Sunday, May 20, 2007

great expectations

remember back in the day, when 'sheep go to heaven' was like 'homestarrunner' was back in the day? when there were updates on a regular basis. lately, 'sheep go to heaven' has been like 'homestarrunner' has been lately, new material coming forth at irregular intervals.
i miss those good old days.

a handful of weeks ago, my roommate mark commented about 'the office'. he observed that michael [steve carell] is so often disappointed, frustrated, or upset because his expectations are too high. i think i was making a sandwich at the time and, while i momentarily gave more thought to the insight than to my peanut butter, i soon returned to my lunch as we began another episode.

this idea of over-developed expectations has stayed with me and has proved to quite profound.
consider how many moments in our own lives we become discouraged, angry, or depressed because things didn't turn out how we wanted them to. we wanted our family to go to the park and to laugh and play in the daisies beneath the sun; we wanted to come to college and have memorable roommates and stories of zany adventures; we wanted to be the most amazing employee our company has ever experienced.

what encouraging is that i have had fun memories with my family; i have had some fun experiences with many roommates who have also become very close friends. but it didn't happen the way i imagined it would, and it certainly didn't happen immediately.

the advertising world is based largely on the idea of extraordinary expectations. when i go out with my visa card, i expect i can buy things. but the new credit card commercials now tell me that if i go out shopping, i won't just get the sweet pair of pumas, i will get all of my worries and sadnesses whisked away; that this credit card will give me precisely what i'm missing in my persuit of happyness.
yes, it is fun to buy new things. my 'best of david bowie' cd turned out to be very good choice in the midst of a weekend full of changes. i'm glad i bought it [even after i found out there was an even better 2-disc set]. but what has felt even better is what the commercials don't tell you to expect at all: paying off my credit card debt. that felt good.

socially, it is very easy follow over-inflated expectations. we look at others and see them laughing with people and presume any number of things; that they must all be very close and dear friends, that they have more fun, that they call each other and go upscale shopping or hangliding everyday, or whatever it may be. then, we who have several good friends, suppose that we do not have good friends, or that we do not have enough or do enough, pushing our perspective of what is desired of us higher and further from us.

i've been reading a biography of thomas jefferson, and even that alone has been enlightening. when i visited the jefferson memorial last fall, i was struck with historical stars of awe at the work he did. thinking about what jefferson and the other great founding fathers achieved, i soon found myself thinking of them as being perfect, saying all the right things at all the right times. reading this book has shown that jefferson preferred to be quiet and ponderous, that he faults and shortcomings, but worked to elminate them and accomplished many great things in spite of them.
on a more specific point, the 'gentlemanly' class of the era [those who had acchieved a level of financial fortitude such that they did not have to work] were excessively concerned with appearing carefreely wealthy, purchasing luxury to show that they could, as they slid further under debt.

is this leading to a philosophy of 'can't win, don't try'? heck no. i very much agree with the idea to 'commit yourself to excellence', even as i struggle to live it. but there is a significant difference between expecting something to be good, and wanting it to be the most amazing thing you and/or your friends/complete strangers have ever experienced. hoping for your date to be endlessly romantic will most likely leave you lying on the couch at home afterward, wondering what went wrong. looking forward to a fun evening will probably bring you home with a good attitude, and maybe even a spring in your step.

true it is also, that we will most often not exceed our goals, so that the high we set our goals, the more we will accomplish, even if we do not meet our goals, but that's not what this is about.

...half the time, i imagine my these blog postings to someday be read alongside thoreau. or at least published and sold at barnes & noble...


Jack said...

I must say that I've enjoyed your recent posts. I was experiencing a little bit of Sheep Go to Heaven withdrawals. Not to mention seeing my own face on your blog was quite an honor.

I appreciate your pursuit of excellence. Indeed, i'm brought to ponder on my own goals--lofty or not--which is something I haven't done in too long of a time.

how funny that high expectations can lead to great disappointment, but are the very seeds of great and bounteous trees. Sometimes I don't know where the difference in outcome is founded, but I guess you never know if your seed will grow until you really nourish it. If it grows, then great. But if not...

Sorry if that sounds preachy at all, I just feel inspired.

Thanks Manfriend.

Anonymous said...

Interesting...I'm reading about how the Declaration of Independence came to be.. weird.

I can't wait to purchase one of your books at Barnes and Noble.
umm.. BOO-YAH!


Leith said...

I think your book should be entitled "Deep thoughts - by Jefferson Gustafson". I also think that it is a sign that you're reading a biography of someone who lived up to the awesomeness of your name.
And thats all.

Em said...

Nothing is as simple, or as easy as it appears. Funny, that.