Monday, July 15, 2019

#196 / Great Expectations

I truly love Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. To make a more comprehensive (and accurate) statement, I love everything by Charles Dickens! I love everything he ever wrote. In this blog posting, however, I am not revisiting one of Dickens' greatest novels, I am just comandeering its title. 

It is my belief that most of us, most of the time, act in the way that we think others are expecting us to act. That is not always true, of course, but I do think it is true for the most part, and that it is true most of the time. 

If I am right about that, then it is really important for each one of us to have "great expectations." That is, we should assume that good things are supposed to happen, that good things can happen, that good things, in fact, will happen, and that people will act honorably and decently as they attempt to achieve all those good things. To the extent that society expects this, the chances of that being true increase dramatically. 

Because people don't, always, act honorably and decently, and because good things don't always happen, we can fall into a pattern of expecting the worst, not the best. I definitely think that this is the approach that many are taking to our contemporary politics. Our president helps reinforce the idea that we should always expect the worst! The president definitely does not act the way that people have long expected a president to act. This fact has been noted by innumerable columnists. The pundits ponder on what to do about it. 

I suggest that we demand of ourselves that we have great expectations. That is something that we can do about it. I have always liked the title of another book, by writer and educator James Herndon

If we want things to be the way they are supposed to be, then we need to let everyone know that this is exactly what we expect! This is exactly what we demand. That nothing else will be acceptable!

When we think about the politics that define our common life together, we need to have great expectations - and we should expect that our great expectations will be fulfilled.

One more thing! We need to have great expectations of ourselves, too. That may be the most important part!

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