I like words. Often I look up definitions and etymologies to try and gain a better understanding of all that a word has to offer. This morning I am thinking of expectation and anticipation. I’m not sure there’s much difference between the two–in fact expect is in the definition for anticipate. But I ramble too much too soon.
Near the beginning of the pandemic I would spend a good amount of time down at the river or by the pond at the college. During that time I began to think about how everything is addition. I took the position that subtraction wasn’t really real. I don’t know much about physics or Einstein etc, but I think it may be true that matter never really goes away. It may turn into energy or something, but it never really gets subtracted. Perhaps black holes or anti-matter does or will reveal something different, but for my argument I’m going with it.
This line of thinking was brought back to the top of my mind when my daughter posted a thank you to me for teaching her about addition for my bday on Insta. 🙂 So it started swirling around, and during a wonderful conversation in my 4th period Cohort B Civics class, I introduced this subject to the students.
The premise I offered was that as wild and upside down as things seem, and as much as we long for things to be ‘back to normal’ that they haven’t actually missed out on anything. High School football season in the fall has happened for years and years and years, and there are great memories associated with all aspects. But we didn’t miss out on football season this fall. I mean it’s not like it happened and somehow we didn’t get to be a part of it. It didn’t happen. We expected it. Anticipated it. But it wasn’t. So it was a new thing–something different than we had expected, but it wasn’t taken away. Rather the twist that was brought to us thanks to Covid of one way halls and masks and debate and division about all the protocols etc… those things did happen. Maybe not what we hoped for or wanted, but they happened. They were. And all of these things add to our existence. To our perception and understanding of life.
Expectations can be ok. They can be great. Planning for what we expect or anticipate in the future in terms of finances or doing well in school in order to unlock further educational doors and career pathways can be positive things. I love to anticipate trips and concerts and get togethers and even going out to eat. That anticipation adds a sweetness to the days. I love a good countdown. 335 days til our 9th annual Hilton Head trip. 116 days til my wife and I celebrate 20 years! See? A good countdown is fantastic!
After all there are patterns of life. The sun keeps on ‘rising’ as we spin through the galaxy. We all settle into habits and routines from which we can assume behaviors about ourselves and each other. I think you get the point. And as always, I am processing this by typing down the words. Maybe I’ll revise and extend my words at some point.
I expect to keep on living. I expect that I will have food to eat tomorrow. That I will have a job. That I will be able to function physically and mentally. I expect that Ohio St. will beat Indiana in basketball today. I expect that most of the Republicans will vote one way and the Democrats the other. I anticipate what other folks probably think about me or about a situation. (This thought was generated by Glory having a conversation with what she anticipated saying to her brother Jack when he came home in Marilynne Robinson’s Home). I even have conversations in my head with my voice and what I expect will be the response from others–whether that’s in the classroom, faculty meetings, town council interactions, strained relationships, the doctor, and so on.
And it’s ok. Planning and thinking through. Anticipating.
But it can be not ok. I can create doubts about myself or others. I can generate anxiety about my future or my well being. I can forget that whatever happens in this life is all addition. That life is precious and fragile and yet still very sweet. That by anticipating negativity or assuming I know and understand someone because of my own projections onto them, I can fall into the mirage of subtraction. That I missed out on something. When what is really real is that everything that happens… health, betrayal, trauma, sadness, grief, pain, suffering… and joy, laughter, encouragement, pleasure… and all the regular routine habitual subconscious implicit day after day kind of stuff… all of it, every last bit is life giving. It’s addition. I don’t mean we will experience it as all positive. (That’s a different twist on this idea that my oldest boy challenged me with. The Quality aspect. I haven’t been able to penetrate that mystery yet.)
We may not believe it. We may not be able to appreciate the experience. We may not be glad about it. But all things add to our existence. Each second is one more. Each interaction shapes and molds us further.
And the greatest expectation and anticipation is that the sum of all of these things. The addition that increases my existence and yours. Through time and space since the beginning and going forward until the end. That all of this addition adds up to 1. One. We expect that Unity. We anticipate that Glory. That Hope. That Rescue. Resolution. Redemption. All things are addition. And leads us to experience Communion. Union. Uni. One. With the Maker of all things. With the Christ.
Please Lord, may I find rest– May we find rest–in part by holding loosely all other expectations and grasping with all of our existential strength to the anticipation of the Wholeness into which we will be consumed by and in you. May I breathe in with anticipation of Glorious Unity and breathe out while unclenching my grasp on expectations that fall short of your Beauty and Grace.