Home » Nonfiction » Melvyn L. Fein » The Limits of Idealism

July 20 , 2010

The Limits of Idealism

When Good Intentions Go Bad


If the truth be known, I am only a partially reformed idealist. In the secret depths of my soul, I still wish to make the world a better place and sometimes fantasize about heroically eradicating its faults. When I encounter its limitations, it is consequently with deep regret and continued surprise. How, I ask myself, is it possible that that which seems so fight can be a chimera? And why, I wonder, aren't people as courageous, smart, or nice as I would like? The pain of realizing these things is sometimes so intense that I want to close my eyes and lose myself in the kinds of daydreams that comforted me as a youngster. One thing is clear, my need to come to grips with my idealism had its origin in a lifetime of naivet6. From the beginning, I wanted to be a "good" person. Often when life was most treacherous, I retreated into a comer from whence I escaped into reveries of moral glory. When I was very young, my faith was in religion. In Hebrew school, I took my lessons seriously and tried to apply them at home. By my teen years, this had been replaced by an allegiance to socialism. In the Brooklyn where I grew up, my teachers and relatives made this seem the natural course. When I reached my twenties, however, and was obliged to confront a series of personal deficiencies, psychotherapy shouldered its way to the fore.
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