on place and space that accrues to discussions of utopia comes into play here, too. Possible to talk about this phenomenon spatially, where happiness leaves no space for desire, the contents of the present and their positivity or consequent or associated delight take up all the space; alternatively, with desire, imagination clears away, opens up an unoccupied and uninhabited and unavailable space — for view, for consideration, for imagination, not for immediate occupation.

But if we find ourselves unhappy, discontent, we might desire happiness, and we might imagine that possibility, and the conditions of that possibility.


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