Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's cool by the Pool - right? [COLUMN]

The Weight of Expectation - by Nick van der leek

Have you heard the epithet - what you see is what you get? Have you ever considered the deeper meaning. In other words, not literally in what you see sweeping before your irises, but what you see in your minds' eye? What we see is a construct of our own thoughts, ideas, reinforcements, and crucially, the process that we consent to - that we acknowledge - to inform ourselves either of who we are, or what something is.

You might describe life as a struggle, or a war, or an adventure, or a mystery, or as magic, or an evil stratagem? Whatever your definition - this informs, in fact this governs your everyday expectations, some of which may be reinforced by reality and experiences. But how much do these labels we create for ourselves and our world actually stimulate phobias, depression, habit disorder, psychosomatic illnesses, learning disorders? I would argue, a great deal.

What you see, you see, is entirely up to you. You may need a little help gaining perspective on your own vision of things, but intellectually it is simple enough a case to state and comprehend. Take the image below as an example. What do you see? No really, imagine what the image represents?

This image could represent the first thing someone who has been in a coma for 20 years sees. And thus a moment of awakening, rebirth. It could be the eyes of an old person removing his or her glasses. In fact it is an image representing a story on massive myopia [near sightedness] in America. Based on large scale texting, based on young people not venturing outside often any more and thus infrequently seeing far into the distance. Notice how far apart the three conjectures are above. Even so, the image itself is quite an attractive blue image. It is not necessarily positive or negative until we associate it with a story.

In the movie AUSTRALIA someone says: All a man has is his story. Your story is entirely up to you.

Magazine covers are perfect example of artificially creating a weight of expectation. The cover suggests that we will find some insights that will prove to be decisively useful. In fact, much of what we find in magazines we could dream up ourselves. 101 ways to dump your girlfriend. 50 ways to ask someone on a date. It's simply a conversation of ideas but presented in a way that solicits our expectations.

One of the articles in the magazine above is: WHY IT'S NOT COOL TO GET STONED ANYMORE. That is someone's opinion. Almost everything in magazines is exactly that. How much time do you spend soaking up the opinions and expectations of others? This is completley different to finding real knowledge, facts, through firsthand experience.

Now consider the image below: Consider the possibilities...

If this plume comes from a rocket headed to the moon, or a nuclear armed missile flying towards Iran - well, our perceptions, our expectations are entirely different. So to the image below. Do we assume from it that the debate has gone well, or that it has failed? This expectation might be stimulated by a headline, or by our own cultural exposures [a comment someone has recently made, a headline we have seen, a host of thoughts either denying Climate Change exists or proving - in our minds - that it does]. But what is true? It's simply an image of a man talking Copenhagen. We can't tell what he is saying. The story is entirely in our own minds. It always is. But we decide whether to open our mind to secondary thoughts, to adopt or hijack untested information as make this our story. This is a recipe for incongruency and unhappiness.

The image below asks us to choose whether to be positive about the prospects of South Africa hosting the 2010 World Cup, or else critical of the shortcomings. Our expectations provide the answer. Once again, what we see may not be as relevant to what is actually happening, but what we feel, or want, or fear happening. It is our expectation that leads our thought processes.

For these reasons and more, expectations are ruinous, and damaging. Expectations seldom inform us accurately or positively - in a consumer culture expectations are based on one strategy, and that is to stimulate what we want [expectations] sufficiently in order to make a sale. But what happens after that? What about the dissonance when the promised sense of well-being simply isn't there?

The other aspect of expectation is that essentially it's a learned response. We learn our expectations from the expectations of others. Those expectations become our own. As such, these inner computations are secondary thoughts. They are not our own.

Now we come to the crux of the matter. Whenever you read anything, or listen to someone talking, you are exposed to their expectations, their thoughts. To the extent that you believe or take on board these second hand impressions, you fill your reservoir with the ideas and influences of others.

And so you move further and further from knowing your own thoughts, knowing your own instincts, your own gut reactions. How much time do you spend alone, experiencing reality, listening to your experience of life?

Our happiness or unhappiness depends largely to what extent we inform the daily process of our lives with expectations. Let's be clear, even the expectations we have of ourselves are really the learned expectations of others. What is the solution then? To listen to our inner voices. To ignore secondary thoughts and expectations. Expectation is something like being competitive. Or seeing everything, especially ourselves, in comparison to something else. Thus one is always less attractive, less wealthy, more or less of something or something else. In other words, never adequate. In other words, never at a state of rest, of completeness. This peaceful and harmonious state is available at any time. It doesn't have to be earned, or achieved through some performance. At any time we can connect into the present and enjoy the magic and beauty and the light of the eternal present.

Expectations, the thoughts of others, are the noise that interrupts this holy communion between ourselves and the universe. One way to get away from the noise is to go into nature, by yourself. Or else to exercise. Meditation can work but it may not be a far enough separation from your world to restore you.

Expectations pave a path to unhappiness and discontent. That is not to say we may not dream and hope for something in the future. We must - but we need to be generous and flexible, and allow the universe to be what it is, and allow ourselves to be what we are, or to become what we will become. Having expectations imposes a false rigidity on what is essentially an organic, evolving system. Why should it pay any attention to the clamour in our heads?

To EXPECT certain outcomes is judging reality in a way that cordons it off, the solidifies it, that judges and distorts and that can only create delusions of certainty, and self-inflicted pain, since the universe is constantly changing whatever our expectations. The opposite of expectation is gratitude, and even acceptance. We choose to find these deep within ourselves, when we cathect with the world around us. This can happen as water flows over our hands, as we feel sunshine on our faces, as we listen to the beauty of birdsong between murmurs of traffic. As we simply give in - accept what life is. It is when we fall into the realisation that we are alive, now, and that this represents something that has nothing to do with expectations, nothing to resist, but instead, everything to do with listening, living, and acceptance, then we begin to flow with the flow of life. That is a much better place to be as energy is freed up, and creativity, and of course, joy, happiness and abundance.

Incidentally, the ethos of religion is full of expectation. Of a life after death, of rewards in heaven, of punishments for transgressions, of a certain immortal procedure. These expectations remain unfulfilled - in real terms - for much of our lives, and perpetuate our unhappiness. Without fear and unhappiness and an expectation to 'solve' these, there would be no religion. Religion reinforces all three - fear, unhappiness [via guilt] and the promise of salvation [solving our dilemma voyeuristically].

My suggestion then is simply this: abandon secondary thoughts. Find your own thoughts and listen to them. And remember, what you see is what you choose to see, so monitor your thoughts, listen to your own words, and be the fortune teller of your own story.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic article - printed it to read again to periodically remind myself.

Nick van der Leek said...

glad this helped you