“The most amazing things that can happen to a human being can happen to you if you just lower your expectations.” Love the sit-com and love the quote. Phil Dunphy’s Phil’s- osophy on Modern Family. Wednesday nights 9pm and this week his daughter is going to college (barely) so he made her a going away present. A book of his favorite quotes. And this is my favorite of his favorites. Of course I would add “if you only open your eyes and ears.”
I’m still on sabbatical at the beach and since arriving I have had several experiences that absolutely fit this quote. Webster defines experience as knowledge of an event gained through involvement. “Lowering your expectations” is about absorbing the world’s beauty as miracles. The lower you go, the more incredible the observations. The “gained through involvement” is about opening your senses, all five of them too.
And so after a long drive on a major highway, always the worst part of the week and yet if we lower our expectations can’t we absolutely appreciate the miracle of the superhighway while hating it at the same time? Anyway, upon arrival, I jump out of the car, unload quickly and head straight to the ocean. Dive in. Come up and find my beautiful little dog sitting on the beach just watching. But what exactly is she watching besides me? Six pelicans, eight seagulls and ten terns all dancing and feeding, surrounding my waters. Really, I ponder after ignoring them for a while with my splashing, is this really happening? And just to prove me blind, a pelican drops headlong into the ocean ten feet away and proceeds to slide a large jumping mullet down her gullet. The mullet wiggling in joy or was that agony, who will ever know, as it slips and writhes maybe in protestation to her stomach. Wow, that is amazing and real and is truly happening here. Take that Animal Planet! This continues for quite a while, they never seem to tire of feeding and the mullets never seem to tire of being fed upon, so on and on the music goes. And I float there giving way to my expectations of how the waves should roll or who eats whom in this life in and under the sea.
The next day, I return of course. The ocean is my best lover. She always waits for me and never denies my love for her. I sit first, reading a biography about C. S. Lewis. Marveling about how he gave authorship of his books to the Holy Spirit or Aslan. Whichever you believe is alright with me. We all know that you have to believe in something even if it is disbelief, when it happened. Leaping into the ocean, at dusk again, for feeding, I am absolutely breathless at the sight. Thousands of jumping mullets skimming the crest of the waves only to dip down and behind, dropping out of sight to fly again with the next roll. Like a surfer but without the board. Wow. And so I am swimming there, with lowered expectations again, senses open to watch in awe and wonder at this beauty. The sun’s horizontal lie creating just the right light behind the water to fire each fish. Faces pointing down, knife like tails lifted skyward as they travel the summit of each oscillation. Only to drop once more and start again. Into twist and out.
I could tell you another story about the many who walked by with their ipods and dogs, noises chattering so high in their heads that they never saw the mullets jumping by the thousands or was that millions? But you wouldn’t believe me would you? You’d say they were the ones who had lowered their expectations without the amazing experience of humans. Their lack of involvement lending no gain or knowledge. But it can’t be true because it just doesn’t make sense. Does it?
C.S Lewis wrote an eloquent series of children’s books entitled Narnia. In it he enchantingly places children in a magical kingdom. If you haven’t read it, you might find it fun. His biographer ended the book by quoting many fans who have expressed a wistful desire to visit Narnia. To be with the Lion, Aslan, and have a cup of tea. Younger generations might say that about Harry and the Quidditch match he is playing next Tuesday at Hogwarts. I know what Lewis and Harry would say in return, “Open your eyes, a cup of tea here is equally as enchanting, earth as magical as Narnia and Hogwarts could ever be.” Or to quote our friend Phil, “Open your eyes and lower your expectations and the most amazing things that can happen to a human being can happen to you.” Better believe us because it’s true and the next planet you visit may not have jumping fish. Or oceans. This might be your only chance to see them.