In a world full of promises, is it possible to know the most unfulfilled promise? Most people do not even make promises. If a promise is unfulfilled then it is likely to be one of those made to other people. But most disturbing is that the most unfulfilled promise is a promise made to one’s self. How odd! But can someone make a promise to himself and not fulfil it? Is it even necessary to make a promise to one’s self in the first place? The answer is ‘Yes’. The kinds of promises people make to themselves are promises that could improve their person; like New Year resolutions, promises which if implemented would improve their health, fate, romance, business or encourage reduced indulgence. Does it mean that such people hate themselves?

Let us proceed on a journey for the answer. First, what is a promise? Why are some fulfilled and some unfulfilled? A promise is a conditional statement made with the intention of fulfilling. A threat is not a promise but it could be made so. Usually, the word 'promise' is given freely; hence it is accepted as a sacred gift even before it manifests as an action. This importance accorded to its realisation by the expectant also extends to the one who gave the word. The time for the promise to be fulfilled is looked upon like a delivery from a pregnancy. A fulfilled promise is no longer a promise. The anxiety of waiting on a promise turns into despair when the word is not fulfilled. It is like a betrayal, which eventually would lead to the mistrust of the giver of the word.

Making promises is not obligatory ― hence most people do not need to make any. But those who make them do so for many reasons; sometimes, to encourage others or to guarantee that a deed is done. There are also conditional promises which specify some conditions to be met before the promised act would apply. These are like contracts. “If you clean this place, I will give you a coin”. Others are unconditional to the receiver of the promise; “When I get to Italy, I will mail you a letter.”

Does a promise lapse? Yes. “You will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven if you repent of your sins”. This promise lapses if the person did not repent before dying. When is a promise not a promise? Is it when the implementation of the promise is not feasible? “I will give you the moon if you wake early tomorrow.”

Why are promises unfulfilled? They are unfulfilled because the receiver did not play his expected role or part to fulfil the given condition, or that the promise maker is not honourable since he could not honour his own words. For the latter reason, why should a man not be able to honour his own words? Probably because some promises are not promises, they are deliberate lies to get an advantage of a situation or of a person. Some people, unfortunately, call this failure 'Politics' or 'Diplomacy', thus giving both honourable words unnecessary bad names. For unfulfilled promises, if one can lie to others, why does one have to lie to himself if he made a promise to himself? Since he was not under obligation to make the promise, does he love himself less? The answer is ‘No’.

What therefore is the most unfulfilled promise? Is it a self-improvement activity promise made to one’s self to re-read some books, magazines, photocopied articles or cut strips earlier read, which were so much treasured at the time and as such reserved for the purpose of reassuring a read at a later date. If you reason that not everybody can read, so how can the most unfulfilled promise be from this source as stated? It is worth considering that those who can’t read do not promise themselves much beyond self-restraint. The population of those who can read all over the globe far exceed those who cannot. This personal promise of the literate is for personal amusement or knowledge and is the most unfulfilled of promises.

Richard had always treasured rare books. He had an accumulation matching his literate years stacked up in different stands in his house. “This good book will enrich my library.” After reading each he said, “I will read this again in the future”. So, he had promised for each addition to his collection. The books numbered a thousand. That means 1,000 promises. He read all and retained them after the first reading. That creates a debt of 1,000 new promises to be fulfilled. If you multiply that number of personal promises by the number of literate persons on the globe, assuming the same number of books in their personal libraries, you will get a high figure that would exceed the population of the earth.

When there are millions of new books to read, when is it appropriate to re-read an old book? Since time is said to be short, most people feel that it might be most rewarding to read a new book containing new thrills. So the verdict is that the intention of re-reading old books is never fulfilled in the majority because of the adventurous nature of man in exploring unread books. Yet, to be an honourable man and missing the opportunities to fulfil his promises, Richard in over 15 years endured the inconveniences of the presence of the books as well as their induced silent drama. At a time, the size of his book had made him invest in shelves and racks. He lost some to pests, others to moisture. Now, the books are again trying to push him out of the house for want of space to expand. Then he became sincere to himself. The books are no doubt an encounter with great knowledge. You can read about how Heaven was designed and how the earth was manufactured. Who made what and in what ways. Also, is knowledge of how things work. Although the confidence of having the books in close proximity was re-assuring, but for 15 years, the books had silently remained as knowledge on the shelf but outside his brain.

Now the question: since it is easier to read a new book willingly and without persuasion or promise, is it not better to let go old books even at a reduced price than retain them with their attendant problems ― for which the reason for enduring such inconveniences are unlikely to be fulfilled? That is, to sell the books after reading them and using the money to buy newer books, which would also be sold later for yet newer ones. A vicious circle you might say.
Therefore, for every book or magazine so retained is a separate promise. It is only when such is not reserved for re-reading that a promise condition would no longer exist. To fulfil the unfulfilled promise, how many people are actually ready to read all their old books? For any book owned but not re-read, the promise remains unfulfilled. Even for those re-read, if the books are still retained, then the promise remains unfulfilled again.

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