How often have you wanted to do something but been held back by your fear? How often have you been told "just try it" or "once you do it once it will be easier"? I think these experiences are common to most of us. Whether or not each of us were able to push past our fears and realize our rewards will vary greatly for each of us. I have spoken about fear, and overcoming fear in the past. Today I wanted to touch on what lies beyond fear that we likely never expected. I'm not talking about the fear, or the failure. I'm talking about the curse that often comes with success. I call it "The curse of expectations".
A great example of this result of unexpected success is a life experience I observed back in high school. The experience wasn't my own, it was a friends, and much of the experience was told in confidence so I'll keep all involved anonymous. My friend was a great hockey player, and was a leader on our local team. He had speed and skill, and might have gotten close to the big show someday. One day during a game my friend was getting roughed up by a player who was a well known "goon" (fighter) at the time. A tough player my friend wasn't going to be pushed around. He was however shocked, when the other player dropped his gloves and began hitting him. We each deal with fear in different ways. My friend turned his fear into rage and turned it all on this other player. He was in a fight he didn't expect, and even less did he expect he would wins decisively.
It should have been a relief to my friend to have triumphed in a situation he didn't desire. What happened instead was people saw something, and now they expected to see it again. The fights kept coming, and my friend kept winning. The team was a loser almost every night but each night he stood toe to toe with the others teams best and out did them. Soon he had beaten all in the league. Late in the season a trade was made by another team in the league bringing a player all the way from out of province. This player had the reputation of being a monster, brutal, enormous and unbeatable. The news papers a week before the game posted articles declaring that my friend would defend "The Title" on Saturday night against this imported giant. It was all anyone could think about, it was all anyone could talk about.
I must admit that I was surprised when my friend told me he wasn't looking forward to the game. He was afraid, always was, always had been. It was sheer terror in his heart that had given him the strength to win that first fight. Since that day he had only made it to the third and final period twice all season. People thought he was getting kicked out because he was just to hungry for the violence, they thought he couldn't control it. He confided in me that he never liked it, it was the waiting, the expectation that drove him nuts. This week would kill him more than any other. Expectations, that was the curse he carried.
When the game finally came I was unable to make it as I had to work that night. Still it was all I could think of. How would my friend do? What if anything was going to happen to him that night? If cell phones had been around at that time I surely would have appreciated it. As it was I had to wait several hours before getting the news. My friend started the fight during the pregame skate. The crowed erupted, as my friend again stood victorious. He was kicked out (possibly suspended, I can't remember) before the game even started. Of course our team lost the actual game, but no one cared about the game, only the defense of "The Title". The crowed spoke of how crazy my friend was, how he couldn't wait to rip the other guy apart. My friend told a slightly different story. Certainly it was true that he couldn't wait. He told me he knew it was coming, but the waiting was what killed him. He could wait any longer, needed to lift the burden from his back and didn't care about the consequence.
Shortly after that I graduated from high school and we went our separate ways, never kept in touch for long. All these years later I'm glad that I've never been in the situations my friend found himself in. Like him I have to some degree began to feel the burden of expectations. As you are likely aware I recently wrote a novel. I wasn't sure that I would finish and all around me would be please just that I had. As it turns out some were more than pleased that I finished. They told me what I wrote was truly great, they told me they can't wait to see me do the same, or better on my next novel. I feel very confident that I will please the world again very shortly. I do however feel that curse of expectations. If I do it a second time, they will expect a third, and so on. While it is clearly a different arena than that where my friend was cursed with expectations, I wounder inside my own mind if many of the days ahead in my life will be lived to satisfy the curse of expectations?
Does goodness truly exist? This might seem like an odd question that shouldn't need many words to answer. The obvious and simplest answer to the question is simply to say yes, goodness exists. We see it everyday, we feel it, we read about it, most of us do our best to share it. But what is really good, and conversely what is evil? Are they always clear and distinguishable, can we always judge without question? This question is actually what forms the foundation for The Incarnations of Joe Series.
Some things in life are unquestionably acts of either goodness, or unkind at the very least. But before you put every action carried out by any individual into either the "good" basket, or the "evil" basket, first consider motivation. If you're walking down a street and see a homeless person begging for change and you want to ignore them, but something pulls on your heart and compels you to return and spare some change. Was your action truly for the benefit of the homeless person? Or was your action more about removing the guilt you would have felt if you had not? I have seen the celebrity, or the millionaire business man throw pocket change (thousands of dollars) to charities and have no real impact to their life, except that they often receive the praise and adornment of others. Does it have to really "hurt" to be generous and good?
Lets take a different approach. Speeding in your car, bad right? How about to rush someone to a hospital? Well then it's likely acceptable. How about hitting someone, obviously bad, unless they are mugging an old lady, then it would be considered good, by some at least. Even the act of killing someone can be twisted by circumstance, or "perspective". In a war killing is considered a necessity, and acceptable as long as you follow the rules of course. And if your house is broken into, then in self defense, as long as your force is "reasonable" and "necessary" society will usually cut you some slack.
Now lets take a third angle when looking at this question. What if the action stays the same, but we change our perspective of how we see that action. Think of any war in history. We always have at least two sides. Both sides always feel they are right, or at least justified, and they always feel the other side has done more "evil" than our own. If you talk to one side they will tell you the evil atrocities, the lack of compassion, and the ruthlessness of the enemy. They will tell you how they have suffered, and how they have shown restraint. I have no doubt you'll be willing to join the cause against the evil enemy they face. What if you paused for a moment, and spoke to the other side. I'm sure you'd hear countless tails of evil and wrongdoing committed against them, by the very people you were about to join arms with. As the lyric from the Buffalo Springfield song says "nobodies right if every bodies wrong". Have you ever considered how many of histories great moments would sound if told by the other side? The problem with history is that the victor is usually the one who writes it. As a Canadian I have been told since birth about the great Canadian men from WW1 and WW2, and how they fought an evil across the ocean. Canadians fought with dignity and courage greater than any other. My own ancestors fought these wars, and I have considered how uncomfortable it might make me to watch a movie, or read a book written from the other side of those conflicts, that portrays Canadians as anything less than what I have been taught.
Many, in fact most people who have read book one The Key from the Incarnations of Joe series at some point begin to believe the book is beginning to reverse what we believe to be good and evil. As the author I can say that I understand, and to some degree intended for readers to have this experience, but I have in no way even within the fiction of the story changed good and evil. What is different about The Incarnations of Joe, book one The Key is nothing more than the perspective of some of the characters. Nothing is more universally good and evil, than God and the Devil. Not even within a fictitious world do I intend to change this. I did however consider what it would be like to hear words spoken from the other side, a different set of facts, a different view on events. Much of the dialog in The Key comes from a character who is the devils daughter in the flesh. Her views and her agenda are her own, and they tend to make us uncomfortable, in the same way hearing anything that suggested our side in the great wars was anything less than history has written.
We can take our thoughts, and our philosophy to so many places. Fortunately as we live our lives each day we can keep life simple. Good and evil, right and wrong don't have to be complicated, but that doesn't make them universally easy to follow either.
The Blog of Timothy Weatherall
Timothy Weatherall is a fiction fantasy writer from Ontario, Canada.
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