When I first started writing this blog, and announced it to just about everyone I knew, one of my acquaintances declared – point blank – that she would not be reading it.
“Nobody reads blogs, anymore,” she said. “There’s too many of them. I don’t know why you bother.”
My response was, “It’s my new project, and I’m very excited about it, so please don’t be a wet blanket.”
She reparteed, “I’m not a wet blanket – I’m being realistic!”
Have you noticed? People only ever throw that word at you when you are expressing a hope, sharing a dream, or embarking on a new venture. According to them, apparently, entertaining a belief that something could be wonderful, is unrealistic.
My trusted friend, the Concise Oxford Dictionary, defines realistic as: 1. having a sensible and practical idea of what can be achieved or expected. 2. representing things in a way that is accurate and true to life.
Consequently, is it realistic to state that hopes are never met, dreams never come true, and new ventures never succeed? I think I can safely assume that every sensible thinker and life observer will agree that it is unrealistic to make such a generalisation.
Why do people feel more comfortable equating realism with pessimism than with optimism? Is it a desire to shield themselves from disappointment? Or a handy excuse for not getting out there on a limb? Going after a dream requires a leap into the unknown. You could fall down and hurt yourself. Ouch. Better stay put. The best way to guarantee never to make mistakes, after all, is not to do anything.
In their book Remarkable Recovery, oncologists Caryle Hirshberg and Marc Ian Barasch list case studies of patients recovering from cancer without chemotherapy or radiotherapy. They cannot explain it medically but are broad-minded enough to accept it as sometimes possible, in reality.
Is it realistic to imagine that one young man driven by despair to set himself alight could spark off civil uprisings in several neighbouring countries?
History is full of individuals who defied their peers and gave the boundaries of realism a well-deserved kick forward. T.E. Lawrence wrote, “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act upon their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.”
Or, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein II,
You’ve got to have a dream.
If you don’t have a dream
How you’re gonna have a dream come true?