“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
~Martin Luther King Jr.
In honor of Martin Luther King Day yesterday, I wanted to write something on one of the Doctor's amazing quotes. I chose this one out of many because it was short enough to expand on, and pithy enough to really get into.
:: WHAT ARE DISAPPOINTMENTS? ::
I see a disappointment as an inner-conflict between what is and what we would prefer to be.
For example, two children playing at the park might have very different experiences based on their preferences. If child 1 really wants to be at the park and child 2 would have preferred to be watching television, child 2 is probably going to be disappointed, whereas child 1 will probably be content to play in the sand.
As our expectations and our vision expand, our disappointments will likely grow along with them.
:: DISAPPOINTMENT IS ESSENTIAL ::
Some might say disappointment is a good thing to avoid. When we can see the world how it is, not the way we would like it be, we can insure our own happiness and contentment. And for mundane things like playing in sand vs. watching television, I'd say that is a good practice. Why waste energy on what could be? Just enjoy the sand!
However, there are good reasons to be disappointed.
Finite disappointment was a necessary component to Dr. King's infinite hope. Without the nightmare of race relations in the United States that he faced, there could have been NO DREAM. Without this disappointing situation, there could have been no Martin Luther King. There could have been no inspiring leadership. There could have been no example of saintly behavior. There could have been no role model for future generations.
From a finite disappointment came a greater finite reality: equal rights for black people in the United States.
(I am not deluded enough to think that there is complete equality even today, but compared to MLK's time, I dare say we have come a long way.)
:: TRANSMUTING EMOTIONS ::
Ultimately, it's how we answer this question:
Do I sit and wallow in my disappointment, or do I use it as fuel?
Emotions like anger, fear, resentment, jealousy, and disappointment are only "bad" when we let them eat us up. If we can transmute them into something useful, they did their job: they got us started.
Martin Luther King Jr., it seems to me, was not afraid of his emotions. He knew the pain of racism. He used it. Moreover, he transmuted it. He did not throw his pain right back onto his oppressors. He transmuted his pain into the energy of his peaceful campaign to do what he knew was right.
To come back to the initial quote, he transmuted his finite disappointment into infinite hope. And when we are able to transmute something petty and finite into something universal and infinite, we can only expect to succeed... for the expansion we must experience within our own self to make that happen is a win in itself.