That’s kind of a paradox of course, because if you’re expecting something then it’s not unexpected. It’s like that ‘dead space for the unexpected’ that executives used to build into their schedules: whilst that’s a good idea in principle, in actuality the unexpected is unlikely to fill that dead space: either it won’t happen at all or it’ll take up far longer than the half-hour you’ve scheduled for it. The plain fact is, you can’t plan for the unexpected, because it’s – well, unexpected.
Mark has snatched triumph from disaster though by leaving a ‘dead space’ in his book, ‘Here be Dragons’ where pictures should have gone if he’d got it together in time – and inviting readers to send in their own pictures to fill the spaces. So that’s a creative solution to the problem…
I have one unexpected and one expected thing to do today and they’re both unpleasant. The first is to phone the dentist as an entire filling fell out yesterday, leaving a very sharp-edged tooth in the upper-right quadrant: the second is to get the figures ready so I can do my tax return on Wednesday. The unpleasantness of the first is easily explained, but the second is not so clear. It’s not doing the figures in itself; nor is it filling in the form per se: there’s a whole layer of dread which spreads over the experience and is invoked at any moment by the mention of the word ‘tax’. Plus, I don’t like it that the program instantly calculates the tax you owe. I want a decent period of grace and at the very least a good lie-down, before I learn how much of my meagre and hard-earned dosh I have to part with. I think the layer of dread is due to the feeling of Being Inspected: it must be something akin to what teachers feel when being Ofstood (or whatever).
Though news items in themselves can be unexpected, you generally know what kind of thing to expect when you turn on the news. It will be almost 100% bad. Now, why is this? Is it that good news is boring? Hell, no! The media tend to talk about Good News as if it’s the mere absence of something bad happening (cars drive and fail to crash; volcano doesn’t erupt – that sort of thing.) Not so. By just hearing the negative stuff, we get only one side of the news – whereas I want to know, say, what’s been happening in the former Yugoslavia since all that stuff in the 1980’s – or what life is like in Scandinavian countries and how it differs from where we are. But that is perceived as ‘nothing happening’. I’m interested in the world and all its people all the time, not just when there’s a war or a famine. Giving us the crisis does not allow us to see the context, the build-up – let alone the aftermath. But the media circus arrives and moves on. It’s not that we only get one half of what’s going on – the truth is, we only get one-tenth of it. If that. It’s like having a friend who you only see when they have a crisis. You only see their problems and never get to hang out and just have a natter about life.
Hmm. Come to think of it, I’ve had friends like that… I’ve also had friends who are only around when you’ve got a problem. This is a more interesting phenomenon: genuinely concerned and helpful though these people are – at your side in a crisis, there for you every step of the way – they nonetheless melt away and are nowhere to be seen once you’re better. Mark and I call them ‘foul-weather friends’.
Now that’s unexpected…
PS my poem at church went down a storm and I gave out loads of bookmarks publicising the e-book.