Scaffold-poles in Building the House of Love - Tangibility of Ideals - The Priceless Worth of an
Most people think that ideals are as far distant and as glitteringly lovely as the stars - lovely because of their far distance. Beautiful things at which to gaze when in a sentimental mood, or with nothing else to do, but quite impossible to reach or realise.
Others believe ideals only come with the kisses of courting. . The worry of paying the rent ten days after quarter-day, or of running a household on £200 a year, is often the executioner's axe that slays the infant ideals. But all these people are wrong. Love in all its stages cannot be built on material things. Remembering each other's birthday, cooking an eight-course dinner, stalls at a theatre, may or may not bring satisfaction and pleasure, but never did, and never will they ' by themselves greatly improve the growth of love.
An ideal is as tangible, as useful, and as necessary to the house of love - and by this, of course, is meant the synonymous term, the house of marriage - as a door-knocker, and three times as decorative. An ideal is not unattainable, or it would not be an ideal. The fact that our little brain could think of it, proves that our little skill can compass it. We make ideals mythical, elusive, unattainable, by not trying to obtain them, by saying: " I have ideals, but it is not at all likely I shall ever realise them." The determined wishing for a thing is a step towards the grasping of it.
Ideals, like other things of value - prize sweet-peas, a library, a rose-and-lily complexion - demand continuous effort, self-sacrifice, unflagging energy, undying enthusiasm. Though this all helps to make us quite conscious of the priceless worth and merit of the ideal when at last it does become a visible reality.
Ideals for Others
The unfortunate part about our construction of ideals is that we generally make them for someone else. " I do so want my little boy always to be truthful," we hope, and of our hope remind the little boy many times and often. We tell our husbands that the ideal of happiness is unselfishness, and the ideal of middle-aged married life is toleration. And we tell our servants that an ideal kitchen is never dirty.
This making of ideals for other people gives one a quite comfortable and thoroughly righteous feeling, just as if we had given a penny to a blind beggar. And besides, like the penny, there is always a chance that the ideals may help the recipients, if they do not rebel and say they will not have second-hand ideals.
The courting couple make as many ideals as they can see stars in the sky, and the married couple lose them as fast as the stars of a rocket lose their gaudy brilliance.
It is better to make an ideal that does not fully realise itself, even as getting up at half-past seven (when seven is the ideal and really comfortable hour) is much better and closer the ideal than eight. It is better to aim at the sky and hit an aeroplane than aim at the aeroplane and hit the ground. But there are a good many fortunate people who aim at the aeroplane and hit it, and are quite content.
Each person has his and her own height and limitation of ideals. That really is the fascination and comfort of ideals. Each person only desires a thing within that person's grasp. Ideals are the noble part of ambition. A man who has never held or desired to hold a paint-brush in his hand has no desire to be a famous artist ; and the woman with a happy home - even if it be not a very wealthy one - does not make her ideal to be a queen. One can only make an ideal of something one can see. And all the things that one can see one is able to realise. So the ideal is the real.
Interests often form the beginnings of ideals. Get interested in pictures, and one is working towards an ideal of art - of beauty, for most people see beauty through art. Gradually one begins to see colours, designs, wrong in one's dress, one's house. One says, " I can do something better than that," and one steadily goes straight for the something better. Interest oneself in the fact that goodness is more comfortable and convenient than badness, and one sets out to find goodness. One sees goodness - the ideal
- in the distance, and each sincere thought about it is a rapid stride nearer - though goodness is like the topmost blackberry on the bush, always a little higher than one can reach.
The ideals of marriage have not been reached when the Marriage Service has been read. The wearing of a white satin dress, and the nervous vowing " to love, honour, and obey," is not the ideal's attainment. Too many about-to-be, and just-have-been, married couples imagine that marriage is a goal where it is rightly a gate. There is a very great similarity between a gate and a goal in the distance. One has to go quite close up to it and look at the thing carefully, till one realises " I haven't got there, I am only starting."
A few of the ideals that one wants in marriage are loyalty, the power of overlooking, the right to criticise, self-control, and a guarded temper. It is quite unnecessary to say there are at least a hundred more ; only a few are good to start with.
Other material things that appear to be ideals may be motor-cars, country houses, leisure hours, £20,000 a year, but the realisation of these often brings worry instead of satisfaction, and anxiety instead of happiness, which proves the falseness of the ideal.