Four Minute Essays, Volume 2 ©1919
The Fanatic And The Idealist
WHAT is the difference between the idealist and the fanatic? Simply this, that in the fanatic is a "missing link." He fails to connect his knowledge of what ought to be with his knowledge of what is.
The most beautiful of fanatics is probably the anarchist. I do not mean the depraved creatures who have no idea of what anarchy really is, and only borrow the word to cover their irresponsible vicious instincts; they have no more right to the name of anarchist than a bloody inquisitor of the year 1200, pouring molten lead into a heretic's ear, had a right to call himself a Christian.
I mean the apostles of the vision that the ideal condition of the race is that of having no outward law, each man being a law unto himself.
This will undoubtedly be mankind's millennial condition. It is in line with the scriptural prophecy that the days shall come when the laws shall no more be written upon tablets, but the Lord shall write them upon our hearts.
Now, as long as one has this vision, believes it, and works toward it, yet recognizes the facts and imperfections of humanity as it really is today, and seeks to connect his dream with actual conditions, he is an idealist, and does us all good.
But when he is so drunk with his vision that he tells us to smash all existing society, and that we are utterly rotten and hopeless, he is a fanatic. He forgets that whatever the future of the race is to be it must grow out of the present.