It's an accounting term of some sort. I don't know if it's a technical term or just the term we use in our board meetings, but it describes what we 'actually' did with the money as opposed to what we said we'd do in the budget. We also use it to describe how much money 'actually' came in, in contrast to what was expected.
Wendell Berry has always been interested in actuals. He's one of the authors that always reminds me to get up and actually do something - because the solutions to the worlds problems lie, not in grand schemes, but in millions of individuals stepping up and taking actual responsibility in their lives. In a delightful essay, found in a delightful book, he writes, "That will-o'-the-wisp, the large scale solution to the large scale problem, which is so dear to governments, universities, and corporations, serves mostly to distract people from the small, private problems tha they may, in fact, have the power to solve."
This is especially potent in the wake of last night's speech on the state of our country, offered by president Bush. He spoke of grand ideas with respect to energy - and how we will, through technology and R&D tax credits, become a fuel cell based society, and reduce our dependency on foreign oil by 75% over the next twenty years.
This, it seems to me, is precisely the kind of distraction about which Barry warns us: Grand ideas, dependent on someone else's ingenuity and initiative, have the effect of blinding me to the practical things I can do right now - things like taking the bus downtown, and riding my bike to work, and working locally towards safer bike paths, and turning down the thermostat (I like sweaters anyway), and supporting local agriculture so that less of my food comes makes the average 1200 mile journey to my plate, with its commensurate use of fossil fuels. I can take my own bag to the grocery store.
All these things are small. The counter argument goes like this: To make a real difference, such gestures would need to become habits of the whole populace. My response: Precisely- and perhaps we can move in that direction if our leaders cast a vision that calls for personal, small initiatives, rather than simply grand government schemes. Do you want the whole Berry essay? It's "Word and Flesh" beginning on p. 99. But maybe you don't need to read it all... maybe you don't need more thinking planning... maybe you need some actuals - actual conserving, actual hospitality, actual involvement in the well being of your neighborhood. Because it's the actuals, not the plans, that ultimately matter.