If you had but one wish that could change your life, what would it be? Would it come down to the traditional game-players as primary motivators: wealth, power, fame? There are some, however few, the angels among us, who’d choose helping others. Still others, and they number in the millions actually, who’d opt for living a life pleasing to God.
Frankly, this is a hard question for me to answer, for I can think of still other pleasing options like enjoying good health, freedom from anxiety, the respect of others, etc. What other options could you add to this list? Perhaps a happy marriage and family life, or to be loved, or to have a best friend, or even just to be appreciated? Now remember, you only get one wish. In a showdown, which is it for you? And why? See, it isn’t all that easy. Like so much in life, making one decision often means forfeiting another. For me, it’s a whole lot easier to choose between good and bad than between two kinds of good.
Of course you might conjecture that these choices are always personal, since their consequences may make some happy, others less so. I use “happy” deliberately, for isn’t this implied for ourselves in any wish we’d like to come true?
Me, I’ve long been suspicious of the underlying premise of E. A. Robinson’s “Richard Cory” many of us have read in high school English. You know–the guy everybody envied for his wealth, only to kill himself. Sorry to any of you preferring orthodoxy, but I think I like the money wish best, not for its own sake, or from greed, but because it actually multiplies my choices: I can find the best doctors; provide better for those I love, animals as well as people; help preserve Nature’s diminishing footprint; endow cancer charities and provide food for the hungry; choose where I want to live; come upon better, more quality goods.
Not to be left out, I’d gain access to people I’d like to be with–accomplished, refined, intelligent, connoisseurs of excellence. In my social station, I don’t see much of this. It hangs out in certain zip codes replete with people who choose where to live for its amenities like good schools, safe neighborhoods where you don’t have to watch your back, tranquil parks, tree-lined streets, a neighborhood club house, tennis courts and pool, maybe even an equine barn for stabling your horse or say an adjacent golf course; but best of all, neighbors who share a respect for education, intelligence, liberal thought, and professional accomplishment. I see them at symphonies, I read of their charity, note their activism for making life fairer for the marginalized, their absence of malice or rancor toward those of different color or ethnicity or sexual persuasion, their freedom from extremism, whether political or religious. They assume leadership roles in their community. They fund the arts. They work for quality schools. They are not isotopes couched before TV screens. In the politics of opportunism they are often the scapegoats for what ails, when the reality is they pay most of the taxes, despite what you hear, and frequently do more to provide enterprise, meaning jobs for you and me.
No E. A. Robinson for me. I prefer F. Scott Fitzgerald, who envied the rich in their gated life as an obsessed outsider desiring entrance. And I know why.
Where are you, Aladdin with your magical lamp? I’ve a wish to make.