Thursday, May 5, 2011
Travels - “Seeing Headhunters”
Of all of Michael Crichton’s books, my favorite is his autobiography Travels.
One chapter that set me thinking was “Seeing Headhunters” (pp. 295-296). It consists of two stories.
In the first, Michael Crichton has traveled to Borneo to see the Dyaks, who are indigenous headhunters. Crichton is in a small town, Sibu, and is told that there is an authentic Dyak village nearby, but he will not be able to get a boat to it until the next morning. Crichton becomes bored and frustrated that he cannot see Dyaks now, as he wanders around an open market. Suddenly he realizes the most of the people shopping in the open market around him are Dyaks.
The second story tells of Crichton’s trip to Nepal. His Sherpa guide shows him a view and says it is the Kali-Gandaki Gorge. Crichton is unimpressed by what looks like “just a big valley with snowy mountain peaks on both sides.” The guide keeps repeating its name, but Crichton continues to be unimpressed. When he gets home, he discovers that the Kali-Gandaki Gorge is the largest canyon in the world, four times deeper than the Grand Canyon and 20 times as wide. He writes that it is “a canyon so enormous that the eye can hardly see it for what it is.”
Both stories demonstrate how our expectations affect our perceptions. In the first story, Crichton expected to see the Dyaks in their village. As he didn’t expect to see them in the open market, he didn’t perceive them at first. In the second story, Crichton’s expectations of what a canyon should look like kept him from perceiving the spectacular one right in front of him.
This is a problem with expectations. They can limit our perceptions to a great degree. Expectations also keep us from appreciating and enjoying life. When you have expectations, either your expectations are met, and you are satisfied, or your expectations are not met, and you are frustrated and disappointed. But more often than not, your expectations are not correct or even realistic. So instead of appreciating things or people for what they are, you become disappointed and unhappy because your expectations aren’t met. I think expectations have much to do with how happy a person is.