How Idealistic Are You?

Here’s another quote from my files:

“Idealism must always prevail on the frontier, for the frontier, whether geographical or intellectual, offers little hope to those who see things as they are. To venture into the wilderness, one must see it, not as it is, but as it will be.”
Carl Becker, Kansas (1910), quoted by William Least Heat Moon in Prairyerth, p. 362.

What do you see, not as it is, but as it will be? Your church? Individuals within it? Yourself?

7 Responses to How Idealistic Are You?

  1. Rebecca, thanks for this useful perspective. We can get too attached to our vision of the ideal, which may cause us to miss possibilities we could never imagine.

  2. I wonder about seeing a frontier as it will be, or seeing a frontier as a picture of possibilities. I think that idealism can be a trap for expectations to get caught. As I enter something new, a church, parenting, a situation, I want to maintain a vision, but do I want that vision to be the ideal? I want to maintain hope when challenges and troubles occur, which they will. I don’t want to get encumbered by my own idealism about the situation. That seems like a trap, unless the idealism includes meeting obstacles along the way in order to grow and mature.

  3. Thanks for these thoughtful comments. I’ll look for Merton’s book on Bernard. I didn’t know about it. To have compassion and humility as a leader, without being a pushover, is one of the biggest challenges we face.

  4. Margaret,

    I’ve been reading Merton’s book about Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard was an idealist (So too was Merton) and struggled with the shift from immature to mature within the confines of the monastery. Not everyone could live the life of rigor without temptation. He had to learn compassion and humility in order to lead them at all. It’s not enough to have vision. One must have compassion for those who find it difficult to swallow.

  5. An interesting quote, thanks Margaret. I agree that there’s a difference between idealism and being “idealistic.” Or, between cultivating hopefulness, embracing adventure, and just being plain naïve. The most adventuresome explorers will be the most prepared for the hazards and unseen dangers of the journey—they are NOT idealist. They face adventure with sobriety. Only a naïve fool sets out with no plan for the return journey from the frontier lands.

    And, yes, thankfully, maturity tempers adolescent idealism. Discernment borne of experience and maturity allows one the capacity to be a hopeful realist, seeing things for what they are while able to hunker down and do the hard work of making things as they can be. Idealists only see how things “should” be, in their own minds, but rarely have the capacity to commit to making them so.

  6. Thanks, Tripp. As I continue to think about this, I’m wondering about the difference between mature and immature idealism. Perhaps one difference is the mature idealist is able to see the vision and be patient about steadily pursuing it, and the immature idealist is impatient. Another may be that the mature idealist is better able to relate to those who don’t yet see the vision without being overly critical of them.

  7. I am quite idealistic…and this quotation puts a positive spin on that. Thank you!

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