I hope that you can sleep better tonight when I tell you that three of my friends and I get together for breakfast every Thursday morning in the same corner booth at Louie’s and in one hour solve all of the world’s problems.
The problem we solved last Thursday was why our Congress waited to literally the last minute to pass a continuing resolution which would allow our government to not default on its obligations …at least for another three months.
Here’s the answer we agreed on. The radical fringe in both parties—the Tea Party in the Republican caucus and the crusader liberals in the Democratic caucus—are not living in the real world. That is, they are so attached to their idealistic vision of what the world should be that they can’t get things done in the world the way it really is. Because, that would amount to the sin of abandoning your principles.
In other words, they are religious in their zeal to bring about heaven on earth, or, to put it more cynically, to win. Not only are they zealous in fighting the “good fight,” their intense focus on their vision enables them to dismiss facts which are right in front of their noses. To this day, some conservative extremists insist that climate change is not real even though the overwhelming scientific evidence documents that it is happening. Likewise, some radical liberals insist on demonizing successful entrepreneurs as if being wealthy is inherently evil.
When you view life through those kinds of lenses, you see what you believe. It happens in marital arguments, condo association board meetings, debates at village hall and arguments at the local watering hole between Sox and Cubs fans. Facts don’t change the way you see things. When Ted Cruz was told that all the recent polls showed that the Republicans in general and the Tea Party in particular had lost favor among Americans, he dismissed the evidence by simply declaring that all the polls were wrong.
Now, remaining focused on a vision despite what the facts are telling you can be a good thing. If Jackie Robinson had let his experience determine if he should stay with the Dodgers or quit, he would have left baseball during his first year in the big leagues. The same is true, I suspect, for most of our heroes. Even business people tell me that grit—i.e. keeping on rowing when both the wind and the current are against you—is one of the prime characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.
“I have a dream,” declared Dr. King, and that dream, that picture of what the world should be, energized millions of people to continue the struggle when growling German shepherds and tear gas and filibusters and assassinations seemed to say that they were fools.
I’m a religious person, so I have no problem with people having dreams and visions which determine in large part what they see in life. When Joseph, in Matthew’s gospel, saw that his fiancé was pregnant and he knew for sure that he wasn’t the father, he decided to face the facts and quietly end the engagement. It was in a dream that an angel told him to stick with Mary even though they later had to become refugees in Egypt for awhile to stay alive.
I think my three world problem solvers would agree with me that dreams and visions can be good, empowering motivators, but they would add that we need to be very careful which visions we choose to guide us, especially when they prevent us from acknowledging that the “reality” most other people see might be worth taking into consideration.
So go ahead and be zealous about what you believe in but temper that zeal with the humility that what you consider to be a vision might be a fantasy or an illusion or a nightmare. Temper that zeal by constantly testing the credibility of what you believe in by the reality other people see.
Your spouse would appreciate that the next time you negotiate about your family budget. Pope Francis wasn’t denying anything he firmly believed in when he said, “Who am I to judge?” When we engage with other people in that way, heated arguments turn into enlightening transactions.
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Tom Holmes has worked in Forest Park since 1982 as a pastor and as a writer. He is grateful that his children grew up in this town and finds inspiration in the personal relationships he has developed with so many.