June 27, 2005 Monday
As I was packing I paused to consider which book I would be bringing with me overnight at sea. Most in my small collection seemed dreary and dull, but I picked out one that, again, I should have read long ago: Don Quixote. Throwing it into my bag, I thought it would offer a little entertainment, as we rocked from side to side, but it has already done more than that. It has helped me answer you letters:
“life is an unending dialogue between a knight of the spirit who is ever soaring aloft, and a squire who clings to his master and strives with might and main to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground.”
We are both Don Quixote de La Mancha. We are both Sancha Panza. We are both idealists in our our own ways and yet branded with differing shades of realism. Is idealism merely fanciful optimism, where the idealist is free to continue on, unabated and unfretted that what he seeks is unattainable, and thus an entirely safe haven where real threats will never appear? I don’t think so. Idealism is necessary or we would strive for something lower than our desires. Change does not happen this way. It is always the dreamers that push us out of our comfortable pasts and into the possible future.
When you frame your success in the desire to prove what a woman of color can do, all new light is shed for me. It helps me understand your motivation and out into clearer context that makes a lot of sense. And you’re right too. The drive that I have to not to prove what I can do because of my own ethnicity. If I were a minority would I feel different? I’m putting myself in that frame of mind… I’d feel uncomfortable, that this was the country I grew up in and should equally be mine, but it isn’t mine at the same time. I wouldn’t have one then, because I would be intensely aware just how predominantly white American culture still is. And I would wonder, where are my songs and my stories? It would build a fire to show that I can be as equal, or of course more. This would make me prouder still, because I had had to go that much further.
I used to be a strong idealist. I wanted to grow up and be president. Presidents help people by trying to make their lives better. Anyone can grow up to be president, they say. At a young age I thought people were inherently good and that given time we would fix more problems than we made. I am a tired idealist now. The masses will never reach anything resembling perfection, but I still believe that individual lives, like mine, like yours, can be lived both well and happily. The right job can be fulfilling and not a grind. Relationships that are cared for are not balls and chains.
The saying goes that baseball is 90% and 10% physical, but if that were true I’d be a three-time All-Star. I brought my 10% to the park every day… But what ratio should be connoted for optimal idealism and realism? Just enough to be to sustain your idealism? I don’t know. But we seem to have the right balance. You are good for me because you have opened up new possibilities for me to see, and that such chances must be earned. To prepare for the futures, to be less of a grasshopper, as you once wrote to me about, and more an ant. We are different. We are from different worlds, and we do have different goals. You in your medical and legal field and me in my humanities. But that is the way with all. I wouldn’t want us to be much more similar, or our coupling would shrink into a double copy of the same person. Sometimes I think of us as near mirror-images of each other, that when brought together fill in the missing puzzle pieces and make two more complete people. But you also bring up a good point that I do want to answer since raised so here are my thoughts on goals.
Life goals are an important barometer of compatibility, but often are written in anything but stone. Adaptability. In only the years separating our two ages I have made changes in my thinking and personal philosophies that I would never have imagined. My spiritual self has morphed into a hopeful agnostic. In so little time I have gone from an independent with conservative inclinations to an independent with a liberal bent. I like sushi and punk now. At some point down the road I want to move to another country. I’m gardening, for cripes! Really, I wouldn’t be able to pick my own self out of a lineup now. And I want to change more–I’m hoping for it–because like they say, if we are the same person we are at eighty are we were at twenty what I wasted life we’ve lead. Or as Jonathan Swift said, (paraphrasing) every single opinion I held in my youth is now a direct contradiction to my present beliefs. I guess that’s growth.
Money is not the root of all evil. I just can’t buy into that. After all, most evil is free. And besides, the poor are virtuous simply because of all they lack. I hope in all my talk I haven’t led you to think I despise it or anything. I’m not trying to avoid success and possible wealth, keeping a distance from “trappings.” It isn’t the bills and coins fault, but the with the people who might possess them. And I see no reason why a decent middling person cannot also be a decent rich person. If I were rich it would be nice simply to not have to worry about the stuff.