I believe in extra innings. I have to; I’m a Cubs fan.
It’s the only way that I can justify the hours I spend each day following a team which none of my living relatives have ever seen win the World Series. I believe because I know that it’s possible. Since it’s possible, I know there’s a chance, however slight, that it might happen. Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t always assume that the Cubs will make it; I know how many games there are in a season and I’ve been disappointed enough times. But I stick with them because the possibility that absolute and true belief can persist in spite of constant, heart-wrenching failure gives me hope for the world. I guess that makes me an idealist.
Idealism is often among the best and worst qualities of many young and intelligent folks. But for it to be effective, one must find balance. Idealism functions, more or less, like the water in your coffee: too much and you have a cup full of water with but a hint of what you set out to accomplish; too little and you end up with something bitter, dark and intolerable to the average human.
For me, finding balance between the two extremes has meant learning to wholly embrace both sides of the spectrum. In this pursuit, I have come up with two pieces of advice for would be idealists.
First, you must believe in the ideal with every fiber of your being. Doubt makes suspense intolerable and before you know it, you’ve lost faith and given up before your ideal has had time to become reality—and it can take a LONG time. Though it may appear impossible at first, eventually, believing becomes automatic. In times of great conflict you will suddenly find your idealistic mind overriding your logical mind: down by eight with only one out left in the bottom of the ninth and nobody on, for some strange reason, you find yourself waiting until its official to turn off the game.
My second piece of advice is that you must accept failure as an all too true reality. Allowing yourself to become too vulnerable to your ideals will make for a crushing blow the first time they all come crashing down which, inevitably, they will. But the sooner that you realize that this is part of the gig, the sooner it becomes clear that you live to fight another day. This is the point where logic must prevail. Remember, as we say around here: “there’s always next year.”
I’m not saying that we can all change the world. I’m not even saying that I’ll ever live to see the cubs win the big one. All I know is that believing that it’s possible and accepting all of the setbacks, is the only thing that can get me through 162 games of baseball and 365 days of life every single year.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.