Sunday, July 3, 2011


Where there is no vision, the people perish. The Book of Proverbs.
E. Ethelbert Miller asks, "Knowing your interest in science-fiction what type of things do you imagine man will invent or be capable of doing? If Charles Johnson could dream a world what kind of world would it be?"

This is an answer I can keep short and simple. And I don't need to turn to speculative fiction to imagine it, because the world I would dream is one that is within our grasp right now and without any assistance from science or technology. The answer appears in my essay "Reading the Eight-Fold Path," in Turning the Wheel: Essays on Buddhism and Writing, page 18:

         "All my life I've wondered what it would be like to live in a society where, instead of men and women insulting and tearing each other down, people in their social relations, and even in the smallest ways, held the highest intellectual, moral, creative, and spiritual expectations for one another."

In other words, I would dream a civilized world. No one is born civilized. That is an achievement of culture, one that is the product of a lifetime of work and a great deal of daily practice. And what we call civilization can be lost in a single generation. This will be the theme of my next novel, because it is the question I brood on every day and night, the question I most wish to explore in depth: What does it mean to be truly civilized?

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