by Chloe Sun
This week, I came across a short poem that prompts me to reflect on the idealists and the realists. The poem goes like this:
Ideals are like stars
We never reach them,
But like mariners of the sea,
We chart our course by them.
This poem distinguishes ideals from reality. Ideals and reality are not set in opposition to one another. Rather, they are in an interconnected relationship: Ideals give hope to reality. Ideals chart the course of our lives. Whether we can ever reach the ideals is not the question. The question is: as we journey through life, what are we guided by? Are we guided by a higher principle or are we like a ship wandering in the vast ocean aimlessly?
I know a kind of people who have high ideals for themselves, for other people around them, and for church leaders. They have a strong sense of right and wrong, and a strong voice against things that fall short of their ideals. These kinds of people are hard on themselves. They pursue perfection relentlessly and expect others to do so. The world, in their eyes, is fallen, and it is by holding onto their ideals that they believe they can make the world a better place. These kinds of people tend to see things in black and white.
I know another kind of people who accept themselves the way they are. They also accept other people the way they are. They believe every individual is a mixture of good and bad. This kind of people has little expectations for others and the world. They accept or react to “fate” when it comes to them without having a set of internalized ideals to strive for. The world, in their eyes, has both hopes and fears, yet they believe they can only do their part and leave the rest to God or others to worry about. These kinds of people are able to see things in grey.
The world needs both the idealists and the realists. The idealists motivate the realists to see beyond reality and to dream big. The realists in turn remind the idealists to be grounded in reality, to see things as they are rather than as they should be. Stars and mariners can be best partners in life!
 Craig Glickman, Solomon’s Song of Love (Louisiana: Howard Publishing, 2004), 10.
Chloe Sun, PhD., has been teaching Hebrew Scriptures at Logos Evangelical Seminary since 2004. Her research interests include culture, gender, and identity issues in the Old Testament, Asian American Interpretations of the Bible, and Wisdom Literature. She lives with her husband and son in Southern California.