TRAVEL PURSUITS – Imagined Worlds in Key West

We will be in Key West, Florida from January 8 – 13, 2012 to walk the beach where reality and imagination meet, mingle and often get confused. This trip is called Dystopias, Utopias and Imagined Worlds.

Desire is arguably the most human emotion. Everyone wants pleasure, love, fulfillment, closeness, happiness, good food, and a nice place to live.

And desire tends to nudge us from our earth-bound human realities to flights of imagination of what might be. We all envision a different and better world. When that vision embraces a sweeping, collective and allegedly idealistic transformation of the future, we call it utopian. Unless, that is, one opposes the ideals it upholds or things do not turn out as planned. Then we call it dystopian.

This will be our theme in Key West. We will examine the tension between human imagination and human realities as they are expressed in literature and film. How far can you go in the pursuit of an ideal world before a new and perhaps worse tyranny takes over?  Is there actually value in disorder?

Where better to entertain these ideas than Key West — an island at the farthest point south in the United States, the tip of land and sea, a thin sliver of land between the sea and the sky, a liminal place where nearly no one is born. What desires drew follks there? Have they been met? We will explore this also in conversation with some who have chosen to make Key West their home.

Discussion leader extraorindaire, Gary Schoepfel, has chosen  two terrific books and a funny yet disturbing movie.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is perhaps even more chilling now than when it was published just over 25 years ago. The United Sates has been transformed into the bleak and oppressive Republic of Gilead.

Ms. Atwood will be in Key West while we are there. It is a small place and we hope to lure her to join us for a meal.

The Baron in the Trees (1957) is an Italian novel by Italo Calvino in which a twelve year old Italian Baron climbs up into a tree to defy an order from his father. The family assumes that after he is through sulking, he’ll come down, but the Baron decides that he is never going to return to land,  but spend the rest of his life inhabiting an arboreal kingdom. (Aside:  Margaret Atwood wrote a spectacular children’s book called Up in a Tree.)

We will also have a private showing at the state of the art, vintage Tropic Cinema of Jim Carey in The Truman Show. A funny, tender, and thought-provoking film, this imagined world is especially striking for its prescient vision of runaway celebrity culture and a nation with an insatiable thirst for the private details of ordinary lives.

The books, the films and gathering with locals who have chosen this isolated island paradise as their home will all be grist for the mill as we explore the not so simple questions related to desire and where it leads us.

Naturally, we will walk all over with a great local guide, “Uncle” George Fontana  (a Boston transplant) who knows everyone and all the quirky KW gems you would never otherwise find, take a champagne sunset cruise, eat wonderfully well, and make our home at the historic La Concha Hotel.

To sign off, here is a clip from The Key West Picture Show (which we will see in full).

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