Thursday, January 25, 2018

Please don't tell me even once more, "Your expectations are too high!"

Man’s reach should exceed his grasp…..
                                 Else what’s a heaven for? (Tennyson)

I am so tired of hearing, “Your expectations are just too high!” from people who have their own high standards, in some phases of their lives, perhaps not in the same phases as I might be expressing.

Damning with faint praise, while simultaneously detaching from really having to fully engage with whatever potential “benchmark” might have been proferred, “because it is too unrealistic” is just another way of patronizing the other. Whether the friction is between two people of opposite gender, as is often the case, or between a parent and child, or between one spouse another, the question of high expectations deserves more than a glancing look.

How do we really know if “expectations are too high” without attempting to implement or realize them? There is a real possibility that the observation, “his expectations are too high” is reverse snobbery, a way of saying “I am not that haughty or arrogant as to envisage that as possible” without acknowledging that clarity to the self.

What if all the artists, composers, politicians, scientists and philosophers had taken the position that the subjects (theses, canvases, manuscripts, tomes, experiments, national railways, moon shots, 3D printers etc.)   of their focus had expectations that were too high….rather than digging more deeply into the complexities of their investigation (indeed their passion) and finding new insights, devices, proposals and propositions that changed history?

Are we to assume that the current reality, no matter the organization, family, government, university, church, or nation is the “best” we can achieve?

OR…are we so committed to “fitting in” with the existing situation and not rocking the boat, because that would alienate us from our peers that we merely “settle” with current reality?

OR …are we realty saying that to change would be so turbulent that it would cause more discomfort than the change would be worth?

OR…are we saying, ‘ we have worked hard to get this far, so anyone who ruffles our situation, by an implicit or explicit critique, is not respecting our history, and our accomplishments and our hard work?

OR.. are we saying, “I had more energy a few decades ago, and now I am happy to accept things the way they are because I really don’t have the energy to participate in change?

OR….are we saying, “That idea is so far fetched that it represents an approach worthy of being categorized as irresponsible?” as a way of dismissing what we consider too radical, for our taste, without even pausing to reflect and to speculate on its merits.
I once recall hearing in a secondary school staff room, some quarter century ago, “You know the teachers’ pension fund would do well to purchase Maple Leaf Gardens and the hockey team bearing the same name!” The guffahs of ridiculing laughter could be heard several yards down the hall, given the judgement of those within earshot that this was one of the most absurd ideas to come along in their lifetimes. Funny how decades later, that same pension fund DID purchase a large block of shares in Maple Leaf Entertainment and  turned a considerable profit/dividend for their members. Expectations too high eh?

And then there was the  proposed field trips across Canada, for a  grade thirteen Canadian Literature class, deemed to be “reaching for the sensational” by the principal who turned down the idea, all the while making specific arrangements for his own trip with the senior band to Great Britain. And just who was “reaching for the sensational”?
And recently, there were the proposals to host an all day high school band competition in a newly built hockey arena, providing an opportunity for several hundred students to listen to bands they might never hear, while also offering the musicians and their faculty conductors a chance to perform in a real live concert, with adjudication. “Too risky” and “too costly”….mainly because it had never been tried before by a stuffy, pretentious and fossilized Kiwanis music festival.

And there was the suggestion that a high school in America undertake to perform a popular musical theatre production of Jesus Christ Superstar…only to be met with the retort, “We could never do that!” by one of the grade ten students….who added, “Maybe we might present a single scene from the show!” Expectations too high again, eh?

And then there was the middle manager who believed and who offered his belief to upper management that a combined postal route would be too much for a single operator….only to express shock and surprise some four years into the successful operation of the combined route. Expectations too high again, eh?

And then there was the energetic recommendations with specifics, to develop a worshipping community, only to be met with “I don’t think there are many people in the group who would be interested in developing community!” without so much as a question like “Well, just how might that be introduced and tested, before being rejected outright!

We are the prisoners of our own repressed expectations in so many situations and our families, our schools, our communities, our churches and our nations are the less for our “repressions”.


If any faith is to have meaning, purpose, value and transformative impact on our lives, surely it would be to enhance our courage, capacity, openness, and even vulnerability to test our best and our highest expectations. It is not at attempt to be or to compete with God, but rather a sense that our best expectations have at least a minimal chance of aspiring to our best angels, and to letting our meagre light out from under its bushel.

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