About two weeks ago I was sent a formal application for writing for a game review website run by redditors. The creator the website personally messaged me, and probably several dozen others, and I was very excited at the opportunity.
The application page said it might take a week, so, I am assuming at this point that I didnt make the cut. I am not writing this to talk bad about the website or to feel sorry for myself. Actually the application process was a ton of fun to go through and honestly I was extremely energetic while doing it. And I expressed my gratitude to the owner who originally sent me the application.
I wanted to talk today a little about expectations. I think that expectations are sort of like mental flinching. Like a Spidey Sense for the non super hero. Now this may look like a romantic idea of what is one of buddhism’s core focus of cleansing, it actually isn’t. In practice most of us would constantly be jumping, ducking and dodging away from nothing as our Spidey Sense is rather in need of fine tuning. To the observer, most people have their Sense going off way too often and hardly get anything out of its presence.
However, I think that those who pay attention to what expectations can do to people, often conclude that at best expectation should always be low if not non existent.
But what is the point of expectation, is it some weird hold over from our more primitive days? Or does it have a use that we just dont understand yet? Obviously I am more inclined to think the latter.
Can we learn without suffering? Can we understand emotions without disappointment? How does one develop in early life without those things? I suppose there havent been nearly enough small children raised to understand expectations and try and eliminate them in their entirety, but what if there was, what would that look like? Can we look forward to something or feel rewarded adequately without expectations? I think that ideally we could but in practice, at all times?
I should really be talking to some zen masters and the Dali Lama about this as I’m sure they could cut all my questions down and probably would show me that these questions themselves show my own expectation.
It’s said that expectation is the source of all human suffering but I think that it’s actually an incomplete sentence. When put that way, it seems something that is so easily eliminated or taken care of. But when anyone quoting that is asked, it becomes clear fast that even if one were to eliminate all of their own expectation, they’re still subject to the actions and reactions of those around them who still have not been able to as well.
So I would personally like to amend the statement to something that makes it seem far more intrinsic to the way things are in life. Maybe something more along the lines of “All humans suffer from two ailments. Death and expectation. The former is unavoidable, the latter is to be avoided.” It is not nearly as succinct or poetic sounding so I am sure it will never catch on, but the point I’m trying to make still stands: it’s easy to boil the cause of problems down to one thing, but it’s another to actually cure it.
Now, again, I realize many texts have gone into great detail about expectation and its sources and cures, but I think I am more speaking about the general populace here than the practitioner. I wrote a something about expectation not too long ago and I’ve been meaning to get it on here, so here it is, as the conclusion of my blog today, I present to you The Vase Parable
“One day you inherit a vase.
It is a beautiful vase and has so much love and dedication in it; many lifetimes of history to it.
You cherish this vase, put it on a mantle to display proudly to guests and to yourself every time you pass.
You are very careful when handling it and you take good care of it, dusting it and cleaning it regularly.
You get weary of anyone handling it, even yourself.
You think of the days when you pass it down to your own children, think of the stories it will hold in the future.
Months and years go by in this way.
One day while dusting it, it falls off of the mantle and breaks.
You are crushed and very sad. The empty space where it once was reminds you of your failure to take care of it, you let yourself and everyone else down.
So, why do you suffer?
You built routines, thoughts, plans, and events that went against the vase’s nature; subtle expectations.
It is in the vase’s nature to break; it is fragile.
In this way we can take the vase as ourselves and those we know and love around us.
Sentient beings are fragile; it is in their nature to break.
They come and go, they ebb and flow. As the tides. Cherish a single wave and it is gone in an instant.
A broken heart for every crest is an eternity of suffering.
Cherish every moment in this moment.
Do not suffer from future smiles that may be unseen; we do not suffer for every leaf that falls in the forest.
Thinking in any other way than this is delusion.”