Understanding Disappointment


This week Stephen Hawking died. I met him once, and as I approached like so many others, I stepped back after seeing how frail and broken he really was. What wasn’t broken was his mind, which was obvious. This brilliant man once said “When one's expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have”. I guess this is what you get when you live a life with the kind of disabilities he had to endure.

When I learned of Hawking’s passing and I remembered his quote, I got to thinking. Maybe Hawking was trying to tell us something that had nothing to do with his disabilities, but maybe he was talking about the fabric of mankind. Maybe what this genius was trying to say mathematically was:

Expectation/Reality = disappointment

Or,

Disappointment = Expectation/Reality + Anger

Or, if you train your mind correctly:

Expectation – disappointment = zero

That is 0 – 0 = 0

Makes sense to me.

Maybe Hawking was disappointed with his care givers, or one of them anyway. Yes, I saw the movie.

But, my math maybe flawed since after all his quote was “When one's expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have”.

So, it follows if expectations are zero you appreciate many other things about your life. The translation of this might be if you expect zero from the people around you, it follows that your morning coffee just tastes better. Or, if you expect zero reward from working hard, no promotion, no salary increase, you just appreciate the fact that you have a job. Or, finally, if you expect zero from your spouse or partner, you appreciate the fact that there is someone to come home to which is a better deal than being alone. I’ll take the alone part, thanks.

Quite honestly, I have no idea what Hawking was trying to say. The man was a fucking genius for God’s sake. Who am I? But, in the final analysis it holds mostly true that if you expect nothing from somebody, you are never disappointed. Or, blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed. It even sound like Gospel. Or, maybe the message from Hawking is when you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.

It sucks really when you expect that special man you meet to be superman, or that special woman to be superwoman. That’s clearly the road to disappointment and when expectation minus reality becomes severe and total disappointment. Some of us just never learn.

I guess Hawking figured this out a long time ago and a whole bunch of other shit about the universe too.

I hope you’re having a better week than I am!

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