Thursday, 8 March 2012

The true realist has to be an idealist

I recently came across this grainy old video clip of Viktor Frankl on You Tube. I love it.

My love for Frankl seems to grow by the day. Of all the great 20th century thinkers he may well be my favourite. His zest and enthusiasm is so evident in this clip, as well as his obvious humour. He took his work seriously without taking himself too seriously.

As someone once said to me “Life is too serious to be taken too seriously”

In this wonderful little clip he argues that in order to reach our potential we must aim higher than we think we are capable of. He argues that a true realist must be an idealist. He points to what we are all capable of being, if we could just tap into our God given human potential.

By definition the idealist always overestimates what is possible. Where as a realist will only estimate exactly what is possible and no more. In fact perhaps a realist will ever so slightly underestimate what is possible, just to be on the safe side. Just to ensure that they don’t over estimate things and aim too high. Just to avoid disappointment.

Is this truly realistic though?

Frankl suggest that by aiming at a realistic level we always fall short of the mark. By taking a realistic view of people we are setting them up to fall way short of what they are capable of achieving. Where as if we aim high and become idealists about human nature we can lift people up to where they are capable of reaching and thus if they fall short of this mark, they fall to a realistic level. For Frankl a true realist, must be an idealist. To achieve what we are capable of we must overestimate what is possible; to become our true selves we must be optimistic; to achieve what we are capable of achieving we must believe that we are capable of more than we actually are.

The children at chapel recently presented me with a medal for my smile. I cannot begin to tell you how deeply moved I was by this or how grateful I was to receive it. It blew me away to be honest.

I go about my life in an enthusiastic manner and I try to give off a positive attitude. My work as a minister is challenging, but I do love it. It means an awful lot to me that others recognise this, especially the children. They cannot be fooled.

I had awoken that morning in good spirits and my face had been over taken by a smile it would seem. It did feel like the first day of spring, although evidence since then seems to be contradicting my conclusion. That said I awoke with great hope and enthusiasm and I carried that into the day. I believe that I projected that into my ministry that morning and as result I was rewarded with the most beautiful gift of a medal, for my smile.

I recently found this little tale. It is by that famous author "Anonymous"

"Life is Echo"

A man and his son were walking in the forest.

Suddenly the boy trips and feeling a sharp pain he screams, "Ahhhhh." 
Surprised, he hears a voice coming from the mountain, "Ahhhhh"
Filled with curiosity, he screams:
"Who are you?",
but the only answer he received is:
"Who are you?"
This makes him angry, so he screams:
"You are a coward!",
and the voice answers:
"you are a coward!"

He looks at his father, asking,

"Dad, what is going on?"
"son," the man replies, "pay attention!"
Then he screams, "I admire you!"
The voice answers: "I admire you!"
The father shouts, "You are wonderful!",
and the voice answers:
"You are wonderful!"

The boy is surprised, but still can't understand what is going on.
Then the father explains,

"People call this 'ECHO',
but truly it is 'LIFE!' Life always gives you back what you give out!
Life is a mirror of your actions.
If you want more love, give more love!
If you want more kindness, give more kindness!
If you want more understanding and respect, give more understanding and respect!
If you want people to be patient and respectful to you, give patience and respect!
This rule of nature applies to every aspect of our lives."

Life always gives you back what you give out.
your life is not a coincidence, but a mirror of your doings.

I do believe that generally speaking life is echo, what we give off we often get back. Not always of course we all live and deal with injustice, but I do generally follow this rule of thumb. The more positive energy and love I give out to the world, the more I tend to get back. 

I have a genuine love for life and people and take a fairly positive view of most things. I am an idealist and I live in hope for humanity. This is why Universalism speaks to me; it is a hope filled faith. Yes it recognises the despair in life, but it also points to the hope that is rooted in this very despair. We do have choices in life. We can either live in fear or in faith that life has so much to offer us. Yes there are many unanswerable questions re the nature of life and the nature of humanity, why wonderful things happen and why the most dreadful can happen. I am not sure that we will ever find the answers in the whys and wherefores.
I have discovered that meaning only comes in living with hope and courage; it does not come in getting bogged down within our individual suffering. By saying “yes to life” in answer to “no’s” fear, we manifest the courage to be, to live. This comes in those simple acts of self giving love; those acts that fill our cup with love as we empty it in service to and for others. Meaning comes as we give from our own cup of suffering in an attempt to help another in their hour of need. 

I agree with Frankl the true realist has to be an idealist.

Idealism takes courage where as the better safe than sorry approach is all about fear. The cautious approach seems to lack courage and is symptomatic of philosophies that take a negative view of humanity. Yes we all do wrong, we all sin, but that is not all that we are. We are not rotten to the core; I simply do not believe this. We all have the capacity for good and evil, each and every single one of us.

Maybe the real problem is that we are not cautious enough about our safety. Maybe we fail to see the danger in the safety first approach to life.

Forrest Church said:
We must be as cautious about safety as we are about risk. Take no other risks and we still run the danger of leading a sorry life. In fact, when it comes to things that really matter, in exchange for the benefits that risk can bring, sometimes it is better to be sorry than safe...Even if safety should become our primary objective in life, to keep ourselves safe is impossible. People die in beds and in bathtubs. Joggers die. Vegetarians die. So do non-smokers and teetotallers. Even people with low cholesterol die. Not to mention the millions who die of complications from anxiety itself. To be free of acceptable risk is not life’s goal, but its enemy. By inviting non-being to the party years before one’s death day, fear protects us not from death but from life...”

So how does all of this help us to live better lives and to create the commonwealth of love here on earth? Well maybe it begins by simply projecting a little positivity into the world. Maybe it begins with a smile at a stranger in the street.

Life is echo. If we want to experience love we need to project love into our world. If want to live in a happier more loving community we need to project that out of ourselves. We need to be true realists by being idealists about ourselves and humanity in general. This is not to ignore the darker side of life, far from it. We need to acknowledge what is wrong with the world, without becoming weighed down by it.

The Kingdom of God truly is amongst us and within us; it is our task to let it shine out of us. 

Sometimes that begins with just one smile.

You never know they may just present you with a medal for it...

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