Where Does the Idealism Go?

When I was a freshwomen in college, my favorite show was Grey's Anatomy. I especially loved the music they wove into each episode. In one particular episode, they used a song called "Where Does the Good Go?" I loved the show, just loved it.

I don't watch so much television anymore; in fact, I thought that Grey's Anatomy may have even ended by now (a quick Wikipedia check tells me it hasn't), but this past week I stayed up past my bedtime a few nights to watch the Democratic National Convention. As I listened to some pretty incredible speeches, I felt inspired on many occasions. Even though every change in Hillary's platform will most likely not come to fruition, I appreciated that both the current president and the hopeful next president were open about that reality, open to the idea that we can consider even just small change progress.

The thing that inspired me most was the idealism that I felt conveyed in the speeches, in those delivering them, and in myself watching them. I can't remember the last time that I felt this way about the promise of this country. But, while trying to stay awake before Hillary's speech on Thursday, I read some old words that I had written a decade ago now, right before I became a freshwomen in college in August 2006, right before I started watching Grey's Anatomy. It gave me pause to read some of things that I had written:

"Happiness is a future of unknowns and would-like-to's, and seeing them actualize before my eyes. I need that. I need exploration into unknown."

"I kinda realized that I don't care much about anything but just being in the moment and enjoying what I am doing."

I don't remember those parts of myself from that time, and I certainly don't feel as idealistic now as I did then or when I entered the classroom for the first time right after college. But I do wonder how we hold onto that idealism as we encounter reality. I wonder how we renew it over time as we add more and more real experiences to our journeys.

I just finished reading Becoming Wise this weekend. In it, Krista Tippett saves the topic of hope for last. This section, along with the rest of book, reignited some of that idealism in me, that idealism that allows me to not only dream, but also to envision a future where we write our story with hope, not with fear or cynicism. I love what Krista has to say about this:

My mind inclines now, more than ever, towards hope. I'm consciously shedding the assumption that a skeptical point of view is the most intellectually credible. Intellect does not function in opposition to mystery; tolerance is not more pragmatic than love; and cynicism is not more reasonable than hope. Unlike almost every worthwhile thing in life, cynicism is easy. It's never proven wrong by the corruption or the catastrophe. It's not generative. It judges things as they are, but does not lift a finger to try to shift them.

Idealism and hope mix well with together, and when we are able to combine them with a groundedness in reality, the new story starts to write itself. I heard it in the speeches, and I hope I am listening well enough to hear how I might effect that combination in my own journey. As I pondered where some of that idealism that I had in the summer of 2006 went, I realized it just might be in exactly the places where I feel I lost it. It might be in the students of those tough classrooms where I taught because even though the situations were challenging, I had such hopes for those kids. Hope, I do believe, is generative, and happiness for me would be sharing some of my idealism with the next generation.

Between Krista's book and the convention speeches, I am quite grateful for the feeling of reconnection with the idealism deep within me, the idealism that has always been there, the idealism that gives me hope and allows me to imagine how the new story might read. Ten years from now, if I come back and read these words, I wonder if I will be surprised by how much idealism I have at this moment, but I must hope it's not the reality I will encounter. I must hope that I am still dreaming of a vision of oneness and love, but that we've made even just a little progress toward it. Because if we can't dream about the reality that we want, then we have already begun our new story not with a blank page, but with a bleak page.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

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