Dear 2021, Shangri La?

The first time I heard the word, Shangri La, I loved the air mystery that surrounded it. It was on an AI documentary anchored by Robert Downey Jr. on YouTube. No, it wasn’t about Friday or Jarvis!

Shangri La sounded like it was the name of an ancient order of monks or probably a principle from Lao Tzu’s books. It turned out that it was neither but it was still an interesting find nonetheless.

Shangri La originated from the novel, Lost Horizon, by James Hilton. He wrote the book in 1933, where he described a mystical valley that was harmonious and completely cut-off from the world. The people in the valley are almost immortal, aging very slowly.

The valley became synonymous with utopia over time. A place of possibilities and where those things we only dare imagine and dream, go to reside.

It was a great find and I’ve come to know a lot about the word and the story around it since 2019. There is a glitch I found recently though, Shangri La was flawed in its perfectionism from the on-set.

People are pillars and are a big influence on the ideas we churn out and how we act. We are social beings and we need to interact, it is hardwired into us. There are so many proofs of this in various fields of study but the most intriguing one I’ve seen so far is a psychological experiment.

Rene Spitz, a behavioral psychologist, conducted various studies on two groups of infants. The first set received care and attention from their mothers while the others were isolated, only fed by a nurse. The results showed that by the age of 1, the motor and intellectual performance of the first set of children was far more developed. This exposes the fault.

The real flaw with Shangri La isn’t its perfection; it is the fact that perfection is possible only in isolation. The valley of Hilton’s utopia had to be cut-off from the rest of the world to be beautiful. It was paradise in denial!

People are the ups and downs of life. Just as they can bring us our worst moments, they very well produce the best ones. The people of the valley do live a good life (Come on, they are almost immortal!) but will probably never live their best.

In the village just north of them, the car was just invented but they’d never heard of it. They did sit out the war though! So, just like with Spitz’s experiment, Shangri La will only be as good as they come, never more. The people of city will find peace in their denial of the outside experience but this will always be a big crack in their vase.

Life is best experienced with others. It can be peaceful to always see from your view but it is never the best. In real life, there is no isolation but there are yardsticks. There are measure by which you must crosscheck the principles you live by and that is reality!

It is not okay to sit on your high horse without checking about to see if what drives you is right. Our choices do not only affect us.

It is important to be determined and sure but don’t go through life with a wrong view. Shangri La is utopia because we can’t survive apart. Grow in the right circle of people and develop a healthy lifestyle.

But then again, Shangri La is already its own community of people. Can a community really survive with just its own principles?

John is a freelance writer and designer. He creates brand stories through visuals and contents.