- - Saturday, September 20, 2014

Changing the things we can change requires not only courage but also vision. We need to have a sense not only of where we are but also of where we are going.

When Michelangelo, one of the greatest sculptors of all time, stood before a huge block of marble, he didn’t just start chipping away with his chisel to see what would happen. He first would form an idea in his mind of what he wanted the sculpture to look like. He always had in his mind’s eye the final result he was looking for. He would make sketches and then project his idea onto the marble, chipping away everything that was “covering up” his masterpiece. That is where the Pietà, the Moses, and the David came from. They existed first in Michelangelo’s mind, and then in the marble.

Changing things about ourselves or the world in which we live requires a vision, an idea of what we are looking for. We can’t simply start hacking away to see what happens. Just as Michelangelo could already “see” the finished statue in the marble before he began sculpting it, we need to envision ourselves and our society as they could be. Our world is the marble we are commissioned to sculpt.

As much as we need realism, which allows us to see things the way they are, we also need idealism, which allows us to see things the way they could be. Both are necessary.

Realism keeps our dreams in check, but idealism stretches us to look beyond what has been done so far in order to pursue what has yet to be accomplished. Realism is important, because it keeps us from living in a fictional world. It saves us from the disappointment of chasing after unreachable goals. But without idealism, realism takes us nowhere. Idealism challenges us to go beyond the status quo and pushes us higher and farther.

We Americans are tremendously proud of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (yes, “Reverend” and not just “Doctor”!) and all he accomplished for civil rights in our country. By his own admission, he was able to do this by communicating a vision to others. He could look ahead at a different sort of world, a more just and caring world, and his vision was contagious. He was able to describe it in a compelling way so that people could almost see this new world, the way he did. Despite violent opposition, his vision prevailed.

All of us are familiar with that amazing speech he gave on August 28, 1963. It began with those awesome words: “I have a dream.” Reverend King then painted a picture of a different world in words so articulate that when we hear them today we can still see the world he imagined.

“I have a dream,” he said, “that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”

His dream went further. He dreamed “that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.” And his dream became even more concrete still, imagining “that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This was the legacy he left to our country.

Our dreams may not extend as far as Reverend King’s. Maybe we don’t have a master plan for our society. Maybe we don’t see so clearly where we need to go to attain a more just and free world. But surely we can envision a better version of ourselves, a better future for our families. And this vision is essential in order to change the things we can.

Have you ever imagined your very best self? Where do you see yourself in five years? If you could change just one thing about yourself, what would it be? If your spouse, or someone close to you, could change just one thing about you, what would it be? Courageous change requires forming a vision. A prayer for it may go something like this:

Heavenly Father, compared to you, I am so shortsighted.

Expand my vision so that I can see myself and the world

as you do. Help me to be more reflective about where I

am and where I need to go. Give me the courage to form

and execute a holy vision.

Father Jonathan Morris is a Roman Catholic priest, a Fox News Contributor, and author of the new book, “The Way of Serenity”, from which this was excerpted. 

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