Brain Food #672

We are not victims of our circumstances, we are victims of our expectations

Thoughts of the day

A thought that often crosses my mind is that we are not victims of our circumstances, we are victims of our expectations.

In one of his short essays, Samuel Johnson wrote of expectations:

“Pleasure is very seldom found where it is sought. Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks. The flowers which scatter their odours, from time to time, in the paths of life, grow up without culture from seeds scattered by chance.”

The notion here, of course, is not that one should not have expectations, but that one should not anticipate all expectations to magically fulfill themselves. What he alludes to is the role that chance plays in bringing what he describes as ‘pleasure’ to one’s life.

Johnson goes on to offer a remedy for expectations: hope. Where expectations spring from an almost unreasonable demand for something to happen, unaware of the workings of the world, but also the thousands of conflicting expectations that exist at any given point in time beyond us, hope shows a desire for some outcomes, but with an understanding of the serendipity of life. To this, I would add the importance of having an active form of hope. Hoping for something to happen without being present is a form of self-betrayal.

And so, we cannot will something into existence, but we can be prepared to make the most of what comes our way. Life can be pleasantly surprising, if we let it.


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