Punchinello’s Chronicles

October 18, 2008

Living with Expectations

Filed under: View from the Bottom — Punchinello @ 2:11 am
Tags: , , , ,

These days, we get flooded with New Age ideas and books, all about having a positive attitude, expecting things, wishing for things, or whatever other way to make life better. What’s interesting to me is the nuances.

So many times people can hear the exact same sentence, yet two people will interpret that sentence 180-degrees opposite from each other. That’s just bizarre! You’d think that a language would be better designed than that! On the other hand, then there wouldn’t be enough words and life would be boring.

Have you used that expression, “I look for the best but expect the worst?” It’s supposed to be the realistic way of going through life. But it’s also a sort of sorry excuse from the cynics with a nod toward maybe life not always going wrong. If you believe at all in the power of the mind and imagination, then expecting the worst will get you the worst.

What does it matter if you’re “looking for” the best? You can’t be looking all that hard if you already expect the worst, right?

If we reverse that, I think it makes much more sense: “I look for the worst, but expect the best.” That, to me, indicates that I just assume things will work out okay, but I do keep an eye out for what might go wrong.

It comes down to understanding expectations and having a process or philosophy in mind that accounts for luck, poetry, magic, but also pragmatic reality, logic, analysis, and mild skepticism. See, that’s the thing: We don’t have to believe in anything at all. But we can go through life with a sense of poetry or go through life dull as a rock.

You hear about a possible job opening. It’d double your previous salary, and there’s a house included. What do you do? A lot of people will say they don’t want to talk about it in case they “jinx” it. That’s expecting bad luck.

Then there are the folks who say, “I don’t want to get my hopes up because likely nothing will come of it.” Well isn’t THAT positive! That’s expecting the worst.

Although not as many, there still are plenty of folks who’ll say, “Wow, would THAT be cool! I can hardly wait to hear what happens, and if I get the job. And what the hell, if nothing comes of it so what? I’m none the worse for wear.”

Ah, but you see the cynics and pessimists — the realists — they’ll say that only a fool builds up expectations. The frustration and disappointment when nothing happens are worse than having no expectations at all. Come to think of it, there’s a whole religion based around that. I think it’s Buddhism.

How much are dreams worth? Is it better to go through life never hoping or dreaming of amazing things? What about the studies of concentration camp prisoners during WWII, showing that those who died almost always were the ones with no hope and no expectation that they’d make it through alive.

Hope is an amazing thing. It rests on the foundation of an organized universe. It assumes that when everything has failed and it looks as if it’s about time to die, “something” will change. Even the smallest change in a situation can provide an opportunity. It doesn’t have to do that, it just might provide such an opportunity. So hope is keeping an eye out for changes of any kind.

I look for the worst, just so I don’t get blindsided. But I expect the best. Many times I have no idean whatsoever how I’m going to accomplish something I have in mind. So? I’ll keep an eye out for opportunities, talk with folks, and kick the pebbles around. Who knows what’ll turn up when I move one of those pebbles?

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