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 18, 2015
“India's Daughter” and Women's Rights around the World
7:54 am edt
My parents-in-law, visiting from New Delhi, recently joined me in attending a public library screening of the sobering documentary “India's Daughter.” The movie is banned there because of its controversial
depiction of the brutal rape and killing of a young woman in Delhi in December 2012 – an event that led to mass protests
and some reforms.
In many countries beyond
India, the film can be viewed online. It depicts several Indian perspectives on what are, alas, global problems of gender and socioeconomic inequality and
Tanvi Misra reflected on the
film earlier this year in the Atlantic. Like her, my wife is from New Delhi, to which we last traveled together in 2014.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
“Real Food Generation,” Sustainability, and Justice
7:45 am edt
I had occasion to visit with my friend Anim Steel, a leader of a growing movement around the Real Food Challenge. This organization – with campus chapters across the country – seeks to inspire a “generation”
of young people pursuing objectives ranging from health and equity to sustainability.
wife, Sarita Daftary-Steel, directs another justice-oriented initiative: the El Puente Green Light District.
Sunday, July 5, 2015
Imani Perry: “More Beautiful and More Terrible”
2:12 pm edt
I recently read Princeton professor Imani Perry’s
book More Beautiful and More Terrible –
its title from James Baldwin – on “the embrace and transcendence of racial inequality in the United States.” Using an interdisciplinary
approach, she aims to delineate and to counter “practices of racial inequality” in law, culture, and society.She writes, for example (p. 184-85): “The practice of racial equality can occur on multiple levels: in quotidian human interactions
and decision making, in the context of families or communities, at the level of local government, in legislation and litigation,
and in federal policy. All of these are significant, not simply those that occur on a grand scale. There is no
greater lesson to be taken from the civil rights movement than this: ordinary people acting together can usher in global shifts.
Small, deliberate, courageous, and dedicated movement can lead to big change.”
Saturday, July 4, 2015
Independence Day Camping, Hiking, Celebrating
9:46 pm edt
this holiday weekend, last night my wife, our kids, and I camped out in a tent together for the first time. (We
had stayed before in a rustic cabin but not a tent.) The
location was Greenfield State Park in southern New Hampshire, where the kids and I enjoyed an evening swim in Otter Lake before heading back to the tent. Fortunately,
it didn’t rain until this morning, by which time we were beginning to climb nearby Mount Monadnock.
This was at least my fourth hike of
Monadnock, which is purportedly the most frequently climbed mountain in the U.S. (but my first since college). Emerson and Thoreau were among the admirers of this peak, but you don’t have to be either a transcendentalist or a rock-climbing veteran
to make the ascent. That said, our family inadvertently took a more ambitious route, the “white arrow trail,” than in hindsight we would have chosen – particularly amid increasingly steady rain that made the rocks treacherous
in places. In the end, my son and I reached the peak – my wife and daughter, nearly. It was a
memorable experience from which we’ll learn.
Afterward, we shared a cookout with family and friends, a good way to
conclude the holiday.