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Lowering Expectations

May 17, 2012
Pedestal of Statue of Liberty, cropped and col...

The pedestal: that thing we put great things on for purposes of inspiration and memorialization. (Pedestal of Statue of Liberty, cropped and color-enhanced from Image:DSCN2599.JPG Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently had a rather long and depressing discussion with an acquaintance of mine about what we can expect from others – family, friends, co-workers, the general public.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the rest of humanity. I want to love them but I find they routinely disappoint me. The people I’m closest to I keep around because they’re interesting, funny or useful. Over time, I usually trust them too.

On one side of the aforementioned conversation there was the notion that all of humanity is essentially the same and there wasn’t much that could be done to evolve a person that wasn’t already in their DNA. However, I find that belief depressing. I truly believe, even with all my distrust of humanity, that people have the ability to evolve. We learn and adapt. Sometimes this evolution, usually when it happens blindly, leads us into dark and destructive areas. Whereas, evolution that’s supported with a guiding hand can lead people to a fuller and happier existence.

At various times in my career I’ve managed subordinates. As a supervisor, one of the most relished parts of my job was helping people improve their careers and personal lives. There was no greater joy than seeing someone achieve advanced learning, notoriety or an elevated position, whether inside or outside the company. While I might hate to see someone go, I took pride in knowing that I had been a supportive influence in their lives.

The title of this blog “Tilting at Windmills” and its URL “QuixoticUtopia” are pretty big clues to my psyche. For all my disdain of people, I desperately want to see a world that improves upon each generation. And truthfully, I think it does, though often slowly and painfully. Perhaps the wait and the discomfort are necessary to evolution – societal growing pains, as it were.

All the things we worry about nowadays – damage to Mother Earth, distrust in government, distrust in corporations, distrust of nations, distrust of authority, distrust of each other, none of that’s new. It’s been happening since humans began forming communities. But along with all that negativity came beautiful advances in civil rights, science, faith (yes, faith you liberal horde), art, education, healthcare, politics, and exploration. The world of today, even with all its scars, is exponentially better than 50, 500, 5000, and 50000 years ago (yes, you nutty conservatives, humanity goes back that far).

Of course, looking behind you it’s easy to see improvement. When you’re in the midst of change, mostly you see the pain, tears and heartache. The good times seem fleeting. Perhaps this is just the perspective of middle age. I don’t remember thinking like this in my 20’s, though I do remember a girlfriend constantly pointing out everything wrong in the world. And she had the gall to call ME negative.

But at the end of that earlier conversation, I found myself agreeing with the person I was chatting with and thinking that perhaps I need to lower my expectations. That, in reality, people are simply who they are and I’d be disappointed less often if I didn’t assume people were capable of being better. Or at the very least, I should stop putting certain ones on pedestals.

Um, no.

That’s far too depressing to me. While I probably do give some people too much credit, I don’t want to stop believing in people. Even if that means sometimes those people I put on a pedestal end up slipping off and landing on my head.

Expecting more from people and society is what got us all the better things we have today. I expect people to constantly improve. What’s more, I’ve seen it. I have a host of acquaintances who have become better people over time. And while I certainly know a number who became worse, I’m pretty sure they’re the minority.

Perhaps its just that life gets harder and we become more sensitive as we age. Maybe people grow a harder emotional shell as the years pile on. We find it easier to turn our backs on things that cause pain and therefore we build defense mechanisms – often structured on apathy. Instead of getting mad or sad we say “I don’t care” and convince ourselves to believe it.

I’ve been tilting at windmills for most of my life, I’m not going to stop now. I do expect more from people. I do expect positive change. I believe in evolution of the mind. I believe it’s each person’s job to improve on the society as a whole as well as ourselves, our immediate family and our friends. I’m not going to stop pointing out what I think is wrong and suggest ways to improve things. And I’m going to keep putting people on pedestals who I think are worthy.

Recently Adam Savage from Mythbusters gave a phenomenal Reason Rally speech. The Reason Rally was essentially Woodstock for atheists. Many people think Savage’s speech goes against the teachings of faith, but it actually solidified my faith. I believe what Savage postulates is exactly what God would want from each of us. I believe in science, I believe in God, I believe in people and I believe in doing the right thing for the right reasons.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2012 11:02 AM

    Very well written and I agree with every single word you say! Excellent topic!

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  1. The problem with being a jerk « Tilting At Windmills

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