The High, White Star of Truth: Being an Idealist in this Crazy World
Pure and Good
Idealism in Childhood
White knights, kind and good princesses, superheroes. Children are inundated with these ideal figures via books, television, and storytelling. Humans are taught from the beginning to emulate these characters. Share with others; be kind; do what's right and fair. It's important to instill these morals in our children. Imagine what a terrible place the world would be if we weren't taught proper behavior from the moment we begin to toddle about?
We expect our children to do what's right and punish them for misdeeds. As a result, most children have a strong sense of what should and shouldn't be. We urge and sometimes pressure them into making good grades and participating in sports and community activities. "Stop the bullying." "Just say no." "If it is to be, it is up to me." These mottoes and others are plastered on school walls to inspire and instruct.
I don't ever recall being taught why a certain behavior was rude or wrong. I just seemed to instinctively know. (Although, let it be known, that my parents have always expected me and my siblings to walk the straight and narrow path.) Fortunately, my child also has this trait. She's inherently a good little gal. This makes parenthood, the hardest job in the world, much easier.
Are You a Realist?
You're moving into a new apartment and you need packing tape. The supply closet at work is teeming with rolls. What do you do?
Then Reality Rears its Head
But at some point in everyone's life, we become aware of the disconnect between how things should be and how they are. Some people acquire this knowledge early, accept that, and adapt. Some go so far as to live like nothing matters or that the negative consequences of their behavior are so far down the road that they won't worry about it right now. These folks are realists. I envy them, in a way. They seem to have less stress.
Those of us who in spite of it all hold onto the childlike belief that we must always strive to do good seem to get kicked into the mud more often. Maybe that isn't the case. Maybe we just hate the mud more. But I have to make myself "get over it" when someone runs a red light, litters, steals, or worse. In an ideal world, that perpetrator would be punished. How often, really, does that happen? I know that I am only responsible for my own behavior, but still, darn it, why can't people act right? I was a horrible public school teacher because I wanted those children to be little angelic soldiers--quiet, respectful, unbelievably obedient. That isn't reality. Because I couldn't make them behave perfectly, I told myself I was a failure. This is still an issue for me.
Too, and i'm almost afraid to admit this, I always believe the best of people. Just a moment ago I was feeling sorry for a guy because he was suffering from a serious illness until one of my more realistic friends commented that it probably was brought on by his own reckless behavior. Color me naïve. And embarrassed. I'm almost fifty years old and probably should know better, but I still want to think everyone presents his or her own true colors. The world is a beautiful place with roses, sunshine, and people with pure hearts. (I know, I know.)
I've been lied to, stolen from, mistreated. But still I keep going and believing that our first nature is good. I guess there's just no fixing folks like me.
An Age-Old Debate
The Inspiration for my Title
For rigorous teachers seized my youth,
And purged its faith, and trimm'd its fire,
Show'd me the high, white star of Truth,
There bade me gaze, and there aspire. --Matthew Arnold