‘Wishes don’t fly, birds fly.’ No sooner had I realised this truth umpteenth time during my run this morning than I received a full load of warm bird dropping on my head and shoulders. I looked up. Right above my head, a seagull was perched on a branch of a tall gum (Eucalyptus) tree. I threw my hands up, whinging, ‘Why?’ The bird did not move or answer; it kept looking towards the river, seemingly oblivious to the consequences of its very natural act.
As I could not find any water spout around, I decided to move on, without messing with the Nature’s surprise gift. Wiping it with my handkerchief could not only have rendered my kerchief unusable during the remaining portion of my run but also smeared my gift all over my scalp, which would not have been a very good feeling. I hoped it would dry up soon, naturally, and it did. To the east, the sun suddenly appeared from behind the dark clouds on the horizon and shone brightly, albeit briefly before the mischievous clouds hid it again. I had no other option but to forgive the innocent bird. After all, it had only answered the call of nature, as we all do; it was not a deliberate, punishable act. Anecdotally, in some cultures, it is believed the recipients of such gifts are lucky and due for receiving Nature’s bounties. Well, I had not made any such wish for receiving this gift, none at all; it had happened unexpectedly and suddenly!
After running a couple of hundred metres or so, I saw a few morning walkers and a couple of cyclists standing at a spot – albeit complying with the current legal social distancing requirements – and looking intently towards a group of canoers in the river. It seemed they had all stopped to watch a pod of dolphins playing in the river. I too stopped briefly, at a safe distance from others, and watched the dolphins playing for a few moments. I also took a picture, hoping my phone camera would capture the magic moment when a dolphin would spring gleefully out of water; however, that did not happen.
Well, thinking about it, I had not wished to receive either of the two gifts this morning, but things do happen every now and then, whether we wish or not. Nature is not a slave to our wishes, a reminder to a popular proverb: ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.’
Since I can remember, I may have made zillions of wishes, which were never answered. I may have lost the count of my wishes that I wake up in a more humane and considerate world – much more peaceful and happier than it seems to be now – where people are kinder and more empathetic to one another and to other life species, where religion is not used, abused and misused for personal material gains and for unleashing atrocities on less privileged people. My wishes for friendship between traditions foes – countries, communities and individuals – and for the general improvement in life of marginalised and less privileged people seem to have fallen on deaf ears. My wishes have been altruistic. Oh, I am sorry! Is it too early to conclude this assertion? Have I forgotten about COVID-19?
[It is another thing that most of my predictions have come true but solely based on my ability to think outside the box, consider all possibilities, a sharp eye that is able to decipher patterns, and my sixth sense.]
I have not wished much for myself, which may sound unbelievable, perhaps with a sense of arrogance. I do not have any such hedonic wish-list. I am thankful for being privileged, who I am and what I have. If wishing well for one’s family can be considered hedonic, then I may have made many hedonic wishes. I distinctly recall how, a decade ago, I had desperately wished that my mother recovered from her debilitating terminal sickness before she passed on suddenly at a relatively young age of 63. Wishes don’t fly! Actions fly but only if the Higher Design allows them to fly. Laws of Nature prevail. Where they are violated, Nature punishes mercilessly.
To test the mechanism and effectiveness of wishes, and immunise myself from the fear of death (and not death itself, as death is inevitable for each one of us), there have been numerous times when I have just wished that I die suddenly in my sleep or of a massive heart attack or in a road crash, without having to become old, fragile or sick. My wishes have not been answered, at least, not yet. Being a frequent traveller, there have been numerous occasions when my plane took an unusually long period of time to land or suffered severe bumping in the air (due to bad weather) and I prepared myself mentally for the worse – without any grudge, remorse or regret – and became ready to depart, while I saw my fellow passengers tightly holding on to their armrests, looking around pale and nervous, some praying and some crying.
A few years ago, someone asked me, ‘If Lord Ram suddenly appeared before you, what would you ask for?’ I replied, ‘I would not ask for anything material, I would request Him to let me accompany Him.’
Some people may ask, ‘Will you not like to grow old and play with your grandchildren and see them grow?’ My answer is, ‘It is not entirely in my hands. They are not born yet, they will arrive in their own time. What is the point of discussing things that are not in our control?’
Some readers may be wondering if I am a normal person. A stereotypical thinking requires one to fear death and not talk about it in the sense I am talking. Who wants to die, let alone wish to die? Thinking about it, it is generally our fear of death and the unknown (after death) that pushes many people to figuratively do all kinds of gymnastics and acrobatics to defy death and live as long as possible. And why should not one try to live long? For many people, living life is a matter of pleasure, a gift and an opportunity for satisfying all five senses through hedonic enjoyment of materials.
I have been fortunate enough to have lived a little more than 55 and contributed positively to the world for more than 35 years of my life by now and done everything that a fortunate person is expected to do. I am physically and mentally healthy, living the core message of my book, ‘My life does not have to be unhappy’ (2017). On a daily basis, I engage myself in the three activities – meditation, oxygenation (aerobic exercises), and living to an altruistic purpose in life – that are essential for living a more fulfilled and meaningful life. Unless Nature has other designs, I would not like to be become old and fragile and sick, or remain bedridden or be bound to a wheelchair, or turn out to be a leech for my family or the taxpayer, in general, and leach out their resources that can otherwise have better uses.
