“We can never know about the days to come but we think about them anyway. And I wonder if I’m really with you now or just chasin’ after some finer day. Anticipation; anticipation is makin’ me late is keepin’ me waitin’.” This lyric from the 1971 song by Carly Simon often describes our living.
Anticipation itself is not a bad thing… as long as we make it productive. The trick is to use our past to help with our present and prepare us for our future. That can be difficult at times. Norman Cousins once said that “Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.” He made a very good point.
Anticipation is something we all experience in ways both pleasurable and frightening. Just before you touch your tongue to that spoonful of ice cream, there is a thrilling anticipation of the delectable cool taste one is about to experience. There is also that moment just before a skydiver exits the plane that the reality of gravity sets in and one is faced with what could go wrong, the anticipation of a reality one hopes never comes to fruition.
As we end this Epiphany series of actions, we anticipate Lent. This year our Lenten series will be based on the Beatitudes, scriptural proverbs of sorts that number between eight and ten, depending on one’s preference for translation and interpretation. The word “beatitude” translates as happiness although anyone anticipating happiness knows that it is not a simple topic.
Each verse of the Beatitudes consists of two parts, the condition and the result. In the Gospel of Luke, there are listed four beatitudes and four woes, also with two parts. Similarly, the process of anticipation has dual parts – cause and effect. I think these reflect our relationships with others – our stance and theirs.
When we awake in the morning, most of us go through some sort of anticipation. Sometimes it is merely reviewing our daily schedule and list of obligations, appointments, and tasks at hand. Sometimes it is a matter of hoping everything runs smoothly and sometimes, it is the process of making alternative plans for those times that things go awry.
Life is about anticipation. As many in the world are leaving the season of winter, they will anticipate the springtime. Those in the other hemisphere will be anticipating their fall and succeeding winter. Nature is always anticipating something. New shoots spring up from a dormant ground while others are storing away food or preparing for hibernation.
Anticipation reminds us that life is the opposite of being stagnant. We cannot be truly living if we are merely staying in one place for any extended period of time. Even those confined can live more fully by anticipating another adventure, book to read, person to meet, craft to make. Everyone has something to offer if we would just live. Albert Camus once wrote: “… We need the sweet pain of anticipation to tell us we are really alive.”
Looking forward to the new day is what life is all about. Thomas Henry Huxley knew it. “But anyone who is practically acquainted with scientific work is aware that those who refuse to go beyond fact, rarely get as far as fact; and anyone who has studied the history of science knows that almost every great step therein has been made by the ‘anticipation of Nature,’ that is, by the invention of hypotheses, which, though verifiable, often had very little foundation to start with.”
There are a great many things in life which are required to be taken care of each and every day. Family, work, those things which humans and nature require for daily maintenance…all of these can become boring without anticipation. Allow yourself to look forward to that next minute and suddenly, they will add up to a great day and even better tomorrow. Anticipate the excitement of living!