Have you noticed that idealism (and its variations: ideal, idealistic, etc.) has become a dirty word lately?
Utopia seems out of reach, especially during times when people feel as though integrity has taken a vacation & utter chaos fans the flames of social calamity. So, people let go of their hope—they stop expecting that better will happen, or even exists, because previous ideals have been exposed and disposed.
It can be scary when your ideals are challenged. It unsettles the mind. It causes some adverse and unpleasant feelings. And those feelings can create a negative outlook.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called “idealistic”—often preceded by “too”—as if that’s a bad thing. And it’s simply because I dared to bring up ideas or propositions that would:
- Bypass old systems,
- Require new thinking geared toward previously-contentious positions, or
- Simply wipe the slate clean & start RIGHT NOW trying to do better.
People are really good at using the James R. Sherman quote—You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand new ending.—but, as it appears, they don’t actually want to try or do anything different to achieve better or new.
But we can’t be afraid of the ideal. Ideology may be associated with dogma, which gets lumped into the zealotry pile… but ideology offers some insights.
Belief systems have common characteristics, namely:
- A larger, inexplicable source one can honor through their life (God, the universe, Chi)
- A perfect example followers can strive to emulate (Buddha, Christ)
And while nobody can truly be perfect—I’m not all-knowing, you make mistakes—we shouldn’t be dissuaded. We can dream. We can use certain ideals as beacons to strive toward or, at the very least, to reveal where our current, real situations may be lacking or could improve.
The ideal isn’t something to shy away from. It’s something to embrace.