Friday, February 4, 2011

surprise! surprise!

What the hell is a surprise, anyway? I'm asking literally, not trying to say I know or claim some superior ground when it comes to surprises.

On the one hand, surprises can be utterly delightful. On the other, they can stop you dead in your sorrowful tracks. In either case, life seems to take an unexpected turn. When it's a pleasant turn (the punch line on a good joke, finding out, contrary to expectations, that someone you like likes you, etc.), it's a delight that seems to make everything fresh. When it's an unpleasant turn (a friend dies, the car gets a flat at the beginning of a long-anticipated vacation, etc.), there is some wish that things might be otherwise.

There can be a longing for pleasant surprises and an aversion to unpleasant ones. Winning the lottery or receiving a friendly note ... ahhhh. Breaking a leg or being chastised for behavior you thought was appropriate ... ouch.

Life takes a turn you didn't expect and somehow that foiling of expectation is more true than taking the turns you did expect or hope for or hoped to evade. Man proposes, God disposes ... or, perhaps, life is what happens while you were busy making other plans.

Buddhists and their ilk can wax lyrical about every moment's being a surprise of sorts. Of course, it's true and 'wise' and all of that -- every moment is fresh. But the observation itself is a bit stale and could use a surprise or two to freshen it up.

And with age, it's a bit surprising how unsurprising things can become. War, kindness, egotism, love, clarity and confusion ... how surprising is any of that? Of course there are endless permutations and contexts, but really, how surprising is that? As it was, so it is ... I'd rather smell a rose.

I can't really get any got-it-solved, religio-philosophical handle on surprises, but I remain curious.

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