Idealist or realist?

This morning I happened across one of those online what-are-you personality quizzes, of the sort that are always doing the rounds on Facebook, that an old school friend had posted on her wall. Much to my surprise, the quiz felt that I fell squarely into the “idealist” category – I felt certain I was going to end up in the “rational” category.

I always identified myself as an idealist when I was younger. The more time passes, the less I feel that’s accurate. They say that you get more conservative (small c!) as you get older – I think it’s more specific than that: you just get more cynical. It’s hard not to, frankly. As children, we’re taught that human beings are fundamentally good and decent, but I’m sure we can all recall those first few times we discovered that the opposite is sometimes the case; and of course the more time passes, the greater the likelihood that we’ll encounter more such people. There may come a time when – however much you’d like to believe that people are usually honest, reliable and caring for their fellow humans – you feel that more than 50% of the time, that’s not the case. It’s at that point that you decide whether to embrace cynicism or continue to hope for the best. I became a fully-fledged cynic some years ago now. I don’t think those who hope for the best from people are foolish or misguided, because I suppose I still want to believe that myself. But the empirical evidence is pretty slim ;-).

Many people put things like “lifelong idealist”, “hopeless cynic” and so on in their online bios, but I’ve resisted that tendency in recent years, because I don’t really feel able to fully embrace any of the available options. That is, until this morning, when – as is my wont – I found myself playing some Rush, specifically their album Roll The Bones. The closing track, You Bet Your Life, contains a line that I feel sums me up pretty much perfectly.

Rational romantic mystic cynical idealist

So there you have it. Cheers, guys! (And thanks Katie, for kicking all this off in the first place.)

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2 Responses to Idealist or realist?

  1. echomanstl says:

    Call me a…realistic optimist? I tried being a cynic once but my body rejected it wholesale… 🙂
    I truly hope for the best from everyone. Sadly, most people aren’t prepared to approach their lives and the world with a spirit of cooperation, understanding, empathy and peace. So I try to stay realistic, and understand that people are selfish, and short-sighted, and contradictory. But at the same time, hope for the best, and attempt to be as positive as I can in my day-to-day, in the attempt to lead by example, and maybe have a non-negative attitude rub off on those I encounter? I’m hardly perfect, so don’t take this for lecturing, either! I guess what I’m trying to get at is that what keeps me optimistic and positive is the people in my life who feel the same way, and opt for similar outlooks. It reminds me that despite the majority of people who “don’t get it”, it is possible and actively doable to approach life with a spirit of fellowship, enthusiasm, and actively attempting to be your best and to let that attitude influence others you encounter. OK, ramble over, I just got to thinking. Another great post, my friend! And for what it’s worth? You may say you’re a cynic, but I still say that whatever you are / classify yourself as, you’re doing it right, and I consider you one of the more positive, enthused, understanding people I know. It’s hard not to get fully beaten down by the negativity and dysfunction in the world, but you haven’t let cynicism harden into being curmudgeonly. However you may feel, it hasn’t affected your ardent love for the things you love. Keep being that, my man. I’ve always admired and valued that about you.

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