Our neighbors in Cloverleaf Vista are back from vacation. They were having a post-mortem at our barbecue. Everything went wrong again this year: it rained, the fish didn’t bite, the flies did, the twins had the mumps, the car side-swiped a frozen custard truck when the trailer hitch broke.

Peter Peiper, who will be a junior at Mortarford College, ventured to explain that this was just a case of IFD. General semantics, he said, shows that we escape from reality by symbolic thinking. The American vacation is an example of idealization. All winter we dream of vacation bliss. Comes the vacation reality and the discrepancy fills us with frustration. The cycle is Idealization, Frustration, Disintegration. Unrealistic ideals always end in despair.

About half way through these observations it began to rain; in the regrouping on the porch, only Mrs. Peiper, Pastor Peterson, and I remained in Peter’s seminar.

The pastor remarked that we suffer from a bankruptcy of ideals rather than an overstock. He took issue with the view that ideals were only carrots to be dangled at a calculated distance from the donkey’s nose. The cynical philosophy that makes all ideals adjustable is disillusionment made permanent. If the way out of despair were the reduction of our hopes, Buddhism would hold the key to mental health; kill off desire and find bliss in unconsciousness!

Peter protested that semantics recognizes the usefulness of realistic ideals, but Pastor Peterson was now in full sermonic form. “Usefulness of ideals!” he snorted. “An ideal isn’t a technique, it’s a standard. We need to know that we must be holy, in the image of God. That drives us to total despair, but there is the gate of repentance and faith.”

It developed that the pastor had ...

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