Unexpectedly seeing a friend at a local coffee shop today, I invited her to sit with me for awhile. I am so happy I did, because it gave her a chance to tell me about her recent vacation.
It sounded like an excellent trip, and already she’s thinking about where she might travel next year or maybe the year after that. When she had finished telling me about her trip, she asked me where I’d like to visit. She encouraged me to unleash my imagination, remove practical barriers, and just describe a place to her. Hmmmm.
I found myself using words that described a place and a people, but neither of us could think of anywhere that literally fit my description. The reason is simple: Where I’d most like to go doesn’t exist, at least not yet.
I’d like to visit a place where people are happy and healthy. They feel secure and confident. They are well-fed and rested. They are joyful, see humor in daily life, and have a sense of purpose. When there is a need to fill, people readily come together to volunteer their time and skills. Their work day is typically only six hours or less, and the work week is three or maybe four days long. This creates more time for spiritual pursuits, hobbies, personal projects, recreation, entertainment, and socializing.
Entertainment in this doesn’t-exist-yet place covers a wide range of arts and cultural events and celebrates human diversity. Socializing includes all ages, a variety of music and food, and uplifting conversation.
Children from every background look forward to going to school. They are treated with respect and know they are safe and cherished there. They learn not only from books but also from real-world experiences, and they have a balance between developing their minds and their characters. With a love for learning, they become curious, inquisitive lifelong learners.
The place itself is beautiful — both in its natural setting and in the cleanliness of the built environment. Most people live within a short distance of water — a sea, river, pond, or lake — forests, meadows, and mountains. People usually take public transportation, though for their daily errands they also can walk or bicycle. Private cars still exist, but they’re often owned jointly with neighbors or family members, and public transit serves many. Thus, air quality is not a problem, and the streets are free of traffic jams.
Along with excellent air quality, both clean water and power are abundant. No one worries about expensive utility bills, since everything is produced with great efficiency. Extremes of poverty and wealth have vanished, though a range of lifestyles allow for individual tastes and financial means.
As a visitor I am welcomed by the local population. They offer hospitality, which is fun for me as I enjoy the food and customs of the diverse residents. I also can stay at comfortable hotels and inns if I wish.
I could go on, adding more details — but instead, I’m wondering what the real future will look like. Dare we imagine a world like the one I’ve described, built on peace, beauty, and unity?
Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, has promised humanity that such a time — a Golden Age — will evolve in a future state of society beyond our present imagination. Between then and now, we are progressing toward it.
In a statement about conservation and sustainable development, the Baha’i International Community forecast some of the characteristics of such a future:
Above all, the Baha’i world will continue to foster hope for the future. It will confidently share its conviction that, by following God’s will for today, humanity will be transformed, unity and peace will be attained, and a prosperous, sustainable world civilization — the fruits of which will be enjoyed by the entire human family — will emerge and extend into the distant future.
The future may not turn out the way I’ve described it, but that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is my living each day as though my actions might help bring about that Golden Age of humanity. I can envision that peaceful and unified world and work towards it every day, even if I can’t purchase a ticket to visit it during my next vacation.