I have a couple of uncompleted posts in my draft. Often I start writing, lose my trail of thoughts, get distracted or bored and just abandon it half way. If I am being honest, I will say that about accounts for a lot of things in my life (Oh well! We all have our bad habits). I started writing a post sometime back titled, idealism versus reality, which I never got to finish. However, what I intended to write is closely related to this. So hopefully, I can combine both thoughts here.
Before I continue, it is needful to explain what I mean by Idealism in this case. The original philosophies on Idealism dates back to the early ages in the theories of great philosophers like Plato, Descartes, Berkeley, Kant, Hegel, Fichte etc. Their abstruse theories (at less to me; it’s like reading Greek and I don’t understand Greek) maintains that the real is a nature of ideas or the mind. However, latter articles (in simpler English, I may add) points out the fact that the word suggests two meanings: ‘Ideal-ism’ – the tendency to represent things in their ideal forms, and ‘Idea-lism’ – belief in ideas as the true reality. For this article, Idealism means the former – ‘ideal-ism’
Judging from my metaphors using TV personas, I guess it is no secret that I enjoy TV shows. In all honesty, you can say I am close to an addict; from 24 (I read that’s back in 2014. Yippee!!!!), Scandal, Revenge to Homeland, Arrow, Grey’s anatomy etc. It’s one of my favourite pastimes. If you do a physic evaluation of me, you will probably find deep reasons why I am drawn to TV shows, one of which would be the writing. I think it’s brilliant the way these writers create such multifarious and intriguing plots that manages to capture one’s attention for a lengthy period. I, for one, have faithfully followed some TV series for years. Most of the characters are realer to me than the individuals who play them. You find people – blogs and fans discussing them like they are real. Personally, I have cried and laughed through many of these series and more often than not, I have to consciously remind myself that they are just stories; something built out of a good writer’s mind. But that’s just the point; the writing is so brilliant and virtual, that you forget that it isn’t in actual fact, real. Most people think of Keifer Sutherland as Jack Bauer and nothing else. I was reading an excerpt from one of his interviews and he sounded just like Bauer (real or not), using ‘bauerist’ expressions like ‘make no mistake’.
I believe that reality and fiction are so closely related and in Chimamanda Adichie words, ‘Truth is no stranger to fiction’; they play off on each other and every writer, no matter how brilliant they are, builds their fictional stories from nibs of reality. Granted, the characters are fictional, the plot could also be fictional, but some of the character’s dialogue and experiences are drawn from reality.
Now to my topic Black & White or Grey (Yes, I could swear, I have a bug bite that makes me ramble on and on), I know from personal experiences that life is a constant war between idealism and reality. We have all these standards and rules that we believe should be absolute. Most often than not, we find ourselves holding others to our idealistic views, hence, passing judgement on them based on what we believe should or shouldn’t be the accepted standard. In my opinion, I think everyone is guilty of that to some degree. We all at some point or the other, consciously or unconsciously expect people to live by our idealistic views of right and wrong. I don’t think there is anything wrong with airing our opinions (God knows I do all the time) as long as we understand and accept that it is in our opinion and everyone doesn’t have to play by our rules, plus, there are always exceptions to every rule.
Question: so do I believe that life is always black and white??? Emphatically, No!!!! I think that idealism is black and white and reality is hardly ever idealistic. Experiences and context creates complexities that most often than not, makes reality different from idealism. I believe that reality has grey areas for almost every situation. I also think that it is unreasonable and self-righteous to pass judgement unless you have experienced a situation like the other; unless you have felt same emotions like the other and, unless you understand the entire story. Don’t misinterpret me, I accept that ideal, to a degree, is important; It is a source of hope and inspiration for individual growth and a better world; it is useful in creating a lawful society. It is also useful to give people in general a model to try to live up to. However, life in itself is hardly ever straight forward; its deep complexity makes ideals just that – ideals. Even the law understands this and allows room for exploring that complexity. In my opinion, that’s the reason why we have the courts and a chance for defense as well as variations of terms to deal with such complexity. A good example is the act of killing someone and its different interpretations – Manslaughter, Murder, and Self-defense etc.
Kurt Lewin’s quote says, ‘if you want to understand something, try to change it’ but I have altered it a little to what is one of my favourite quotes ‘if you want to understand it, live it’, unless you have; unless you have experienced every aspect of it, don’t throw your ideals around. How can you truly define the ideal, if you haven’t experienced it??
Believe it or not, this thought was brought on by a TV series – Grey’s anatomy. I was watching one of the episodes and looking at one of the characters – Meredith, her marriage to another character, Derek, their history and how their relationship started when I had this epiphany. Derek and Meredith’s relationship started when Derek was still married to someone else. Idealistically, that is wrong because he was cheating on his wife, but I had watched it from the beginning, so I had an insight into their history. I understood that Derek was separated from his wife when he met Meredith; I understood that the reason for the separation was because he had found out that his wife was having an affair with his best friend. This knowledge, in my opinion, created a grey area. This knowledge, in the reality of the characters challenged the ‘ideal’ and created an exception. One might say, ‘it is fiction, don’t get carried away’; but it really isn’t about the characters in this case rather, it is about what this fictional experience teaches me about the reality of life. Also, is fiction so far from reality?? I don’t believe so.
So again, I don’t accept life is black & white. I believe that situations and human beings are complex and no matter how we try to simplify life in other to understand it, the fact is, it isn’t simple but complex. So the next time you try to judge someone else’s life and actions; stop and think. Stop and ask why, ‘what led to that’; stop and understand. Because like Chaim Potok explains, ‘everything has a past… If you don’t know the past, you can’t understand the present…’ the present is almost always a result of the past. Reality in itself is a web of events, one leads to another and another. It is so interwoven that in other to understand it, you have to follow the events; you have to understand the history.