Wistful Wishes, Wants, and Ifs

Wistful WishesThe holidays are over. Did one of your wishes come true? Did you get what you want? If you had gotten that one special thing, life would be wonderful, right? Did you make a resolution for the New Year? Will you keep it?

There is a silly thing I think we all do. We go through our day and our mind, that illusive construct that grows out of the structure of our brain, will create desires often couched as wishes, wants, and ifs. I wish I had a better car, a better job, that I could lose weight. I want that house, that TV, the wars to stop. If I had that job, things would be so much better. If I ruled the world there would be peace and joy, and everyone would read my books because they want to.

For a few years now, I have been trying hard to stop my mind from doing that, creating those wistful wishes. It is not easy. Wanting makes America go. Wishing placates the masses. “If” is just another kind of wish or want. We use these begging concepts in our casual speech, in our thoughts, our debates, and even in our dreams.

It is not limited to the powerless or the poor, those who have the greatest justification to wish, and want, and speculate with “if”. The powerful, the wealthy, and even those that possess beyond reason wish for something, want something, and speculate how things would be if they simply had more of what they already have in abundance.

Do not misunderstand me, there are appropriate wishes and wants. What I am going to discuss is more about the power of words. Often, with the English language, there is no other way to express an intended desire or goal except to wish, or want, or speculate with “if”. Fully intentioned efforts aimed at desired targets are good things. However, there are times that I, and I know you too, express wishes, wants, and if with no more effort than expressing the desire itself.

It is difficult to make your brain stop doing that. I am not even sure that you can make it stop. Perhaps it is like alcoholism, something that is always there and you have to deal with each and every time. When I hear my mind form the beginning of a craving wistful dream, “I wish…” or “I want…” or “If only…” I stop myself and say, either mentally or out-loud if I am alone, “Nope. Not allowed to think that. I must concentrate only on what I can do.” I try to use the words, “wish”, “want”, and “if” as triggers to keep myself from mulling over these meaningless desire dreams.

I have come to think of wishing as a sort of evil. Wanting something, like a drink or better housing, is rather benign. In fact, in the case of water or food, it is necessary for survival. Wanting a fancy car, well, that is a grey area. Like a drink of water that I may want, a vehicle is somewhat necessary for survival in our time. Wanting a Tesla is good for the environment, as well as one’s self-image, but it is not as necessary as that glass of water. Therefore, I can give some slack to “want”, but you still have to be careful with it.

The speculation, “if” is a little more sinister than “want.” There are not many “ifs” that are essential to life. Most are desires to alter the past, and we all know that temporal shifting is not possible. “If I had sent that resume in two days earlier…” Why waste time conjuring up events that did not happen to calm the desires your brain is expressing? Some “ifs” are power plays about the future. Perhaps they have some altruism, and if yours do then good for you. Like “want”, there are some grey “ifs”. “If we tried this instead of what we are currently doing?” That can be a valid and useful speculation. That kind of “if” is required as you work toward active goals. However, like wants, you have to be careful with your “ifs”.

Some “ifs” are simply another form of “wishes”, and wishes can be the most evil of all. Language plays games. I am sure you wished someone a Happy Holiday, and wonder how such a wish can be evil, and I concede that it is not. You might wish an ill friend to be well. In that wish you have done all you really can do for them. However, in general, wishes are the desire for something without action. You have no intention to apply yourself to the desire or goal. You simply want it. In fact, you want it specifically without effort on your part other than uttering the wish itself, like a magic spell. Wishing sometimes diverts us from doing. You can wish to lose weight, or you can make yourself lose it. You can wish a happy holiday, or you could go out and make it happen for someone. But wishing is so damn simple.

Wish upon a star. Blow out the candles and make a wish. We are taught to wish. We are cultured in it. We have an entire holiday fashioned around it. Give Santa your wish list. In that teaching, we learn that wistful wishing is okay, even good. That it is good to wish for something without putting any effort in achieving it. Then do we die with none of our wishes fulfilled? That cannot be a good feeling. Break the wishbone.

Suppose you could have all your wishes, would you stop wishing, or do you imagine you could always find something to wish for? Can you imagine living without wishing? I think that would be a good feeling, going through the day not wishing for something that you were not willing to apply yourself to. Then when you die, you have all the things you directed yourself toward, with no wish unanswered.

Wishes and dreams seem to get tired together. Wishes are illusive like dreams. When I think of that kind of wishing, I think of a meme. Sometimes it does not use wish or want. You have seen it or heard it. Something like, “Dream it, wish it, do it,” or “If you can dream it, you can be it.” What a meaningless wish. I have dreamt of flying without plane or ship or device. I know I cannot do that or be that. I have focused my thoughts on various wishes and wants and dreams of “if”, knowing no matter how much I believe in the meme-mantra I cannot be what I dream. I can only be what I can do, and what I am willing to make myself do.

I will continue my experiment. I do not know if it is possible to make my mind never utter a wistful wish, or anything but a necessary achievable want, or any meaningless ifs. It may be like not thinking, something the mind simply cannot do. Goals for the future are important, and if you have to express them as a wish, or a want, or if, that is fine as long as you recognize what you are doing. Do not let the wish fulfill the actions of achievement. For me, I will keep trapping those thoughts, allowing them to go unfinished, interrupted with, “Nope. Not allowed to think that. I must concentrate only on what I can do.”

About Sifu Keith Mosher

My new book, "Astro Boy, Sensei, and Me" is available now, as is my Sci-Fi joy ride, "On a Sphere's Edge". I have a Bachelor of Media Arts degree from USC. I have been an Audio Producer / Engineer, a Law Office Manager, and I am currently an Author and a Martial Arts Instructor.
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