A roommate and I drove to Harlan, Iowa to visit some of his family in 1982. Felix warned me that his uncle was not a very practical man. That is the only fact that I remember about the relative.
There is only one place in his home, I remember, the kitchen. It had a dark blue color scheme. The ceiling was covered with blue Mylar sheeting. The cupboards had been painted an almost black shade of blue. The floor and walls were covered in deep blue shag carpeting. The only note of practicality was the faux-walnut counter top.
Because he had obviously spent a great deal of money to outfit his kitchen, I asked the uncle what sort of cooking he specialized in. He answered, that he never used the kitchen because cooking would mess it up. He said that ever since the remodeling, he was forced to dine out. The vision of that kitchen has often come to mind whenever someone brings up the topic of practicality.
We humans often forget to look before we leap. The lapse of good judgment can cause us to do some rather silly things. Often, we have to work around some of our biggest flubs. The case of that uncle is just one example.
Most of us regard a kitchen as the place where cooking and cleaning take place. The room is the heart of the home. It’s the safe, practical place of refuge for family and friends. When we want to be “real”, we can retreat to the kitchen, the most practical of places.
I think it’s OK to be impractical sometimes, as long as it doesn’t interfere with ones ability to be generous and helpful to oneself and family. There should be a buffer zone of practicality in place. A comfortable, safe home environment is a good place to return to when risky behavior turns out badly. This point of view is the most conservative opinion that I hold.
While I’m not nearly as impractical as Felix’s uncle, I often need to remind myself of the value of pragmatism and practicality. After spending a lot of mental time with my head in the clouds, it’s good to come down to Earth and once again focus on creating balance and calm. I can create comfort, in practical ways, by making a small repair around the house, or preparing a simple, wholesome meal.
There is also the danger of becoming too focused on the practical aspects of life. Many of us place pragmatism and career ahead of family and relationships. Some people find out too late that becoming overly consumed in the practical side, and work, has had a severely detrimental impact on their lives. The intention to concentrate on career may have been to keep the focus temporarily. However, temporary practice soon can become habitual and long term.
This focus on work is more of a hazard in today’s unstable economy. Fewer people are assured of a traditional, secure, full-time job. Greater numbers of us must work more than one part-time job to make ends meet. The hours fluctuate and the workers can be downsized at the whim of our employers. The result is more time and worry spent on work and less quality time to share with loved ones. The effort to reestablish balance is often so difficult that some people give up trying to do so. There is no room for an actual “reality check”. Job performance and family stability both suffer, as a result.
Some people over compensate the other way. You might know, or be someone who overdoes the domestic side of life. There are the very good intentions to care, clean, cook, and look after the people you love. You feel a deep desire to cook meals and wash the laundry at the expense of other aspects of your personal life. There comes a time when others need to take up the slack. They need to be accountable for their own maintenance. The practical solution is to stop neglecting oneself and let your loved ones take on some responsibility.
A person might be a dreamer or a pragmatist. The trick is to find a healthy balance between the impractical and the overly pragmatic points of view. The practical way is to enjoy a little of both lifestyles. This is another manner in which life is enhanced by paying attention to our thoughts and actions.
The practical can be beautiful. The beautiful can also be practical. The good life depends upon our honest, mindful intentions.