Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Hermeneutics of Wishes - VI



Meanings End

We've come to the denouement of our journey. This is the final episode which contains the shocking conclusion. Hopefully, during our exploration, we have learned about the…
Good ones, poor ones,
Enticingly allure ones,
Vague ones, sure ones—
But also how to cure one's
Desires for wishes,
Although we've had our misses. 
We've endured this tour
More surely as a cure
Of what you shouldn't wish for
Unless your humbly poor.
So what conclusive wishes
Will land us all in riches?
Good question. Let's see if we can come up with some satisfactory answers. These are in reverse order of recommendation—last is best.

The first recommendation (which is really number 5) is to think small. If you're ill, wish for health, If your poor, wish for wealth—but not too much. The worst thing you can do is to let your wish bring you contentment. Remember, full contentment may be reached when you're dead. I have neither the space nor expertise to enter into the money-brings-happiness question. In general, discounting all the uncertainty about what one means, or can even know, about one's state of happiness (By the way, Daniel Kahneman says there is only a .5 correlation between what we report as happiness and what we experience.), the studies seem to suggest greater wealth and greater happiness fit together better than less wealth and greater happiness (up to $60,000/year in the U.S). But a great windfall is suspect. One million dollars, though not what it once was (or because it's not what it once was) is a nice wish. If not that, try the elimination of all remotes so, once again, we get to leave our couches and walk to TV's which have buttons to turn on and off the CD player or other peripherals.

Next, and fourth on the list, if you have taken the advice to "get to know your wish giver", and he/she/it seems trustworthy, let them decide. We've seen in the vast majority of cases that the unpoor are notoriously bad at choosing a wish. Trust is a wonderful commodity.

Thirdly, perhaps better than asking your wish giver, ask your friends and/or relatives, √° la "How the Old Woman Got Her Wish". You've been following your desires for a long time now and look where it's gotten you. It's that trust thing again. These people may know you better than you know yourself, and they won't be so greedy. I know these recommendations are unconventional, but conventional wisdom has been without this seminal guide.

The penultimate suggestion is not for everyone. Use your wish to benefit someone else. I know, a once in a millennium chance and you blow it on someone else. Think of the positives, however. You get an unbelievable amount of merit, and who knows how that might play out? You get tremendous gratitude. If the wish was for money, I'm sure a good percentage will be coming right back to you in thanks. And lastly, you avoid the significant risk of woe that seems to follow wishes around. You likely get a great gift in thanks before the recipient realizes you did them no favor.

Finally, here is my last and best recommendation—but it needs a bit of background.

There is a video of Richard Feynman discussing the fantastic behavior of the very small. "Electrons act like waves—no they don't exactly. Electrons act like particles—no they don't exactly. Electrons act like a fog around the nucleus—no they don't exactly." Similarly, the three wish triad generally brings one back full circle—but not always. The poor and kind-hearted gain health, happiness, and often wealth—but not always. Wishes for absurd amounts of wealth and power often backfire—but not always. Just as science fails to find a consistent pattern of behavior for the tiny, our empirical analysis has failed to discover a law of wishes.

Oh, we have learned a tremendous amount, but empiricism has its limits. And when they are met, we nervously turn to thinking, I mean, philosophy. In the world of the small we have the Copenhagen Interpretation (or Multi-worlds, if you're into infinities). Let's try our hand with wishes.

Unlike electrons, wishes don't exist empirically outside of written accounts. Thus, we had to resort to hermeneutics. In fact, wishes don't exist outside of language. Not too worry. Just as you would have to be a madman to think the physical world does not exist outside your mind, you would have to be the same to say wishes don't exist because they aren't in the physical world. We see their destructive effect every day.

And not only are wishes born of language but so too, in a matter of speaking, is everything else. It's a two way street. Our language is stimulated by the world, but also our world is cast through language. The world both generates and is generated by language. It is through our ontological questioning that our way of being and the way of the world is experienced. And when confronted by a wish, it is our own language of the world that forms the wish and drives the resultant wish fulfillment. A wish is a pure manifestation of language as the house of being.

The being of the wish is the communicative event of language in use—its ontology both generates and is regenerated by what is said in that historical moment. So the focus, that up until now has been on the nature of the 'whatness' of wishes, can be shifted to the question of the 'whoness' of the one wishing. The world, as it exists, exists for the wisher as for no other creature in the world. Your 'whoness' determines the reality of your wish more than any outside physics. Ultimately it matters less what your wish or wish strategy is, but rather who you are. Strangely enough, this seems to be endorsed by the tales themselves.

Wishes are fulfilled based more on a Heideggerian 'whoness', than an empirical 'whatness'. So the strategy, then, is to be authentic. Move past thinking of the world (and others) as subjects and objects as those meanings end. Know thyself as you currently are in the world in order to understand your being in the world. No biology of parentage can answer of whence we came into being. We're thrown into the world as by magic and must learn what human being in the world is. Try speech instead of idle talk; wonder instead of mere novelty; and care, mostly care. That is the primordial state of being as we strive towards authenticity.

Now, if much of the above makes no sense to you, even after reading it over a couple of times, then, congratulations! You've already outpaced me in your strive towards authenticity.

Here is how the tales tell it. Live your life as if you were poor and humble. Cultivate your garden. Be generous, especially to curious looking strangers. And when the time comes to claim your wish, your 'whoness' will provide you with just the right one. If you're not comfortable with that, then just wish for a big sunny field.

11 comments:

maryharv said...

