Sunday, June 29, 2008

Vision Thing

The Vision Thing

“A political view encompassing the longer term as distinct from short-term campaign objectives. The expression comes from the response of the American Republican statesman George Bush (1924- ), who in 1987 responded to the suggestion that he turn his attention from short-term campaign objectives and look to the longer term by saying, `Oh, the vision thing'”.
(Defined by

What a great definition! So now that we are in a campaign year, or century, or eternity, we ought to be hearing a lot about vision. But, truthfully, do any of us believe that our politicians have vision beyond the one of themselves holding down a position of power? I want to believe but sometimes it is hard. Perhaps I lack vision.
At times I wonder what my vision is: Parity for the treatment of mental illness? Universal health care? Peace in the Middle East? At other times, cynicism overtakes me and I think my personal vision or lack thereof is irrelevant to the fate of the world. Sometimes I wish I could be more like those people, who have a clarity of vision that I think I lack.
On the other hand, vision can too easily turn into fixation. In a way, this was the death of the young man (Chris McCandless) in Into the Wild (which I just finished). He had a dream of man living in harmony with nature. In the end, nature succeeded in killing him. Was it worth it to him to attempt his dream and live off the land in Alaska? Was it worth his witting or unwitting cruelty to his parents and sister? If I am haunted by visions of this man’s death by starvation, imagine how his family feels.
I sometimes try to teach another kind of vision to the parents I work with. I try to share with them a vision of their child grown to be a happy, healthy, productive young adult. It surprises me a bit, but some parents only see their own fears, that their son/daughter will grow up to be underemployed, addicted, “lazy” or in some way (in their own words/fantasies) a useless human being. I think that McCandless’ parents must have been terribly worried by his society-defying ways long before he vanished into the wild.
I try to explain to the parents I know about self-fulfilling prophecies. I fear their dismal predictions have the weight of prophecy and explain to them that their optimism for their children can also be self-fulfilling. I am a parent myself and understand that to an extent all parents worry that we may be enabling our children by giving them too much love, or too much self-confidence. We pour on the discipline and the stern parental lectures to prevent a “bad outcome.”
Work of a psychologist, Carol Dweck, suggests we praise our children too much. I’m obviously simplifying here but the idea is that unearned praise rather than building self-esteem, leads to that very mental laziness the parents I’m talking about fear. My gut feeling is that most of the kids I work with don’t suffer from too much self-esteem or an overdose of praise.
Like most accepted wisdom, the wisest path is to seek balance. Kids need praise and their parents’ positive regard. They still need their artwork, however inept, stuck onto the refrigerator door. Regarding trends in psychology, we might be better off just listening to our own best judgment.
Getting back to “the vision thing.” In Into the Wild, Krakauer speaks of youth: “It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is not less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it.” I am no longer young. I am not sure where my “vision” takes me beyond life-long near sightedness and middle-aged far-sightedness (gotta love those bi-focals). Do I hunger for world peace or a better retirement plan? Or perhaps, in the moderation of mid-life, I hunger for all of the above.

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