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From Ideas to Ideals

By Katie Ammon

In a recent Game of Life class at Earthsong, we were presented with the ideal – that young people live at home until they are twenty-one. When asked how many of the class left their parental home before age twenty-one, the majority of the class raised their hands. That got me thinking about ideals and other times I was presented with ideals. In high school we were asked in world history to find a flaw in Karl Marx’s Das Kapital ideal plan, to mete out the wealth to each person to take care of their needs. And I also remembered one of my own ideals, that maybe I could lift other’s burdens by being an active listener for them. Exploring these ideals, I wondered if they had a purpose, if they could be applied in a practical way and how we humans have difficulties living up to ideals.

In the first case, even though the brain doesn’t fully develop until the early twenties, keeping children at home past eighteen is not at this time part of our cultural norm. There is pressure from family friends and community for them to move out, find work, go to school or get married. Many families are stressed by economic pressures and do not have the resources to keep their now adult children at home. One reason may be that children either live in one parent homes or with grandparents due to death, divorce, or abandonment. Sometimes a child seems mature enough and wants to try standing on his/her own two feet with the parents’ encouragement. Or else the teen years’ emotional storms have worn the parents and teen out and they both need a reprieve. Maybe both the parents and children are evolving into new stages. For them to change and evolve, the parents have to finish with caretaking and the children may want to finish being dependent: otherwise they get locked into patterns and there is no growth.

Second, in world history class, I wondered what on Earth Mr. Mott was thinking when he said, “Karl Marx’s idea was perfect. By distributing the wealth to everyone, we would have a better world.” While agreeing that if everyone had sufficient resources to meet their needs the world might be a better place, I believed this system wasn’t working so well behind the “Iron Curtain” of the time. It seemed that some of the wealth was distributed so each citizen got a little bit, which barely met their needs. Meanwhile, the majority of the wealth went to dictatorial government that used it to stay in power, spy on and imprison anyone who was opposed to the system. The system didn’t support evolution or change, while crushing the spirit of those it was supposed to help. This exercise made me think that even in a better situation, the human reaction to receiving wealth would be variable, like the Bible story of the father who divided his wealth among his three sons. One hoarded it, another used it and increased it, and the third squandered it (went to Las Vegas?).

Lastly, while listening to many friends talk about their problems, I realized that although they had moved on physically from their abusive parents, alcoholic spouses and other traumatic situations, they would often dwell on their past history. Many times they recreated the same problems over and over again. After a while, I understood listening to the problems of others wasn’t really helping them, but it was giving me a new insight into human nature. I could see that people seemed to get locked into the drama of their trauma. As long as they were focused on their old stories or creating some new drama, they didn’t experience much growth or change. My thought was that each person has the ability to search for inner peace by going within to find their inner guidance. When I got that “AHA!” moment, I detached from the ideal that listening would help and went back to working on my own life.

In any event, ideals come from ideas that usually don’t work because they are about expectations and rules in a continually changing world. Ideals only give us goals to live up to, but first we have to understand how to integrate them into everyday human life. We, each of us, must decide for ourselves what is important in our lives in regards to family, beliefs, material goods and how we treat others. It is probably best if we can work on reaching for our ideal goals without imposing our ideas on others, for when ideas become ideals, we move into a type of fanaticism that can unbalance us physically, emotionally and mentally. So the discussion we have with others about ideas shows us in what ways we are alike or different and help us work on ways we can come together to build a better world.

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