Corrosive Reality & Irrelevant Idealism

Interesting terms, no?

They come from Parker Palmer, someone whose writings I’ve long enjoyed. I read these particular words in a post by Alisdair Smith, sent to me by a friend.

I’m the kind of person that has long been interested in the relationship between these two, reality and idealism. In fact, it was way back in Grad School that I remember feeling inspired and challenged by Parker Palmer’s invitation to be careful of the polarity, and not to collapse it. Both are needed. Beware of the either / or choice. Develop the ability to stay in the third space.

The reality side for me is far more tenuous than I would have been able to claim 25 years ago, though I think I had the instinct then, as I do now, to recognize that reality is not as it seems. Objective reality is not as it seems. It has become my life to support the creation of alternative realities. Not just because I can, but because it is a core operating principle for being in the world that is ever unfolding. Think of the subjective experience that influences outer perception. Think of Byron Katie’s work on decolonizing fear and stress. Think of the Appreciative Approach and the principle, “what you give your energy to grows.”

The idealism side for me is far more concrete than I would have been able to claim 25 years ago, though I think I had this instinct too. Invoking a world into existence matters. Reifying it matters. Having the discipline to speak to, even a fragment of an ideal, matters. Like when someone says something is all wrong, I usually hear it as “some parts of it are wrong.” I’ve rarely run into situations that are absolutely all good or absolutely all bad. Our brains want to believe it. But I just don’t find it to be true. There is a place for idealism.

The key that is more helpful and interesting to me as I think of these terms is that there is choice. Reality itself is a choice. So is idealism. Perhaps the corrosive parts are when we are stuck, forgetting that choice of reality exists. Perhaps the irrelevant parts of idealism are when they don’t connect enough to a story, discipline, and practices of choosing what to narrate into the world.

Parker Palmer has inspired me many times for the narrative he creates. It invites and evolving, individually and collectively, which is quite interesting, no?

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