Apart from ignorant people, what I dislike most of all are people who consider themselves “realists”, those who pride themselves on their logic, their ability to assess the viability of every situation and concept, who never plunge into the waters without dipping a toe in first, or whipping out a thermometer.
I realise, being an idealist, this is a biased opinion. But realists irritate me (and I am someone who is normally quite open-minded and feels very little ill-will towards others) to such a degree that I cannot remain silent on the subject any longer. Taking a larger view of things, my opinion matters very little, but perhaps, even through my small blog, I can touch others who feel the same way, and can help someone out there feel less alone in their frustrations – who knows? That is the beauty of the internet: you can never fathom the true breadth of the impact of your own words.
Maybe it is just me, and the particular psychology of my brain (more right-thinking than left). I like quirky. I like strange. I like crazy. Being right-brained isn’t better than being left-brained, and vice versa. Only many left-brained people seem to feel the need to quash their counterparts, as can be clearly attested just by flipping open a history book. Plenty of writers and visionaries throughout history have been choked or stifled by “realists”, locked up or berated for their idealism, their forwardness. You do not, however, hear of scientists destroying the dreams of, say, priests.
Perhaps it for this reason that when I am around realists for too long, I feel a visceral urge to flee. They drain me, as an extrovert’s chatter might derail an introvert. It is tiring to be around them.
Because their minds are so insular, so perfectly tight-knit, like a box with the lid, not only shut, but sealed with wax and sticky-tape, then wrapped in a pretty satin bow. A perfect, little present. A cog, to be slotted into the mechanism of society. For them, the world, like a painting, is bound by edges and frames, never realising perhaps a room exists beyond in which the picture hangs in. They are the ones who drag down dreams, proclaiming them “unrealistic” and “unlikely”. Who do not try to do things because of the inherent risk. Who take the world and life and its people at face-value, staring at the surface of an ocean and deciding the waves are all that exist, oblivious to the blue immensities lurking beneath where marine life wriggle and squirm in their trillions.
Now, I understand not all realists are narrow-minded idiots. Without realists, much of our modern world would not be able to function. Engineers, businessmen, and suchlike make the airplanes fly and bring water to our homes – I get it. Those tasks are not small feats. We need realists, just as we need idealists. But those kinds of realists – businessmen, developers, inventors, engineers – though they might not be writers or artists, and dabble in “real world” stuff, are, at their heart, still visionaries. Those people, who invent new things that make life better for humanity, or can design a plane to fly in the air, those people have dreams, and visions. They are not the realists I am referring to.
What I am referring to are those people are, to put it simply, boring and unimaginative. Who do not have that “spark”. Granted, that may not be their fault, it may be a result of social conditioning, a neurological deficiency; but it most definitely is their fault when they try to impose their worldview, often with remarkable arrogance and assurance, on others. That is what I cannot stand. When they open their mouth, all that comes out is dull drivel: recycled information fed to them by the media, small concerns; they possess little compassion, are driven by their own pleasures, desire to stamp out any oddity or quirkiness in others. And it is stifling to be around them.
Nowadays, having had more life experience, I have learned not to associate myself with such people. In the past, however, when I was more naïve, I fell prey to “realists”. As a shy and highly introverted child, I desperately desired to be accepted by anyone, so when a groups of girls came along to recruit me into their gang, I accepted. It was the worst decision of my life. Hanging out with them was like being trapped in a Bell-jar, the air siphoned away, leaving me gasping, unable to breathe.
They sneered at the Arts, at writers and other creative occupations, believing them “unrealistic” career paths which people, especially someone as unassuming as me, could never succeed in. They viewed books, the sum of human knowledge, “just stories”, and chattered away loudly in the library, more intent on gossip than reading. They considered the shopping centre their temple, banknotes and coins tokens of worship. Their combined creativity could not have even lifted a paper plane into the air. And I, desperate to please, desperate to fit in, crammed myself in amongst them, feeling horrible, yet not knowing why.
Being around these realists, and others like them, made me doubt myself, my writing. I was made to feel my talents, those more geared towards the literary and creative, rather than the mathematical or scientific, as petty, suitable for children, but certainly not grown young women ready to choose their life’s work. One of them, when asked if she would pursue a career in the Arts if she loved it more than anything, and she knew she could do well in it, said, “No, I wouldn’t. I would still procure a job in the technical fields, because those are where the good jobs are. Who is respected more: a software engineer, or a writer?” She did not even have the capacity to imagine herself as someone with a passion for something in life.
At the time, I crumpled with doubt on the inside, wondering if my dreams were stupid, little hopes after all, with no bearing on the real world. But now, I know better. Because you know what? Whatever it is that you dream of doing, if you believe in your heart that you will achieve it, you will. This is what so-called “realists” will never comprehend: the power of belief, of an inner compass set on the right track, pointing to the destination with unwavering resolve. Everything we see existing around us in this world today, from Studio Ghibli films, to light-bulbs, to computers, even the mobile phone you use everyday, started as a seed of a dream, implanted in the brain of a person just like you, and fueled with power from the heart. Of course, even idealists are not immune to the very realistic hours of work that must be put in to bring their dreams to life – but you must have the dream in the first place to create anything.
This is not to say you should throw all caution to the wind and join a traveling circus that circulates in the desert. Let us put in the mathematical terms a realist might understand, shall we? Our minds should be composed of 6 parts idealism, and 1 part realism. Yes, if you paint a flower that resembles more a stick-figure sporting multiple heads, it is unlikely a career as an artist is in the offing. In this situation, a dose of realism is needed.
But if you paint a flower, and the teacher tells you the flower is not a “proper” flower, that the pollen centre should not have a face in it, that the petals should be smooth, not gnarled like angry hands, then you need to believe in yourself, and dream wild dreams, and create as only you can, and to hell with what anyone else thinks. Oh, and stay away from people like that teacher in the future – like second-hand smoke, they are detrimental to your well-being, and should be avoided whenever possible.