Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ideally Generous or Just Mixed Up?

Hmm...Snabulus Web Log seems to be languishing...

Recently, inspired by Chris in Manitoba, I tried out what is probably the ultimate online personality test. It's called "PersonalDNA". Not only is it a very in depth test, but it neither insists that you sign up for anything nor bombards you with ads. In fact, it doesn't even ask for your e-mail address.

My result? I'm a Generous Idealist.

When I first read that I thought it extremely ironic, even troubling. The reason is that the last time I had a really heated argument with one of my more chronically vacuous activist-wearing-rose-colored-glasses co-workers he summed up by saying, "I guess I'm an idealist, whereas you are a realist. You want to deal with the world as it is. I want to make it better."

I found that comment ironic, too. I also found it offensive. Actually, I would very much like to help make the world a better place. However, trying to pretend problems don't exist and trying to apply theories that have no firm basis in fact is not going to achieve that goal. A terminal idealist, who lives entirely in a book of philosophies and completely ignores the real world, is worse than useless. On the other hand, a terminal realist, one that is reactionary to the point of being like a frozen moment in time walking on two legs (Kind of a paradox, innit?) isn't of much use, either. There's really a fine line both around and between the two.

So am I really an idealist or a realist? In fact, what is an idealist, exactly? What is a realist? When are they really the same? When are they completely different?

When I came to Japan, was I being an idealist seeking to grow as a person while helping to foster global harmony, or was I a realist doing it for the good salary and points on my resumé? When I married my wife, was I being an idealist bonding with my soulmate or a realist looking for a visa and someone to cook my meals?

When Mozart composed all those tunes, was he being an idealist searching for perfection or a realist out to earn gold? On the other hand, when he kept blowing his (actually quite respectable) salary on parties and his friends, leaving himself almost constantly in debt, was he being an idealist out to enjoy the finer pleasures of life or a realist ensuring his social standing to make his work more marketable?

When the Declaration of Independence was signed, were our founding fathers idealists intent on creating a new country that was a model of freedom and democracy, or were they realists trying to get the British thumb out of the local cash flow? When Abe Lincoln authorized the Emancipation Proclamation, was he an idealist trying to promote equality and justice or a realist trying to boost his reputation to secure votes?

When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, were the leaders that authorized it idealists interested in saving lives or realists intent on keeping the Soviet Union out of Japan? When the U.S. was employing scorched Earth tactics in Vietnam, were they idealists trying to save the "good" South Vietnamese from "evil" communism or realists intent on keeping capitalist markets open in Southeast Asia?

Was Robin Hood an idealist who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, or was he actually a realist who robbed from the rich and kept all but a few handouts here and there? For that matter, were any of the "great" radical fighters of history idealists struggling for a just cause or realists simply looking for power? What about Moses? Siddhārtha? Confucius? Chuang Tzu? Lao Tzu? Jesus Christ? Mohammed? Did they all really live for the ideals they represent, or were they just filling a role and reaping the rewards?

This kind of thinking can really make one cynical. If you start believing that no one really lives for anything except material gain you've more or less given up on life. At the same time, however, labeling someone an idealist rather than a realist takes more than a little faith. You have to convince yourself to believe that the person in question really is living for a higher goal than just his stomach, his pocketbook, and/or his bed. Still, when you think about it, a truly capable idealist also has to be a realist at the same time, for only a true understanding of reality can make it possible to put ideals into motion.

Mr. O said I was a realist. This test said I am an idealist. If I'm both, I guess I'm on the right track. After all, sometimes it's ideal to get real.

Hey, Kool-Aid!!!!!


ladybug said...

I am a Benevolent Inventor

Guess I like people and being creative

Sounds like me I think...

pyuwpije= a Dutch treat only a hooker can give you..

Don Snabulus said...

I am a Benevolent Leader.

Follow me or die.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Well, at least you two have something in common! May you grow in benevolence this Christmas!

Seymour said...

Is English the only language where Realist and Idealist are two separate terms? That's kinda sad, really (or ideally?)

Happy New Year Snabulistas!

kvddz-A high octane brew, given to wounded warriors by Valkaries.

Dean Wormer said...

I think being a realist takes a certain amount of idealism these days.

It's the people that strive for neither that get in the way of the rest of us making the world a better place.

Them - and those who have a false image of themselves as exemplifying these traits. Did you see Jon Stewart's interview with Bill Kristol? Jon mocked Kristol's delusional worldview and Kristol shot back that it was "grown ups" who shared his neocon views. How less self-aware can you be?

Anonymous said...

I'm a "Faithful Analyst", if anybody cares.