“You can go, but you mustn't tell a soul, There's a world inside, Where dreamers meet each other, Once you go it's hard to come back. Let me paint your canvas as you dance.” - Janelle Monáe Robinson
“It's such a change, For us to live so independently, Freedom, you see, Has got our hearts singing so joyfully, Just look about, You owe it to yourself to check it out Can't you feel a brand new day? Can't you feel a brand new day?” - Diana Ross - Michael Jackson - Shanice Williams - Shaffer Chimere “Ne-Yo” Smith
JA-NL awakes to a cool drop of drop sliding down her nose. She tries to stretch her arms, but she's trapped! As the fog of slumber slinks away, she realizes.
She's swaddled in a fuzzy blanket with only her bare face brushing the world. She shimmies in the comfort cocoon, sparking static electricity that lights the predawn room. She rolls on her belly and unfurls herself like Cleopatra from a carpet.
She leaps up, stretching to the sky.
“Ah JA-NL, Daughter of the Universe. You arise to taste another day!”
She's stunned to see Momma Ruru sitting vigil in a rocking chair to her right. She bows slightly before her host.
“Oh please, no one is above anyone else in Wondaland. Stand! You dozed so peacefully after my story and slept the day away. We know the first few nights can be traumatic for all escapees seeking our sanctuary, so we keep watch on them. But you, you slept so sweetly. Though you did mutter under your breath about rivers wide, valleys low...”
“Oh that, its just something my parents used to sing to me.” JA-NL looks down as flecks of heat spread on her cheeks.
Ruru grabs her chin and tilts it until their eyes meet.
“Never be ashamed to sing. Singing is our emotional language, it knits us together.” Ruru reaches around JA-NL's shoulder and walks her to the door.
“Come with me and you'll see a world of pure imagination.”
“Where did this all come from?” JA-NL tugs at Ruru as they stroll through a field of wildflowers.
“Once, there was a child named Destiny Hope. They were renamed Miley and put to work in a factory that used their body and voice to sell books and toys, music and shows. When they rebelled, they changed their name to Milez and came here. To Montana. They invested their savings into cryptocurrencies and solar power companies, which grew into a nice billion dollar fortune they used to create a counterculture oasis. A place to rehabilitate from the poisons of pop culture which had seeped into all parts of society.
“Welcome to Wondaland!”
* * *
A few months before, the wrinkled hands of Milez reached from their bed in the hammock canopy. They scanned the crowd of hundreds that stood watch over their deathbed.
“I feel so much younger now.” They smiled with a cough. In their half century in Montana, they turned this wilderness retreat into the most robust outpost of pop resistance.
The crowd closed in on their bed as they coughed.
As Milez held Ruru's hand, they sang to their friends.
“I can almost see it. That dream I'm dreaming. But there's a voice inside my head saying, you'll never reach it."
Their eyes began to glaze over.
"There's always gonna be another mountain. I'm always gonna want to make it move. Always gonna be an uphill battle. Just remember, it ain't about how fast you get there. Ain't about what's waiting on the other side.
“It's the climb!”
The crowd pushed forward and hugged Milez in a last celebration of their life. As their wrinkled body breathed it's last breathe, they encouraged them.
“Keep on moving. Keep on climbing. Keep the faith! Keep your faith!”
Their body was carried to the garden and buried beneath the largest tree as each of the 51,241 mourners laid a flower above their empty shell.
* * *
The vise of pop culture squeezed out any deep discourses with its saccharine sweetness and praise for the vain, the shallow and the superficial. As the rules of society became more strict, demanding blonder hair, bigger boobs and tinier waists, and as technology excelled to gorify humans to meet these norms, it pushed out more and more who couldn't or wouldn't conform. These rebels at first fought the invasion of pop culture into their worlds. But when they failed, they retreated.
And many came to Wondaland.
From the universities flowed academics angry with shellacking layer upon layer of prestige on their university's brand rather than liberating the minds of students from the bonds of ignorance. From hospitals and laboratories came the scientists and doctors who revolted as they were pressured to create markets for new diseases: parenthesis face, thin eyelashes or stubby nailbeds and then bamboozle the public for shareholder benefit. From tech companies coursed the software designers who were eager to advance humanity by deepening relationships and increasing information transfer but who could only find paying jobs tricking users to spend their attention on the most banal things and forfeit their data while doing so. From the capitol buildings poured the policy wonks whose data-driven ideas for social change were shelved by politicians who cared more for their glossy photo-ops and poll numbers than advancing their constituents' lives. From architecture firms streamed the Gruen Deffectors who wanted to build communities rather than sew division into the cityscape or construct spaces to maximize consumption.
A trickle became a river that enriched this forest with their brilliant minds and eager attitudes. Every day, they gathered in Wondaland's library. Each refugee shared their tiny corner of knowledge with earnest ears. Every night, they sat under the star-speckled sky and poured their emotions out, finding sympathy and encouragement.
There was no money asked. No obligations given. A sense of respect flowed from them into a spirit of dedication that made this oasis thrive.
These pillars to a solid society rolled in, damaged. But as they were repaired, they stood strong. And together, a city grew, supported by their talents, powered by their ambitions.
Utopian communities had long been an American dream devoured by American hubris. Many a utopia failed simply because some men used the mad dash to remake the rules of society as an excuse to put their penises in whomever they wanted. Often these men explained this was necessary for group cohesion.
But, rather than pushing a Camelot that would never come, these residents didn't believe they knew what was right. They were humble. They just knew the outside world was wrong and knew what they could create wouldn't be any worse. On top of this, they held close to the value of skepticism. They used design thinking to iterate, get feedback, pivot and build processes to ensure this society was beneficial for all residents.
As the atmosphere warmed, this slice of Montana only grew more beautiful, becoming an oasis of green. They built the Earth. The automation that robbed many of income was used in Wondaland to free them from back-breaking labor. Machines planted and picked the fields, made and served the meals, cleaned the common areas, watered the gardens and swiveled the solar panels.
This freed the residents to be.
To be what?
To be whatever they liked!
No longer constricted by the tasks that once held power over them, they were free to create art. To read. To learn. To celebrate the splendors of the Earth and each other. Residents were encouraged to hike, bike, swim and savor the bounties of their planet.
And to heal!
The traumas of a superficial world festered in them. Months and years were needed for them to unpack and unlearn the harsh distortions that festered in them as psychic wounds so they could finally unbreak their hearts.
As each healed, they offered their talents to Wondaland. The community coalesced around a guiding mission, to be a sanctuary for humans and humanity. Here, scholars collected and saved the knowledge of humanity before it could be drowned by a deluge of superficiality. These scholars were overwhelmed and excited with access to more information than they had ever dreamed of. As humans do, they began to go to great lengths to weave together the nuggets of facts from human history into narrative threads, from which, my understanding of this species has greatly benefitted.
As JA-NL toured the underground vaults of the library, she saw the scholar from whom most of my interpretation of the downfall of humanity comes. Karlie Kloss-Marx cowered over a pile of books as she strokes her puffy white beard. Her mind absorbs the facts from thousands of sources and begins to write her social philosophy, Klossim, which I've shared with you here.
As Kloss-Marx rocks back and forth, she says to herself, over and over again as she feverishly writes.
“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”