The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist”
in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson,
in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism. We learn first to play with it academically.
. . . Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.
Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true. It now shows itself ethical and practical.” John
Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant. Al Gore
invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed
by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.
Saturday, July 25, 2020
Board, Community Foundation, Grant News for CASA of Southern Connecticut
12:04 pm edt
have seen CASA of Southern Connecticut:
The board and I welcome the Community Foundation's provision of this additional platform to raise awareness and funds for our cause: recruiting, training, and supporting volunteer advocates for
the best interests of children in foster care.
Saturday, July 18, 2020
John Lewis (1940-2020), in Memoriam
9:23 am edt
The great John Lewis--deeply admired by three generations
of my family--died yesterday at age 80.
Lewis was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington in 1963. Recalling having
heard him (along with Martin Luther King Jr. among others) speak on that occasion, my father wrote decades later: “I stationed myself below the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
The first speaker I remember was John Lewis, now a congressman but then a 23-year-old leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee (SNCC). He was truly a hero, a person who risked his life on behalf of justice.”
I, too, was inspired by the courage and conscience
of John Lewis, whose Walking with the Wind memoir
includes this passage (p. 126): “One of the most fundamental principles of the Gandhian notion of satyagraha—nonviolent
action—is that it is not merely a technique of achieving specific goals. It is not simply a means to attaining
political independence or racial desegregation. It is not just a tool to achieve unity and freedom in the world around
us. True satyagraha, as Gandhi taught it, is about a fundamental shift inside our own souls. It is rooted in the
achievement of inner unity, of inner freedom, of inner certainty. It is a place we find within ourselves—a calm,
sure place. And once found, that place is not swayed or disturbed or affected … by the thousands of details of
the world around us that bombard us every day.”
My children read the March trilogy that Lewis authored in graphic novel format, with illustrations depicting
struggles for civil rights, and the pride and emotion he felt upon Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009. My daughter
was old enough largely to read the three books on her own, while my son and I read them together, twice marking MLK Day in
January with photos of a boy learning from John Lewis.
I'm reminded of the words that Einstein used about Gandhi, an example to John
Lewis, that would apply to Lewis himself: “Generations to come will scarce believe
that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”