Thursday, September 13, 2012
“To a resolute mind, wishing to do is the first step toward doing. But if we do not wish to do a thing it becomes impossible.” Robert Southey This morning I sent an email—the way so many emails are sent, in a hurry, possibly with too little thought. Caution—as so often is the case--had gone temporarily into hiding, waiting for the email to be sent before appearing to issue a warning. “Be careful what you wish for,” it ought to have said. There are times when I have undersold the power of wishing. Wishing, I have often said in presentations, is for birthday candles, and Disneyland, and the times when I buy a lottery ticket—because I have some extra money, not because I expect to win. Wishing, I have thought, is worth doing because it’s fun. It’s inspirational. But as for being useful, well, that’s another thing entirely. It’s this casual, off-hand idea about wishing that has led me to wish for things. The thing I love about wishing is that it puts you in a magical place, a playful place. The easiest things to wish for are those things you utterly believe to be impossible. This morning, for example, I sent an email that said, “What I wish for now is magic spit with the power to cure. If I had that, I'd rush right over to your place and spit in your eyes.” It was meant to be a wish of comfort, a show of compassion, an invitation to laugh, a longing for the power to make something better. It was only after the email had flown irretrievably into the land of cyberspace that I paused to contemplate its full implications. Already my mouth was feeling a little dry. Is it possible, I wondered, that wishing for spit with curative powers could be the first step in getting it? Oh, I know what you are probably thinking. You’re probably wondering: Who is she to imagine the power to create magic spit with a simple wish? I know you’re thinking this because I have thought it myself. But I’ve been reflecting of late on a few wishes I made in the past—offhand wishes, wishes for seemingly impossible things. I have been remembering other wishful thoughts, and the scenarios that unfolded. Once upon a time I wished for a newspaper column. Of course, I didn’t know if I could handle a newspaper column, in fact, I was almost certain that I couldn’t. It was meant to be a whish that I would write more—the kind of writing I like to do, short writing. One time I even did a little experiment with the idea. I wrote a bit and I sent off a few packages of writing to some newspapers. Nobody wrote back to me. For many years that wish rested dormant, in absolute comfort. Then one day, not too long ago, somebody who never knew anything about the packages offered me a newspaper column—a chance to write once a month about anything I wanted. I was so surprised I almost turned it down. Panic seized me. My friends thought I was being a drama queen. “How can you say you can’t do it?” came the cries from around me. “You’ve been writing a blog for six years.” Coincidence? Maybe. Then there’s this other once upon a time—one that happened a bit earlier. I used to wish for an honorary degree. It was such a ridiculous wish that I felt perfectly safe in saying it out loud to lots of people. I said it for years and it got a good laugh wherever I said it. It was meant to be a wish to be freed of the ethical imperative to correct every person who mistakenly referred to me as Dr. Edey. But one afternoon somebody I had never met called me up to say that I had been chosen to receive an honorary degree. He wondered if I would accept it. Panic seized me. For a few unprecedented minutes, I was utterly without words to reply. No doubt the caller was having serious reservations about my ability to make the required acceptance speech. My friends thought I was being a drama queen. “How can you say you can’t have it?” cried the voices from around me. “You already got it. Stand up there and prove you deserve it.” So here I am, the bemused holder of an honorary degree, looking toward September 24--my first column copy deadline, acknowledging that I wished for both a degree and a column without fully contemplating the consequences of having either. Add to this the burden of having wished for magic spit with curative powers, and a few thousand other impossible things, and you can see why I might be feeling a little bit on edge, a little cautious about making wishes. But what could be more ridiculous than to give up wishing? For how can we possibly envision outcomes beyond our known limits if we prevent ourselves from wishing for them?