Disclaimer: This is not a commentary on any ongoing issue. It’s just something I wanted to write and I choose to, today.
It surprises me sometimes. How we still tend to believe in the inherent goodness of people and in positive outcomes. This feeling called Hope, and the other feeling called Belief – it keeps us all alive I guess. Else, we’d all probably kill ourselves or each other.
Life has a way of proving you wrong. Sometimes, you believe in the good and then you see the worst in someone. Sometimes you automatically assume everything is going to go your way, and providence mocks you in your face and jeers at your impudence.
Is naivety a word for this kind of hope?
Somehow we expect rapists to feel chastised once they are in prison. We expect that marriages, having happened in heaven, always bring you the person you’re meant to be with. We expect to win – in cricket games, in board rooms, in exams. We expect our bodies to work perfectly till we’re seconds away from death.
People have died in concentration camps. Women have been burnt at the stake, are raped, maimed, thrown acid at. Innocent adults and children are shot at, and killed. Lives snuffed out without any provocation – lives that were cherished and for whom, so many people had so much hope. Viruses evolve over time, fighting to survive and finding new ways to break our immunity. Calamities around the world take out 1000s of people in one instant.
I ask myself these days: Why do I believe in perfect outcomes? Why do I automatically assume things turn out the way I want them to? Why do I outrage or get depressed when people I believed were Jekylls, turned out to be Hydes?
Maybe it was the countless movies where the hero/heroine always won at the end, true love found itself, and good trumped the bad. And children’s books and cartoons – filled with magic and extolling virtues of humaneness.
Over the years of adulthood, I realize that I have stubbornly refused to calibrate the reality of experience.
It’s easy to do that when you are generally successful of course – which I am. I live a charmed life, most of the time :).
But I’m being a bit careful over the years. These days when there’s some event that’s important to me, I check myself against hoping for the best. I remind myself that outcomes maybe positive or negative, and to not be arrogant in expecting good or success automatically. I mentally compute a “minimum threshold of pleasantness”. Something in between good and bad. Something that is “just ok”. I then brave the future knowing fully well that whichever way it turns out, there’s just a small distance between what I expected and what it turned out to be.
Also, I intrinsically trust everyone, especially *me*. Trust them to be good and do the right thing. It’s a good ability and I’m happy to have it because most times, people (even me ;)) are deserving of this and it makes for a lot of hope. But I have also begun to question this. Because I realize it’s a gold-standard of sorts and doesn’t calibrate the reality of humanity: that we have flaws and can behave in unexpected, unpredictable ways. Our choices are influenced by the opportunities we have and our context. Straight paths and predictable behavior is no fun. Wanting this shows an unwillingness to allow life to unfold and present an array of opportunities and to let people – others and me – to choose.
After all, life’s not meant to be “perfect”. It’s expected to be good sometimes, and bad sometimes. People are good and people are bad. Some people are angels and others are demons. There is heaven and hell. All of it on Earth.
Does this – calibration of reality as I called it – make for an easier life? Perhaps. At least I think I’m more realistic now.
Of course, I still believe in humanity, values, virtues, happiness, magic, harmony, goodness, love and God. I just don’t believe that this is all there is.