Today’s my last day in Maine. A sense of apprehension has been growing inside me as our return to NYC approaches. To some extent, it’s the feeling everyone gets as vacation draws to a close. But this has been a working vacation, so it’s not like I’m clinging to a fantasy life without work… instead, I think I’m clinging to the environment here. It’s so beautiful, and peaceful. I’m worried that the hubbub of city life will knock me off kilter again. That our Brooklyn apartment can’t compete with views of the harbor, that writing on my couch, looking at my living room, won’t fill me with the same inspiring rush as morning writing sessions in my hammock by the water.
Is it unrealistic to covet such a beautiful environment all the time? Or do we just have a knee-jerk tendency to call the most beautiful things unrealistic, so we don’t miss them so painfully?
I’m an idealist by nature. I used to be a pragmatist, until a class I took my senior year of college, called “The Literature of Community”; my professor was Al Filreis. Al had us read stories about community each night, and then each day in class, he’d print out a slip of paper with a provocative statement on it: “The character of so-and-so was a bigot. If you agree, sit by the window. Disagree? Sit by the door.” We were literally supposed to sit around the room according to our beliefs — matching our physical position with our philosophical stance. Change your mind? Change your seat.
At first, many of us resisted, choosing to sit in the middle of the room whenever possible. “Well, I can see both sides…” Al taught us that the braver choice was to take a firm position, knowing that we could change our minds at any time. He reminded us that in Nazi Germany, the people who “sat in the middle” — who did nothing — were ultimately as culpable as those who committed willful acts of hatred.
It is braver to take a position. To want a thing. To believe in a thing. Too many people sit on the sidelines, observing the options. We need people who plunge in.
Idealism is a braver choice. Cynicism and pragmatism are shields against disappointment.
“The world needs dreamers, and the world needs doers, but most of all, the world needs dreamers who do.” (Sarah Ban Breathnach) Whether your dream is to live by the sea, or to end poverty, or to have a presidential candidate who actually reflects your values — I hope you’ll allow yourself the dream, and pair it with action, whenever possible.
Otherwise, who knows what you’ll miss?
What is your heart’s desire? What is stopping you from pursuing it?
What do you miss?