Idealism is a trait that’s considered a plague of folly or an eye for incredible things. It’s often associated with youth, and so with it, we assume that idealism is the same as ignorance. Is this really true, however? After all, some of our most important leaders have been said to be idealistic, even over their many years of existence. In one breath we might put down youth and praise our finest leaders with the same trait. The question is, why is there is such a distinction between who has this futuristic, utopian mindset? I would argue, experience and what people do with that idealism.
Anyone can be idealistic. You sit or stand anywhere you please and imagine a future that’s better than the present you’re in. We tend to begin thinking idealistically around our teenage years because it’s a part of understanding ourselves as individuals whose actions can make a difference. As the years go by, however, we learn what to expect, and it’s often less than the spectacular image we wanted. This is where the distinction is developed: anyone can be idealistic before they’ve seen the world, it doesn’t take a special mind. However, to remain optimistic, even after you’ve seen the bad and ugly, is a strength.
It’s a strength that we should all try to encompass a bit more. It’s less about expecting something outlandish, and more about trying to get the world as it is to reach a place beyond where you thought it could be. In the original Star Trek series, at one point, Spock and a small crew are stuck in an orbit of a planet with very little fuel and no way of contacting the mother ship. Spock, very logical and calm, decides to use up the rest of their fuel in a manner that gives the ship a visual signal but will leave them for dead if it doesn’t work. It’s a big moment in the series for the character because he decides to take a risk that isn’t carefully controlled for like all the other risks he takes.
What a logical person learned from his human, emotional companions, is that we are capable of more than we think when we are able to be a little foolish and idealistic. If we close ourselves off, we are closed. We are unable to reach our fullest potential. However, if we see a better future and work for it, we can do some amazing things that people would not have expected. We should never underestimate our emotions.