Friday, January 16, 2015

Disappointing Dreams

    As I posted to Facebook earlier this week, last weekend was a tough one for folks in Denver.  With a good season behind them, and Peyton Manning at the helm (not to mention a strong desire to erase the memory of last year's Super Bowl debacle), Denver Broncos fans dreamt that they would be "United in Orange" on the field again this upcoming Sunday.  The first drive seemed to fuel that hope.  But things went awry, horribly so.
     And, then, on Monday, for Webfoot fans, the dream of a national collegiate football championship was strong.  A potent hurry-up offense fatigued opponents all year.  Duck defenders kept getting the ball back for Heisman Award (and all the other awards possible) winner, Marcus Mariota.  The University of Oregon seemed poised to walk away with the trophy.  But the Ducks ran into the Bucks, who had a running back like a Truck (Ezekiel Elliot)!  (This faithful alum as blocked the final score from his memory.)     To quote singer/song-writer Neil Diamond (or the Monkees, or Shrek's Donkey/Smash Mouth):  "Disappointment haunted all my dreams".
     I've been around long enough to have a lot of dreams disappointed, certainly not all related to sports!  But, given the double-whammy of these "significant" foiled dreams, I began to think about the nature of disappointment.  The feeling is certainly a universal feature of human experience, so you'd think we'd learn!  But, how many times do I remember hearing "Don't get your hopes up . . .  That way you won't be disappointed"!  And I just got an email about his experience from a student who was interviewing for graduate school, "I tend to not think I did well when I interview, so I can never really tell."      Some responses to disappointment try to put a 'happy face' on the experience: "Disappointments are just God's way of saying 'I've got something better.'"  Other responses seem to tend more toward the cynical:  "The best way to avoid disappointment is not to expect anything from anyone." or "Expecting is my favorite crime and disappointment is always my punishment."  Probably the most accurate (at least to me) are those that reflect the sentiment: “Disappointment is just the action of your brain readjusting itself to reality after discovering things are not the way you thought they were" (Brad Warner).*      That cannot imply, however, that we should stop imagining things that are not the current reality.  All of our religious traditions recognize that the world in which we live is imperfect -- or put another way, the world in which we live is not the world we created to run by our rules.  Those traditions, however, all provide prescriptions for dealing with this reality.  The prescriptions differ, to be sure, but the end goal is the same:  to make things better.  Giving up is NOT a viable option in any of them.  Whether it's "healing the world" (Judaism) or working "so that all sentient beings are free from suffering" (Buddhism), we have to act for the benefit of all. 
      Next Monday we honor a man who refused to let disappointment derail his dreams, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  On this subject he wrote:  "There can be no disappointment where there is no deep love."**  I would hope that we can honor that legacy, despite events that might lead us to despair and disengagement.  The "deep love" of which he speaks--depp love for our fellow humans, and for the planet -- needs to drive us ahead!
      [That said . . . . 


*Confession:  I found all of these quotations while looking for the cute little picture above!  that said, I've heard variations on ALL of them over the years!
** from the "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

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