Suppose your beloved were to say “Here’s what I really love about you…,” but instead of describing you as they know you really are now, they described an idealized version of you. It might be a person you may wish to be someday. It might be a person you are working toward becoming. But it’s not you as you are now. How would you feel? Would it bless you? It might be interesting, but would it be love?
Idealism is the mother of judgment
It’s as if I weigh other people in a pair of balances. In one balance, I put the person as they actually are. In the other balance, I put my ideal of the person. The person as they are is invariably found wanting in comparison to my ideal. The person as they are is then the subject of judgment.
And worse, I do the same thing to the world. The world as it is now is wanting in comparison to my ideal of the world.
A gentleman shared an opinion with me that all advertisements reduced to the generation of discontent, saying that people don’t measure up to a certain ideal, but they will if they purchase a particular product or service. Marketer Seth Godin concurs when he writes “Marketers trying to grow market share will always work to make their non-customers unhappy.”
Steps to Knowledge doesn’t say this, but I do. Idealism is the mother of judgment. Idealism is the fertile soil in which the noxious weed of judgment takes root. Idealism is the Petri dish which the bacteria of judgment consider an all-you-can-eat buffet. You get the idea.
If idealism is the mother of judgment, what remedy does Steps to Knowledge propose for this predicament? Step 29 “I will observe myself today to learn of Knowledge,” and Step 30 “Today I will observe my world,” address the practice of judgment. Step 29 offers observation as an alternative to self-judgment, and Step 30 offers observation as an alternative to judging the world. I consider Step 54, “I will not live in idealism,” and Step 55, “I will accept the world as it is,” to operate in parallel to Steps 29 and 30, except that Steps 54 and 55 are addressing the cause of judgment instead of the practice of judgment. Step 54 encourages the student to drop her ideal of herself. Step 55 encourages the student to relinquish his ideal of the world.
Some people find the idea of accepting the world as it is to be unacceptable, as it would imply accepting the world’s errors. That concern is addressed in the Step:
“Therefore, in your two 30-minute practice periods today, concentrate on accepting things exactly as they are. You are not condoning violence, conflict or ignorance in doing this. You are merely accepting the conditions that exist so that you may work with them constructively. Without this acceptance, you have no starting place for true engagement. Allow the world to be exactly as it is, for it is this world that you have come to serve.”
If you are a biological accident, if you have been born here against your will, if you’ve been thrown into the world, you might have reason to hate the world, and to cultivate that hatred. But if you’ve come to serve the world, that whole complex of idealism and judging and hating is something over which you’re going to have to get.
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