Ah, trust...when will we ever learn? Upon our arrival in Dublin, we were advised to look at a site called "donedeal", much like our "craigslist" back home to find a used car. We were told that it is better to buy from an individual rather than to be ripped off (said in much more eloquent terms by the Irish but I can never remember how they turn their phrases)so off we taxied to a lovely neighborhood, an area that boasted home to Dublin's Botanical Gardens. Right away, both Tom and I thought the fellow we were dealing with was a bit sketchy. For one, he met us with the car at a pub stating that it was much easier to meet there instead of giving lengthy directions to his home. (looking back, I am not sure he owned a home...or the car for that matter but I am getting ahead of myself)He remained in the driver's seat when we took it for a test run. He said it was just like new blah, blah blah. (It was a '96, practically an antique but it was a Mercedes and we liked ours at home, and it was pretty,actually the boys said it was purple, not navy blue which should have also alerted us to something not quite right, I mean have you ever seen a purple Mercedes?)So we gave the guy cash and off we drove. We marveled at the ease of the transaction and laughed hoping the car would make it through the year. It made it exactly from Dublin to Kinsale, 2 1/2 hours!!!, where it died in front the place we're renting. We stopped in to our good friend and mechanic, Pat O'Leary, who basically laughed in our faces, though somehow it's not as insulting coming from an Irish laugh. He told us we are too honest. Maybe too trusting, I think he must have meant. But he did say honest and they seem to choose their words carefully. There is no hope of repair. Pat said he could sell it for scrap and asked for the papers. Hmmm. No papers. We did say it was such an easy transaction..give a guy money, drive off with a car. So we thought of pushing it into the harbour some late night but instead just parked it along the road, wiped down the inside to remove our fingerprints, and will wait for the Garda to pile up tickets on it laughing all the while that we will never be found out. Eventually the plates will be traced back to its rightful owner, I'd imagine. My actress friend, Martina Carrol, simply said the incident with the car was just a way of telling us to slow down. Which we have. And also have logged in about 50 miles of walking in the first week alone. So my point at this moment in time is I wish I had a car. That worked. I still would have two remaining wishes, correct?

James R said...

Nooooooo! That's terrible! Worse than a sausage at the end of one's nose.

I could joke about it and say "the unpoor are notoriously bad at choosing a wish", but now you are poor so you're all set!

Or, that your "whoness" when making the deal was thinking you were getting a deal. Too good to be true, usually is—as you continually felt during your trial.

Or, often the trusting woodsman outsmarted clever shyster—but not always.

But those don't translate well. As to your wishes, the first was your house—that apparently came true successfully. The next was the car—that was your worst nightmare. My third wish—something to keep me going—would be to find that guy!

Big Myk said...

I'm a little surprised that you didn't get around to what Kierkegaard (another nominee for the Harvey canon if for no other reason than on the strenth of his name) had to say about wishes:

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!”

Big Myk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James R said...

You've got the read the episodes before you comment. (Hint: III)

James R said...

You think you've failed as a writer when no one will even look at your stuff. You know you've failed when people look at your stuff but it isn't riveting enough to keep them engaged.

Big Myk said...

Oops, my bad. Ah, young Grasshopper, just because you have eyes does not mean that you see.

Big Myk said...

But it appears nonetheless that you missed the implications of wishing for wisdom.

5 In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I shall give thee.”
6 And Solomon said, “Thou hast shown unto Thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before Thee in truth and in righteousness and in uprightness of heart with Thee; and Thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that Thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
7 And now, O Lord my God, Thou hast made Thy servant king instead of David my father. And I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in.
8 And Thy servant is in the midst of Thy people whom Thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
9 Give therefore Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this Thy so great a people?”
10 And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
11 And God said unto him, “Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life, neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment,
12 behold, I have done according to thy words. Lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart, so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.
13 And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honor, so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.
14 And if thou wilt walk in My ways to keep My statutes and My commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.”

James R said...

Now you raise an excellent and very interesting point. I did struggle over this—though, unfortunately, I did not find this particular tale. What a great find! As you show, it is too great a subject for one person to capture.

While I do believe these six episodes represent mankind's greatest foray into the hermeneutics of wishes in the history of the world, I am not writing my Nobel or Pulitzer acceptance speeches yet. I realize there is much still to be discovered.

I decided not to spend much time in this area—the wish for wisdom. Perhaps I just wasn't up to the task, so I slipped it in under wishes that, while not meta-wishes, are "absurd, illogical or ill-defined, and as such should be avoided at all costs" in part V. The particular line is: I wish "for inerrancy, especially when making wishes."

In that "especially when making wishes" part, perhaps I was trying to hide the whole wishing for inerrancy thing, which seemed safer than wishing for wisdom. Part of the reason I did not want to deal with it in a detailed manner is this. (toward the bottom of the page and the next page of comments) Although interesting to me, I felt readers' eyes, already probably glazed, would be covered by dragon scales if I broached the subject.

Big Myk said...

It seems to me that there is a huge difference between inerrancy and wisdom or discernment. To be inerrant is to be free of error. Thus, inerrancy assumes that there is a truth in this shifting and complex universe sufficiently defined that we can measure error against it. Someone with wisdom or discernment might well conclude that wishing for inerrancy is impossible and pointless.

James R said...

I'll buy that. I guess I felt wisdom depended on a truth. But, since God Almighty thought it was an acceptable wish and, more importantly, you do, then that might be a good one. I'm not sure if I trust that God has the wherewithal to grant wisdom in every instance and have it not come back to bite you, but, like I say, I think I'm over my head here. It's hard to get a good read on God. It's scary since its open ended, but, let's face it, we try to practice wisdom now without much success, so a wish might just be the ticket.