Thursday, November 7, 2013

Shark Fins Sighted in the Waters of Expectation

The probability favors you having some sort of expectation at any given moment.  Perhaps the probability is of little or nothing emerging on the horizon of event.  Or perhaps there is a likelihood of something--anything--being repeated, as in routine.

With such possible exceptions as characters from Samuel Beckett plays, individuals without expectation of any sort at all are a distinct minority.  Even though Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for the eponymous Godot of Beckett's Waiting for Godot, we soon become aware we will be left to our own wits to decide who, in fact, Godot is.  We are also as unclear as Vladimir or Estragon when and where they are to meet Godot much less which tree the tree specified by Godot as the meeting place is in actuality.

Because we are made cynical through our immersion in story, we begin early on to suspect there are few if any answers coming.  Rather, we are being presented with a dramatization of the ambiguity, vagueness, and meaning of life as demonstrated by the vagueness of the main elements within the story.  These vague or missing elements may be argued to be a portion of Beckett's intended emotional payoff for the play.

You know for a fact that you'd attended a reading of the play with the agenda of following up on a particular young woman who'd caught your interest.  You knew she would be at the reading.

You had no idea this first introduction to the play would have such a profound effect on you even though, by then, you'd come to a face-to-face encounter with your short patience fuse.

Not far into the reading of the first act, you were estimating how far you'd have to walk to get home because you'd been foolish enough to agree to go with one of the individuals scheduled to read a part in the play.

What follows is also a comment on your own priorities and attitudes as they related to the young lady you'd hoped to become friends with and your then growing intransigent reaction to the Beckett play.  After a few minutes more of the reading, particularly that of your friend Jack, portraying Estragon, you were quits with the notion of absorbing the Beckett play.  This was followed in rapid succession by your awareness that you'd have to delay your expectations as they related to the young lady.

In addition, Victor, whom you were on the narrow side of disliking, had seen and was honing in on the young lady.  To add to the growing sense of disaster, she was appearing to like Victor's attentions.  

A few more lines of Jack-as-Estragon and Beckett-as-Beckett had you up on your feet, thinking the considerable walk ahead of you would be a way of walking off your impatience and frustration.  With a last look at the young lady, leaning in to hear some bon mot from Victor, you made your way to the door.

Seconds later, you were out on the street.  These events took place in the days where you were still smoking.  Not an enormous amount.  Still, smoking is smoking.  You popped a filterless Camel in your mouth, lit up, then drew in a lung full of smoke.

"Hey,"  a voice called.  "Hold that match."

It was the young lady, wanting a cigarette, unimpressed with Victor, Jack-as-Estragon, and for that matter, with Beckett.  She, too, had come with a friend.  On the walk to your car, the bonding began.  These events seemed to you circle about the lack of expectations as dramatically expressed by your own early experiences with Beckett, he who had in effect expected from his work nothing so much as a failure upon which he sought--and accomplished--improvement.

You are at this moment attempting to see how expectations is a form of rudder, determining your course and the course of characters you hope to create, of characters you have created, and of the characters you read of in the works of other writers.

So far, you see at least a shark fin or two in the waters of expectations leading to a repetition of routine, of ideas, of boundaries.  Your reasoning here is that you are growing; why shouldn't your expectations grow in some relationship to your expectations?  That being the case, your expectations should be for openness to discovery. Perhaps routine in expectations is all right if the potential to openness to awareness and discovery is built in.

You used to report directly to a man who was in politics and philosophy a hundred eighty degrees away from yours.  His expectations were always to be disappointed.  His theory was that he could apologize when he was wrong, confident he would have few apologies to make.

Your success with him came, you believe, from your resolve to always cause him to apologize to you.  To be sure, there were times when he would call you into his office, ask you to shut the door, then produce some bill of particulars relative to some level of performance or non-performance on your part.

Those were few times, but such was your relationship with this man that you found those bills of particulars, all based on his pessimist approach, instructive in your personal and professional life.  The times when he called you in to apologize were increasing.  One day, having apologized to you, he gave you a "Some day this--"  a wave of his hand about the office, ending at the windows that looked out at a splendid view of the Channel Islands--"will all be yours."

You had not expected that.  A few months later, he called you into his office to apologize one final time before telling you of his approaching retirement and his suggestion that you be moved to his office.  At his retirement party, he gave you expectations of another sort.  "A year,"  he said, speaking of the probability you would come to the breaking point with the publisher, from whom he had insulated you.

Your approach is the one of the optimist, in the face of the number of things you've seen, originated, participated in, come to grief.  You still believe things can work, can be made to work if they falter.  You dream, imagine, concoct, all in the belief they will somehow work.  They will require effort, determination, humor, persistence.  But they will work.

You apologize when you are wrong; the former boss apologized when he was right.

You walk as tall as you can in the direction of believing more things work than do not, more persons are happy than not, more stories effective than not, more sunsets spectacular than not.  In some ways, you are a grouchy curmudgeon, but only for so long as it takes to understand and come to love the man who bequeathed to you his office and an expectation.  The rest of the time, you are you, striving for stories out of reach.

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