A few friends and I recently had an interesting discussion – what would our ideal earthly existence be like? It can’t be Heaven, but you can pick the landscape, the political nature of your city/town/whatever, your own occupation and political and social role, the architecture you want, even modify the laws of physics to some extent… so, what would I do with this opportunity?
After some discussion, it came out that my ideal existence could be summarized as being the bard in the mead-hall…
I’ll start with the landscape and weather. There’d be stark mountains, plains, a mysterious forest, and an ocean (but no beaches – just sheer cliffs of varying height everywhere). It would generally be cold, varying between a bit below freezing and, at the warmest, maybe 60 or 70 degrees. Mostly overcast, sometimes raining or snowing, rarely sunny (though not never). A northern climate. (Which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s read what I have to say about heat vs. cold.)
On to the city itself. I’d pick a small community, just a few thousand, where I can know a sizable portion of the population and talk to whoever I wanted, but not really be obligated to talk to anyone. We’d all live in separate small, simple houses, kind of like the huts you’d see in medieval towns, but with indoor plumbing, and congregate in the communal feasting hall, one of the two large buildings in the town. The other, bigger one would be the library-cathedral, done in the Gothic style.
As to the political structure of this town; it’d be basically feudalistic, I guess, but the main feature is that it is in constant war with a neighboring and extremely evil city, or perhaps monster (which would make this even more like Heorot Hall from Beowulf). Why do we need to be fighting? Because otherwise life would get boring. Remember, this is not Heaven. Eternal existence in an earthly paradise with nothing to try to accomplish, but with mankind still fallen, would, I think, not be very paradisaical. We need something to struggle for – what better way than to have an undeniably evil enemy to fight against? The stories of the war would be told in the feasting hall, everyone would fight and so have some experience of something grander than themselves… but the war would always stay distant enough not to threaten the town itself.
But what would I do in this town? I certainly wouldn’t want to be the king or a warrior or anything like that. I considered being just one of the intellectual class (which there would be – even if everyone is educated, not everyone is equally intelligent), but I realized that wouldn’t really satisfy me. It’d be too boring; again, there’d be nothing to fight for, or rather nothing to really try to accomplish. I’d rather be a bard, composing and singing tales in the mead-hall. Then I could have a goal – write something great. Much more interesting.
This hypothetical paradise is supposed to include other personal stuff, so I guess I’ll include that too; I’d be married, I guess, to someone much nicer and more social than I am (that’s almost necessarily true for me, of course), and probably have kids too. Oh, and there’d be a bunch of pet wolves in this town, and I’d have at least one. I considered taking a super-power like flying or something, but then realized that actually sounds kind of boring. I’d rather have basically what I describe above.
This is an interesting exercise because it gives the audience a view into both your personality, and your world-view – and shows how much the two are intertwined. I’d choose to be the bard in the mead-hall because that’s what suits my personality the best – but it suits me the best because of my views on the nature and significance of literature.
Try it yourself – it might help you figure something out. I didn’t realize that my town needed to be at war with something evil until constructing it with the assumption that it would be at peace and realizing that it wouldn’t work.