April 11, 2005

Disappointment

In an effort to increase my understanding of the civil rights movement, I am reading Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Where Do We Go From Here:  Chaos or Community?  While creating dialogue about the apparent split in the civil rights movement between non-violent protest and the emerging "Black Power" slogan, Dr. King, notes the following about disappointment:

One of the most agonizing problems of human experience is how to deal with disappointment.  In our own lives we all too often distill our frustrations into an essence of bitterness, or drown ourselves in the deep waters of self-pity, or adopt a fatalistic philosophy that whatever happens must happen and all events are determined by necessity.  These reactions poison the soul and scar the personality, always harming the person who harbors them more than anyone else.  The only healthy answer lies in one''s honest recognition of disappointment even as he still clings to hope, one''s acceptance of finite disappoint even while clinging to infinite hope.\r\n...Must we respond with bitterness and cynicism?  Certainly not....

Although describing African-American disappointment at the momentum of the civil rights movement in 1976(?), this statement proves to be much more universal and applicable.

When looking back on times most marked by strife and my darkest depression, it is usually focused around periods of supreme disappointment.  Typically, I feel betrayed and discouraged by my current state in life--not unlike Dr. King and others felt betrayed by white politicians after the civil rights act failed to bring the sweeping equality they sought.  Why this seems so disabling for me, as inferenced from above, is my inability to suffocate my temporary disappointment with the part of my infinite reserve of hope.

It is interesting how great thinkers throughout history return to this concept of human suffering and improving one's reaction to it.  Like Dr. King, the Historic Buddha would argue that many of our problems arise from the "fatalistic philosophy" derived from our suffering.  Similarly, we curb this suffering by halting desires and following the eight-fold path.  In the end, it gives us tools to tap into our infinite hope thereby obtaining enlightenment.