People will kill you. Over time. They will shave out every last morsel of fun in you with little, harmless sounding phrases that people use everyday like, “be realistic”. – Dylan Moran
What is obvious about being realistic is that it is not the same as doing what is practical or possible. In fact, because we use these three words interchangeably, we’ve given practicality and possibility a bad name. The meaning of being realistic is pretty simple; only believe what is right in front of you. But, human civilization was made on thought, and thought is conceived through imagination. Imagination is, just as simply, predicated on what could be. It is raised on possibility, or possibilities. Even in situations deliberately illogical, it still looks for some sort of design, structure. If humanity was only limited on the predilection of being real, we would have missed out on so many possibilities that have been concretized. And, as most of us have heard at some point without considering the (im)possibility of it, a thing doesn’t have to be real in order to be true.
Practicality gets the worst rap in these interchangeable expressions because it is a wonderful device commonly misunderstood. Think of it in the middle of a chain of these four. Thus,
Imagination > Possibility > Practicality > Reality
Imagination conceives ideas. Possibility selects the realizable ones. Practicality tests them out, takes the time to see if they truly are feasible. And when successful through this strenuous process, that idea becomes a reality. You only have to look at the history of man-made flying machines to know what an arduous process it was to get from possibility to what has been our reality for over a hundred years.
There isn’t a more defeatist idea than “being realistic”. And every time you use it on yourself or someone else, there is a little living part that dies. What is worse, there is a clear threshold for people to shift from possibility to being realistic as their default mode in life. I’ve seen it in so many people in my, relatively, short life. People who care, who show compassion and feeling, who naturally assume realities greater than what has been given to them are possible for them, are told they are naive, sentimental fools. While people, who only live for what has been given to them, think they are the wise ones. And it would be true, had they always believed in it. But, once, they too had believed in greater or different possibilities, until they gave in easily to the triggers of being realistic. It is often these disillusioned people that keep propagating the disease.
There is the frustrated person in your circle of people, of course, who is constantly unhappy with their state of affairs. I, no doubt, am the one in my circles. But, what I sincerely struggle against is being that other person whose soul is dead. Who sniggers at a child for dreaming big. Who passes snide remarks if a young woman takes care of herself. Who derives the greatest pleasure in a day from rejoicing in the misfortune of others and criticizing their good. There are too many of them, and I’d rather be physically dead than be that.
Although, I do have a morbid excess of the head-in-the-clouds syndrome that no “be realistic” pill in the world can cure. I suppose I should be happy with this inoculation against the “be realistic” lot, but I often find myself in paralyzing envy and awe of possible people. When I meet them, I instantly fall in love, and idealize them to saintliness. To quote one of the biggest hits from 2006 ( Write in the comment if you know what the song is ), “I need your grace to remind me to find my own.” There is nothing more attractive than people who smile easily, take pleasure in life, are curious about everything, and go about doing things with an elegance based not on accomplishment but, the easy belief that that is why they’ve been given a life. They feel more appreciation in a day than realistic people feel their entire lives. Needless to say, I love these people because I want to be one of them.
Having the head-in-the-clouds syndrome doesn’t mean I’m not resourceful or that I am unable to have perspective on situations both uncomfortable and easy. It just means I can’t settle for caring less. I am not motivated by money, and I cannot settle for someone only to cure, temporarily, their and my loneliness. And as much as I care, I really couldn’t be bothered when asked to adhere to someone’s instructions of “being realistic” about my situation in life. I am sorry, but you’re the one who is dreaming when you think being realistic is a realistic idea.