Today while again walking the mountain I was moved to ruminate upon Buddhism and its focus on the futility and hopelessness of expectations. Expectation constitutes the implicit contracts that we project into a hypothetical future, every new job or relationship or project or friendship or personal mission. We anticipate being welcomed as the savior at a new job, not realizing that that means that before our arrival everyone must have been, and perceived themselves to be, lost souls awaiting the salvation delivered by us. In marriage we expect the other to satisfy our sexual needs, be a loving companion, eager parent, generous provider. This translates into expectations in every specific situation in the long journey of life, a comparison-contest between projection and reality in which reality always loses.
Real life, both fortunately and tragically, is typically filled with ambiguity, leaving it wide open for projection and interpretation. This reality, that reality itself as experienced is the result of typically unconscious choices about interpretation and projection, is responsible for almost all conflict and alienation. We may think that we take responsibility for what we do, but few take responsibility for what they think or understand, which ultimately is what determines what we do. All of the new physics, hinting that humanity is in the end – and the beginning – the creator of its own world, brings forward this moral dimension that people are more and more eager to avoid. Deepak Chopra indicates this when, quoting the Gita, he writes, “the world is our mirror.” If the world is going to hell in a handbasket and it is our mirror and the result of our projections, well…. No one wants to face that – better to be a child!
So an implication of the Buddhist perspective is the realization that we hold that moral responsibility, and if, with long meditation, and struggle, we choose not to project, to expect, then we must live the reality in which we find ourselves. Meditation is the process of surrendering all expectation, all efforts to form and forge the moment, and assuming the courage to live with what is, without judgment. No expectation, either “good” or “bad” – are we prepared to surrender the fantasy of momentary bliss, the new home, the car, the meal, the perfect partner, the perfect day, the perfect retirement, for the uncertainty and ambiguity of presentness?
The meditative stance results in the willingness to “let it be” – even if there won’t be an answer. And, indeed, the Buddha promised no answers, easy or otherwise, no virgins in the afterlife, no progressive reincarnations leading inevitably to astral perfection, no earthly wealth resulting from a life of integrity and generosity. Is this the real leap of faith, to have faith where it is not justified by “results?” To truly surrender and accept whatever results, however mean or limited? It is my sense that many in the meditation/yoga community truly seek enlightenment – if it also means they will be rich and beautiful and famous. Would they – we – do the same if the result was humiliation, loss, a simple painful death? Is this where Buddhism meets Zen? The ultimate surrender of any self-gratifying purpose or direction? Thus one does not “invest” in anything but the present moment, all else is stripped away, or allowed to fall away, leaving simple presence, moment by moment, even to the last moment, the perfect host to whatever is.
The ultimate “problem” for the forebrain endowed humanoid is the question that then emerges – what difference does it make?
The answer, with Buddha, is only the difference that we make it make.

Nothing more. Or less.