Regarding Pragmatic Idealism

As early as 2007 and 2008, when I wrote the bulk of my 2000-sonnet Grand Canon that discussed various subjects in a poetical manner, I had already adopted and advocated the Principle of Pragmatic Idealism — or the Principle of Practical Idealism — as a philosophy to live by. My sonnet piece on the subject should attest to that.

This was side by side with my adoption and advocacy of the Principle of Enlightened Self-Interest, a practical philosophy that gained much traction and interest in Europe in between the two great wars of the 20th century. Think of Maria Montessori: she was able to find donors for her projects for kids and youths in the slums of Rome by appealing to businessmen’s sense of enlightened self-interest.

Practical idealism simply means utilizing practical means to achieve idealistic ends. This often requires being contented, for the moment at least, of making a modest gain in the hope of adding more to it as time goes by. As for the principle of enlightened self-interest, it is convincing people to do something for the common good but using arguments that appeal to their own self-centered interest. This would enable you to cut a deal even with the most shady characters.

The problem really is that I was slow in putting into practice those twin principles. They were both okay to me in theory; but in practice, I was more comfortable taking a stand and making a decision from the standpoint of what was ideal. That was — and, for better or for worse, that still is — my comfort zone. It is oftentimes an uncomfortable comfort zone actually, as any solitary crusader might tell you. But doing something untrue to one’s own self, to one’s own light, is far more uncomfortable for certain types of people.

The author attends a campaign rally in Brgy. Budiong, Odiongan, Romblon where his younger brother (in front, speaking) is campaigning for vice mayor.

Take the case of elections. It’s very hard for me to get excited enough or impressed enough to support politicians — especially at the national level. One reason is that the search for the ideal leader is one of the three great quests I undertook in this life, for which I paid a high price. So my concepts about leadership and the ideal leader are quite advanced and exacting.

At the national level for instance, the only high official that pleases me is Associate Justice Antonio Carpio. As for the rest, I am sorry to state here that I really think I would need a magnifying glass or else a microscope to make them visible to me in terms of patriotism and statesmanship. Not to mention in terms of statecraft which is entirely another matter.

How about local elections (both provincial and municipal)as well as the contest for the lone congressional seat of Romblon? I guess the trick here is to confine my focus on local issues. I could examine the character and track record of candidates … together with their platform of government … and see which are suitable to fill up the needs of our province, town or barangay and of the people themselves, especially the poorest and the most needy. That’s a pleasant and doable way to tackle the matter.

I suppose in this life, I have passed the test of idealism with flying colors. Oh, mortals wouldn’t notice it; but Heaven does. (God even pronounced His divine approbation beforehand when I was just starting to undertake my penance-cum-initiation at the Round Chapel on May 20, 1988.) Now, let me at last essay the test of practicality and pragmatism. And let us see if I have a gift for it or is otherwise bound to always fail miserably in this tricky department.

(First published on April 30, 2019. Updated May 3, 2019.)

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Jose Rizal M. Reyes

Jose Rizal M. Reyes

Jose is a poet-philosopher. He writes poems and essays. He is best known as the inventor of many new sonnet rhyme schemes being used today around the world.