There's a thing I've learned about myself: I am an idealist.
I live in a utopia. I am a romantic. My world is puppy dogs and lollipops and blind, wholly illogical giddy adventures until, much to my own doing, the realities of the dour, uncompromising, not-silly-enough world catches up to me and beats me into a maroon-mash oblivion.
To be clear, the world I live in is the same as yours. Trump is president. Old white men are taking away women's rights. People of color continue to be marginalized and treated horribly. Violence erupts in public spaces and school classrooms. The planet, our only home, is suffering mightily because of us lecherous meat sacks.
I see all of those things and my heart breaks. I question why it's happening. Why we can't get along like respectful human beings. Why we can't embrace empathy and kindness and joy. Why we have to make all decisions based on this egotistical urge to prove something to someone, to make them feel less, to insert our will upon others to inflate our own place within the madness.
That's one part of me: the humanistic, empathic, feminist part that is overrun with the weight of the world, melancholy and depressed, drinks probably too much to dull the emotional hyperbole in my brain.
But I also see other things. That's the other part of me: the idealistic, romantic, blind giddy anarchy part of me. I see that this world of ours, this life we live, is overwhelmingly absurd. We are "star dust" on a maddeningly beautiful pale blue dot propelling through time and space. We are creatures with capacity for reason and choice. We create such inspired beauty. We are capable of evoking awe.
So my thesis is this:
The absurdity of this life calls for a certain level of idealism.
I don't mean that we need to ignore the dark realities that surround us. I mean, if we are to more routinely adopt an idealistic lens through which to view the world, I believe that we can more easily embrace joy in its rawest, purest forms.
Before I get to what that really means (for me, as I can't speak for you), I want to share a story that initially sparked these thoughts.
I was seated at my computer, thinking about my dog, Scooby, as I often do. As a work-from-home writer/editor, Scooby is my every-moment (joyful, and sometimes burpy and poopy) companion, either splayed out at my feet under my kitchen table workspace, or pulling me into bushes on his urban adventures in Operation Urinary Freedom.
Scooby will be twelve years old in October. He's an old man. He's slowing down. He can't run much anymore. His paws look like Nicodemus's face. That realization renders me undeniably morose. And so, in my feely place, I decided to sign up to be a part-time dog walker for a company called Wag.
When I told Jessica about this, she was understandably confused. After all, I have a job—a job I love! So she prodded, as a rational, loving human should of their partners: Why would I add a second job into the mix? What were my motivations? Why would I make our tax stuff even more complicated come April? Don't I already have enough to do with the house cleaning, the food shopping, the laundry?
Here's the thing. I didn't think about any of that. Not a bit. You may be thinking to yourself, well, yeah, I mean obviously you'd apply critical thinking to high life-impact decisions.
Herein lies the power (and misunderstood beauty!) of the idealistic side of me. Sure, I upset my partner because I didn't consider how it may affect her. I didn't talk to her about it beforehand, as a partner in this thing together. That's totally valid. And sure, I have a full-time job. And sure, I do a lot of the chores around the house. And sure, I volunteer. And sure, I steer the Joy Sandwich ship. And sure, I may or may not have a reasonable grasp on reality.
None of that factored into my decision* (*=whim) to sign up to be a part-time dog walker. I was driven by the power of puppies. #PuppyPower. All reason and introspection flooded from my brain, creating space for future scenarios of me frolicking wildly with German Shepherd puppies, wrestling into maniacal giggle fits with English mastiffs, romping through woods with brother and sister Redbone Coonhound hunting dogs named, quite aptly, Old Dan and Little Ann.
To you, that may be childish or irrational or simply selfish. But to me, I think there's a purity in jumping into stuff without thinking about it, driven by your heart, your passion, your eagerness to embrace. When I do it, it's all of those things. It's also a recognition that the life humans live, or try to live, is far too structured, with far too much artifice and rules "we need to follow." (Fuck those rules.)
So, when I was confronted with Jessica's sound logic, I was jostled from my daydreamy place momentarily—enough to see and empathize with her perspective.
Here's the bonkers part:
She's totally right. I have way too much going on. I don't have enough hours in the day. And probably, even if it hurts my sensitive heart to admit it, not every dog is going to be as warm and cuddly and loving as I imagine them to be.
In the end, I didn't go through with finalizing my application with Wag to be a part-time dog walker. Jessica, in her professorial "crush dreams" wisdom, helped guide me back to earth.
So where does this leave me, and my thesis that this absurd life calls for idealism? Well, I still adamantly subscribe to that theory, even if the outcome of this story speaks otherwise.
The truth is that this life is absurd, no matter how you look at it. (And I don't mean to imply that it lacks meaning; I think anyone can find meaning in anything, and there's value in most of it.) We have very little control over what happens in life, despite what we tell ourselves. We are not special. We are animals doing our best to survive. We—not societal constructs or rules or others—forge our own paths.
I think there's beauty in that. Wild, erratic, passionate beauty.