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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

(from Levon)

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”   -Henry David Thoreau

and then, ” What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.  From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats.”

Rebekah had a copy of Walden on the shelf, actually two, one with photographs.  I sort of guiltily thumbed through it, remembering my inconsistent days as an Honors 201 student when I more or less read it and bluffed or balked through discussions about it.   

 

Walden Pond

Walden Pond

 

In case you are familiar only by title, here is some background. When Thoreau was barely 28 he decided he must leave the frivolous sophistication of the city and live by his friend’s pond where he gardened and journaled about pursuing a free and fulfilling life.  Two years later he returned, and seven years later he published Walden.  It took 5 years to sell the original 2000 copies and it was never republished until after his death at the young age of 44.  What Thoreau learned and wrote in his journals is as timeless as the pond to which he ventured.  

I’m going to read it again, not because I want to shadow Thoreau, but because recent events have brought me to a posture of listening.  Seasons may be experiments as well as adventures, and I find myself in one now.  

Is our adventure just a little bit unrealistic?

 

am i reasonable?

am i reasonable?

 

When I was about 17 I  gave my first public speaking attempt at a Methodist weekend retreat called Chrysalis.  I gave the “Ideals” talk, and most of what I said has long since been forgotten, but the word ideal remained in my mind in the near-sacred category –along with virtue, loyalty, justice, decency, and morality.  Why then, did another decade teach me that calling someone idealistic is synonymous to well-meaning but immature?  Ideal may be defined (by the widget dictionary) as existing only in the imagination; desirable or perfect but not likely to become a reality, or representing an abstract or hypothetical optimum.   Idealism is the contrast of realism, the attitude of accepting a situation as it is and being prepared to deal with it accordingly.  

Realism sounds like good practical advice until you start talking about power or complacency.  Realism becomes handy for cheap justifications.  If you can exploit an opportunity, do it.  If you are outmatched, do nothing.  Accept the plight; things are the way they are.  

The moment we consider if there is right or wrong in our actions, we bring in questions of morality and ethics, and what we decide to do reflects our principles, or ideals.  “A man of principle” is a dignified thing to say about someone who is upstanding and respected.  Call him an idealist and you imply that he has a lot to learn.  Apparently some ideals are more ideal than others.     

 

(pictures we like)

(pictures we like)

 

One cannot be an absolute realist, because at some point we make a choice based upon an ethic.  Nobody gets hungry enough to eat babies, even though it may seem sensible and the opportunity is there.  Likewise, no one is an absolute idealist because we are imperfect by nature.  So we compromise, and sit along a continuum.  Our set of ideals, our perceptions, and our realities are each different.  I’m not sure what would be more dangerous, the chaos of everyone chasing our own brand of utopia or excusing the violence, oppression and prejudices of the unbridled realist.  

Society, like the weave of idealism and realism, is a breeze of wind: the perfect molecules of gases roaming freely about until the rules of physics push them along into something tangible, however tangible you consider the wind to be.  It is volatile and turbulent, but a place from which we can at least begin.  

Somewhere in the weave we find ourselves and form our perspective based on the weather patterns we’ve seen.  Most of us find satisfaction, work at what we can, and adjust to what we cannot control.  But before we simply adjust, we should ask if something is really out of reach, or simply too difficult to deal with.  If there were a log on our neck we would surely stop at nothing to move it. But if it were on our wrist or our ankle, or even our pantleg, maybe we could just drag it for today and manage to get it off sometime when we can afford the disruption.  Maybe it will roll away or someone else will notice and offer to help.  Many of us have worked hard to make our log manageable, and when we are tired we will let things be.  We may be comfortable with the log, but we are not at peace.

 

local Bealeton band (pictures we like)

local Bealeton band (pictures we like)

 

Mark Batterson writes, “People spend most of their time defending what they have instead of risking it for something they want.” We can find peace in failing, but never in unknowing.  New York City taught me that.  Fear indicates it could worse, meaning it could also be better.  Something can only be better or worse when its measured against an ideal.  There you have it: if you’ve ever been afraid, call yourself an idealist.  

As the realist would say, that’s the way it is.  But if you are living in fear you won’t let yourself get away with it for long.  You’ll take it out in destructive ways against yourself or be bitter, insecure, and resentful to everyone around you.  There is no room for fear either way you look at things.  

But thats an idealists’ point of view.  An idealist who has a lot to learn and is often afraid, despite myself.   

 

 

(pictures we like)

(pictures we like)

 

 

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