From Faust to Ali-Baba, not to mention science fiction’s fantasies or medieval Arthurian legends, and fairy tales galore, there is one unifying thread: no one is really satisfied with what they have physically or intellectually. Wishing to be someone else or different is a primordial human need. In addition, our shared inner discontent is linked to a fragile emotional stability that we would like to be, well, tougher…something to discuss at another time, most assuredly.
In fact there’s the old saw: if you had three wishes, which ones would they be?
Easy enough for me—although a little too late in life.
The Faustian legend comes, to be sure, with dire penalties;
Mephistopheles made that crystal clear
In his bargain with the aged scholar who saw no point in going further;
Nature has a way to handle malcontents, rebels, and the choppy waters in their wake…
One would wish, no matter, for more time but just how much can be a portentous choice:
A thousand years or so but in a favorable place and most certainly good health…
Not a shriveled carcass of a being whose alleles have lost
Their juice and infirmity and mental foggery rule the day.
Why not wish for the fantasy that grants total control…
Wish for an infinite number of wishes first of all!
Now that throws a wrench into the fate-charged course of history, it does…
But several clauses in the Divine Contract have to be hammered out to mutual satisfaction.
Nature and a vengeful Supreme Power will not step gently aside
while the eternal balance is being undone by soppy non-conformists who have a quarrel with their genes.
No wish, of course, could replace the way things work and the annals of History nor the rhythms of the Universe..
No planetary chaos, please!
Wishes will center on individual aspirations, minor hopes that fulfill our unrequited desires within reasonable limits:
no radical or preposterous metamorphoses that require
nips and tucks or massive restructuring of our beings.
Vanity reigns over comparative ideals.
The mirror is our constant enemy yet imagination is our earthly salvation.
As for my anatomy and its current limitations,
I would wish for a more macho (well, somewhat) and stalwart physique:
Not the inflated distortion of gym rats but an athletic tone to lure attention and admiration…
Just minor stuff and…well, a little more length or girth down there would possibly help in meeting
the expectations of joy-filled coitus.
Then again, maybe not (sorry, guys)–because, from a technical perspective, as psychologists say, some like it hot
And others submit to being a cooperative partner, a team player because that’s how it has been for millennia.
No matter, all the loose ends
Can be folded into an accommodating wish (or two)
to satisfy the caprice and delusions of manly pride.
On the other hand, if all humans had similar wishes and theirs cancelled out yours…that would imply standing in lengthy lines for divine intervention and judgement…not cool, all that.
It all comes down to dividing up the goodies in the natural order of things. A heads up: Nature’s whole stays inviolate: what is must continue to be or we’ll shred the universal connective tissue, we will! Who wants astral bodies flying out of orbit, sidereal projectiles gone astray?
As they say, we cannot choose our parents or dictate our ancestral lineage. The genetic lottery is won by an elite;
Our fate comes with birth and a good bit of luck along the way.
Whatever we do, culture crafts our desires and guides our wishes for a different life.
Learning to accept one’s self with all the attendant baggage is an act of maturity. Being really tall is advantageous to a basketball player but not helpful whatsoever for a nimble soccer striker. The post-pubescent wish, as previously stated, to be endowed in a special way can be an asset in courting (or filmic eroticism) but not so great when the rigidity starts to wane and the full monty, once so proud, collapses into a flaccid appendage as the years move on.
Sir Isaac Newton was spot on in his principles of nature: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Wishing for things to be otherwise will not be on the permissible list. Remember: No fiddling with the true order of things. It’s harrowingly complicated, all this, when you think about what could be if you change what is. Genetic fixation decided long ago shows our bodies the way.
Like dominoes, wishes fulfilled can start a chain reaction of disorder. “Be careful what you wish for!” A profound and toxic warning!
Ah, the natural order of things above all. At heart we are carnivores and warriors, nurturers and hunter-gatherers from our most distant heritage. We hand-stenciled on cave walls and drew partially extinct animals whose flesh and hides we coveted. We buried our dead and felt awe, most likely, when looking at sunsets.
All of these suppositions paleoanthropologists have concocted from fossils remains and artifacts. We probably made raspy utterances and communicated with signs in a way that laid the foundation for Indo-Aryan tongues,
the Ur languages of modern discourse. Word-defined beings, homo sapiens sapiens, were birthed after the Big Breakup hundreds of thousands of years ago: simians on the left branch and humanoids to the right. The why and how of missing links: the mystery of evolutionary happenstance… Unsolved dilemmas to date.
We are primitive in our needs and starry-eyed in our thoughts. Discriminatory evolution (see above) and compassion have preserved bodies that somehow survived battling unAfrican-like bipeds (Denisovan or Neanderthal rivals or yet to be discovered hominids) whose primeval admixture still circulates in our genetic mass.
So, when we make a wish, it’s not past deeds we long to alter, but the elasticity of who we are and could one day be.
No wish should bring, contractually speaking, unwarranted harm
to individuals or groups free of moral or legal malfeasance. No authoritarian abuse could inflict grief on the innocents among us.
Our motto should be: right the natural wrongs, erase the imperfections that make us suffer. Be bigger, stronger, smarter, in better health, enjoy meaningful longevity, and let us tweak our bodies as we see best and indulge in fantasies about the inner and outer self.
Watch out for the wayward wish and eugenic excesses that stained our republican beliefs decades back. Breeding for beauty or other traits has its advocates, but the randomness of natural selection gave us what we have become…Darwin dixit. The old dialectic of failed “isms” ripped our world savagely apart in Hitlerian and Stalinist days. No wish should re-ignite this inferno. History’s deep etchings, right or wrong, will remain as they are.
Let us be circumspect in our desire to be other than what we are. Let us not sacrifice humanity’s weal for dominant traits that make us a more complete being but without empathy for the misfits and lesser creatures who surround us. In a sense, our lives should seek to embrace solid pillars of social harmony and not ostracize those sowers of discontent who are reaching too far; who say “no” over and over. Being comfortable in our thoughts is not a virtuous state.
That said (the American tradition oblige), why not a little more homogeneity in the ranks from European shores? Would a wish be valid in this domain? Polish and Hungarian border guards are deflecting the migrant hordes that flow around their fences into more receptive neighbors’ lands. Who gets to stay, who must leave—an issue that lays bare the national soul: how much immigration is good for us (those solidly in place) in a labor-rich society? This is a touchy subject for another time where dreams and reality violently interlace.
Fantasy exerts a wishful control over the unknown and unforeseeable future. Tomorrow’s today is today’s tomorrow, all things said and done. But ah, to have the better “this” or “that,” the forbidden grapes at one’s fingertips, the pulse beating faster for goals pre-achieved, to shape reality in another manner that meets each wish without shame or disruption of Nature’s way. A divine gift to the searching mind: the parallel world of dreams that will tempt us but never be truly fulfilled.
Nonetheless, we should always aspire to alter the barriers to our wishes.
To dream is to hope, to hope is to endure as long as necessary… The mind craves relief from the bleak oneness of ordinary existence. We will always have an inner life–our safety valve that counteracts a biological destiny weighing us down.
Ah, to be other, to be là–bas, là–bas!*
*To be “out there” or “somewhere else”