Napkin Thoughts: The Ideal and The Reality
by Julien Haller
I recently commented on the This is Life blog by Abbey Gallagher. She had written a post about the power of dreams and the leverage they give us to break free of the labels society places on us. I found it very moving and well written.
However, my comment questioned the efficacy of such a view (the comment can be found under this article). My point was that dreams may only be achieved insofar as the world has room enough for them. Our society functions on the economic principle of division of labor, and if everyone is an actress or a writer, then no one will be developing foodstuffs, thus leading us to a very hungry death.
Her reply to my comment was, once again, moving and well written (with the talent she possesses, I was anything but surprised at that). She pointed out that hope is important, and that achievement is not hope. Dreams are hope.
I could not agree more.
But I still worry for a world that clouds their eyes with dreams of grandeur while so many of us are dying of hunger and malaria before their fifth birthday, and this concern got me thinking about a spare thought I once wrote down many moons ago, and it is today’s “Napkin Thought.”
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“We should not read into the world our ideal, but rather see the world for what it is, measure the distance between it and the ideal, and, in our capacity as actors, build the bridges we need to traverse the distance.”
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This thought first occurred to me while reading Don Quixote. Most of you know the story, so I will spare you the details, but I remember how amazed I was at how Quixote could take the bare facts of our world, the undistorted sensory impressions of it, and then twist it to serve his liking. He wanted a world where he could play the hero, but this was only possible insofar as the world contained a heroic type of villainy. And so, as he traveled the world, Don Quixote found in common men legendary bandits and heinous rapists out to spoil the chastity of princesses everywhere.
But the failure of Don Quixote did not just lie in his seeing evildoers in good men. It was also in his overlooking very real, if very mundane, evils of the world for the sake of something more “exciting” and “heroic.” In reading the world through the lens of how he wished it to be, he missed how it really was; therefore, his life served no interest of bettering it.
Overall, Don Quixote was an inspired man whose heart was in the right place. He sought the right ideal. But he never left behind the inspiration for perspiration, and he never turned his search for something better into a construction of the same. Our society often teeters on the thin line between these two notions. It is not for coincidence or conspiracy that ADD and ADHD are becoming more and more prevalent. So, if you take anything from this post, I hope it is that we could all do better in remaining focused on the pursuit of a better, happier, and more fulfilling tomorrow.
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Very special thank you goes to Abbey for inspiring this post. Abbey, I promise to do everything I can not to leave my words at inspiration, but to make them perspire as well