Yes, you may say that.
BUT, I implore you, please don’t say it cynically.
Please, don’t be the wet blanket “Realist,” reflexively dismissing ideas that you deem to be “unrealistic.”
And most of all, don’t be the Activist “Realist,” who argues passionately against anything that hints of idealism, transcendental possibility, progressivism, even utopianism.
I’ve never understood that kind of self-destructive tendency, to not just disbelieve that humanity can evolve and rise above insanities like greed, corruption, environmental destruction, war, etc., but instead to actively promote the competing belief that these problems are unsolvable, trotting out a lazy cop-out — that human nature is irreparably flawed — rather than doing the hard work of self-improvement, acts of service, organizing, leadership, etc.
I shared these thoughts with my buddy Keith, and he said it reminded him of this quote:
“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.”
–Richard Bach, from Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
Another buddy of mine, Dennis, who, amongst other duties at the university where he works (and where I used to work as well), teaches workshops in Professional & Organizational Development, I attended one of his workshops once, and I particularly loved a bit he did on what’s commonly referred to as the Levels of Employee Engagement. Depending on what source of info you reference, there are 3-5 levels, but the basic idea is more like a continuum, ranging from Actively Engaged to Actively Disengaged. Dennis drew a picture on a whiteboard to illustrate, a simpler version of this:
His drawing depicted just three people in a leaky boat: the Actively Engaged person at the front of the boat is doing all of the navigating, paddling, and steering, while also taking periodic breaks to bail OUT the water that’s leaking in; the passenger in the middle is Passively Disengaged, not helping the Actively Engaged person at all, but besides adding weight to the boat, at least not actively interfering with the efforts of the Actively Engaged; finally, the Actively Disengaged person at the back of the boat spends their time complaining about, and pointing the finger of blame at, the others, while also bailing water INTO the boat and dropping the anchor.
So yeah, don’t be the jerk at the back of the boat!
A third buddy, Rick R., refreshingly pointed out the data-based fact that despite many ongoing challenges there’s been indisputable progress made — from electric cars to same-sex marriage — which is helpful, since Actively Disengaged “Realists” REALLY like to claim that the data is indisputably on their side.
And finally, most refreshingly of all, my 23-year old son Julian, when asked for his thoughts on the topic, proclaimed at one point:
“You know, if humans manage to save the planet and keep Earth habitable, I think we would have a chance of achieving a utopian future!”
Yes, it’s a wordier way of saying: Be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
I’ve felt this way for most of my life, and I’m pretty sure that this won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who knows me fairly well, or who has read much of my writing.
Remember the post I wrote back in June? I’m The Agnostic Pilgrim, a skeptic but not an atheist, adamantly not a Narrow Absolutist!
Eight years ago, on my previous blog, Fish & Bicycles, I wrote about what I termed The Dystopia Fetish, and now I’d add that what I’d call the Dystopian Fiction Industrial Complex definitely functions like a well-organized group of Actively Disengaged Jerks in the Back of the Boat.
But, I’ve chosen to write explicitly about this now for two reasons:
1️⃣ In the video entertainment void that remained after I exhausted the available supply of British Murder Mystery TV shows I’d been binging on, I began rewatching the seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And, while I’ve never been an orthodox Trekkie — never read or wrote any fan fiction or played video games, never made myself a Starfleet uniform costume, never attended a convention, etc. — I’ve seen nearly every TV show and movie, and I’ve been a lifelong admirer of the universe imagined by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, especially his utopian vision, wherein humans on Earth, with help from the Vulcans of course, ended racial/gender discrimination and war, could heal most diseases and injuries, eliminated the need for money, and set about building a United Federation of Planets, whose member worlds share these values and choose cooperative, peaceful coexistence.
For a body of fiction and pop culture, Roddenberry’s utopianism has been subjected to an extraordinarily exhaustive vetting process. For 55 years, since the 1966 debut of The Original Series, writers and producers have wrestled with these themes through nine subsequent TV series (over 800 hour-long episodes and counting!), 13 films, 850 novels, short story collections, episode and film novelizations, numerous comic books, magazines, franchise and fan-generated websites, etc. In the process, the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet and the ideals they represent, promote, and continually reach for have been challenged in every way imaginable. There have been spectacular failures and betrayals, all hope very regularly seemed lost, and yet in one of the most recent and ongoing series, Star Trek: Discovery, the eponymous starship Discovery, at the end of the second season, is (SPOILER ALERT!!!) forced to travel through a wormhole over 900 years into the future, some 800 years beyond the events of all previous stories in the Star Trek franchise, and they discover (get it?! 🤣) that the Federation still exists, despite having been significantly diminished by a catastrophic cosmic event that killed millions and crippled many member worlds.
Now, why would anyone want to actively work against a vision this irrepressible?!
2️⃣ Most of the time, trying to make lemonade from the lemon that is ALS feels like a futile endeavor. That said, writing my memoir, I, Too, Heard The Owl, followed, since January 2020, by The Owl Journal blog, have been, I think, two of my most successful batches of craft lemonade, representing, I like to think, a refreshingly different approach to exploring the topic of death and dying, resulting in a thirst-quenching tonic, fairly balanced between sour and sweet, between funny and sad, with biting citrus cutting through the misery while delivering floral honey notes in the finish.
One thing that I always strove to avoid, however, even though I might not have been entirely successful, was to not be preachy, to not pretend to have all of the answers despite feeling like I’d figured out a thing or two along the way.
As I think about this again now, as I think about how much of a difference it could make, keeping dreams — including utopian dreams — alive and within reach simply by NOT insisting that they aren’t possible, well, with my time here running out, I feel a sense of entitlement to use this here blog as a bully pulpit, hell even as a guilt trip:
If you care about me at all, if you’ve been moved even a little by what I’ve been writing here, you’ll consider it my dying wish, moreover my marching orders, that you stand up to the Actively Disengaged Jerks in the Back of the Boat, so that:
“You may say I’m a dreamer…”
…is indeed always followed by: