Round Table with Oscar
March 8, 2016

Ideals and goals

Today, I want to discuss a condition that is pulling down our community. It is the loss of Ideals. Daily life among us is losing the fire and the passion that challenges the world to open its doors and let all people sit at the high table.{{more}}

Ideals are those things that are bigger than what the world has to offer, and so, consumed by our ideals, we have no choice but to call the world to move to a higher level. When we look at what people who are empowered by ideals have accomplished, we can say that the power of ideals is a material force, a social power, a movement of the spirit, an engine of history.

It is helpful to take a look at ideals and goals. Both of these can provide the drive and push that impel people forward in the course of their lives, but I discern a peculiar difference between the two, and it disturbs me that one is becoming more important and more marketed than the other in our times. Why does the fact that ‘Setting Goals’ gets more play than ‘Cultivating Ideals’ make me feel depressed? Consider these things.

1. Ideals are moved by the contradictions of the community – the negatives – those things that are lacking, which stir the heart, and haul us to rise to our feet.

Goals, on the other hand, emerge from opportunities that society places on the screen — the positives — which motivate us to ambition.

(Ideals move towards changing things; goals tend to manipulate or reach for things within the horizon: Field slave/house slave?)

2. Ideals seem to reach into the realm of the social, to heed and feel and connect to what others too are experiencing. Ideals can be an organizing motive among people.

Goals are pitched at the personal level, centred in the individual’s priorities and fulfilment. Goals tend to be private intentions, promoting an internal interest.

3. Ideals, as a desire to bring big, community changes, can make room for appropriate, secondary goals.

Goals make no room for ideals, but rather tend to satisfy less exalted needs, as Abraham Maslow has described them.

When the Christian master taught his disciples to: ‘Reach first for the Reign of God’s righteousness…’ he was presenting a passionate, visionary ideal as the priority for life’s journey. Then he was equally explicit: ‘The goal things will come along in their course.’

A community that focuses on the Goals in life and neglects the Ideals, as we do, preaching to our youth to ‘Set your Goals’ early, without explicit embodiment and transmission of community ideals, is nurturing a generation without moral foundation and history making capability.

When we adopt the ‘Means’ to personal/family fulfilment as the meaning and mission of our life, we undermine the value-content of our community life and it seems to me that that is where we have almost arrived.

I mourn the loss of passion and fire in imagining and reaching for those things of high value and virtue which are not yet here. It is not the bureaucratic eradication of poverty that stirs me, but rather the civilization of a loving and just community and region. I seek not a parliamentary committee on Zero Hunger, not even a UNITED NATIONS sustainable set of goals. Ideals become a moral force when we open our eyes and souls to the contradictions that really matter within our world. Ideals become a movement when we reach across to share our vision, mobilize our resources, organize, and set our goals. Ideals become a material force when it comes to a struggle to penetrate through the old negations into the new opposites, the opening of the future. Ideals lift our civilization towards a truly human future. Does it look far away? It always does seem idealistic, but in similar circumstances, a Galilean, along with a Judean organizer declared: ‘It is at hand, I promise you’. Martin Luther King Jr declared it too. Read the founding Charter of the African National Congress and see the Ideals stand out powerfully. Where are the Ideals that unite and drive us Vincentians to soar in spirit across the generations in our land? We also must rise above our Goal mindedness into the realm and the season of Ideals. That is a motivating purpose of the People’s Movement for Change, and of Round Table and of many Vincentians. Let us gather again.