To avoid any misinterpretation, it is important to clarify that, yes, on numerous occasions, I have wished that I die but that does not mean I’ll take my own life. Committing suicide is one of the greatest cowardly crimes that one can commit against one’s parents, particularly, one’s mother, as well as against the humanity as a whole. Our life is a gift to us from our mother, who has conceived, carried us for months and delivered us, risking her own life in the process and compromising on her comforts for many years – before, during and after our birth. She has nurtured us so that we can live. Our father too has worked hard to help us survive and grow. Thereafter, the whole world takes care of us and, as such, we are accountable to the world community. It is our duty and moral responsibility to look after our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. The world community – our parents, elders, teachers, researchers, doctors and governments – has heavily invested in each one of us, whether we realise this fact consciously or not.
Coming back to the topic of wishes, and without getting distracted further, a logical and important question arises: ‘Why have not my wishes been answered?’
The answer can be any or all of the following:
- Perhaps, I may have been wishing in the wrong places or at wrong times.
- Perhaps, the Granter may be too preoccupied with doing other more important tasks, such as:
- Keep the sun burning, just like an engine driver of the past, chucking coal in the furnace to keep the rail engine running;
- Traffic policing the planets so that they don’t collide and cause a catastrophic end to the entire cosmos – another big bang; and / or
- Keep spinning our beautiful earth about its axis, as a top, and make it go around the sun so that each one of us equally enjoys the day (to work) and the night (to sleep) and various seasons, without monotony.
- Possibly, I am too insignificant for the Granter.
- Perhaps, as a horrible possibility, the Granter does not exist at all.
My colleague, Payam Sadeghi, also a philosopher in his own right apart from being an able engineer, says:
‘Perhaps, God does not exist. Even if He exists, either He is too powerless to change anything on the earth or too preoccupied with watching soccer all the time, munching chips. Is it not rather strange that He (God) just can’t see or doesn’t care that children and innocent individuals die in war or due to hunger and disease? Can’t He see that most people in the world are poor and uneducated, and constantly being exploited – used, abused and misused – by a small percentage of privileged individuals? Does He really care? Can’t He see how militarily big and wealthier countries bully and exploit smaller countries, thereby, deciding the fate of common people in those unfortunate countries. What is the God for if He can’t act to stop bad things happening on earth?’
Well, these thoughts raise many more questions that can ever be answered with a logical and rational mind without, of course, using some form of belief to defend God (Nature, the Granter, the Maker) and justify His inaction or inertness. Some people may use the theories of destiny and karama for our suffering, which goes into the controversial domain of reincarnation. Some people may say God is testing us. But why, what have we done? Definitely, God can’t be sadistic, one who derives pleasure from our miseries. Surely, we have not understood the truth well enough, not yet.
If God starts listening to our ‘petty’ hedonistic wishes, imagine the time it will take Him to fulfill our hundreds of wishes on a daily basis. Considering that we are about 8 billion people living on the planet, and growing, it is unfair we distract Him from what He is already doing for us in terms of the stability of our cosmos and our eco-system.
God or no God, things do happen, as and when they are meant to happen – as a direct result of the human endeavour – or naturally, as surprises and unexpected gifts to us from Nature, such as the two gifts I received this morning. After all, our earth was created about 4.3 billion years ago and has survived all these years. The sun will last for another 5 billion years, it has already exhausted nearly half of its capacity. The human population has increased nearly eight times in the last 400 years and we are currently nearly 8 billion people on the planet.
Things keep happening irrespective of our wish. The collective actions of those 8 billion people on our planet, together with the actions of all other life species (including our eco system) and, most importantly, our individual actions, decide our now and tomorrow, notwithstanding the roles played by the sun, the moon and the stars.
Wishes don’t fly, birds fly. Flies, moths and insects too fly. Even ants fly. Human were not meant to fly, Nature did not give them wings. Humans needed machines and mechanical wings to fulfill their timeless wish to fly. It need a sustained human endeavour for us to fly; many dreamers also lost their lives in the process before the wish was fulfilled. Ironically, however, where have we reached now? Most planes are grounded in this global Covid-19 Lockdown. Perhaps, the growing size of a large hole in our ozone layer had wished they be grounded so that the human race could survive, at least for now and some more time, which goes on to teach that wishes must be made exercising due wisdom, with extreme care and foresight. Well, that is another thing …
As for me, my only wish is that, at the end of the day, I close my eyes without guilt that I did not try enough and do my best. Nonetheless, due to my insignificance in the Higher Design, I am neither ashamed of anything nor fearful.
To conclude, wishes don’t fly on their own, they need wings. Our actions and efforts are their wings. Unless our actions – honest, sincere, focused and sustained – back our wishes, they don’t get fulfilled. Actions matter. Efforts count.
… Bill Koul (18 April 2020)
Note 1: ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride’ is a proverb and nursery rhyme, which is understood to have been recorded around 1628. An ancestor of this proverb is understood have been written by William Camden (1551–1623), in 1605, in ‘Remaines of a Greater Worke, Concerning Britaine’, which contains the lines: ‘If wishes were thrushes beggars would eat birds’.
Note 2: If you are one of those fortunate individuals whose prayers and wishes have been fulfilled and that too without making much effort, count your blessings and be thankful, as most people in this world are not as fortunate. Good men suffer for no fault and lose everything in a jiffy. How much of our life is really in our control?
This article has a much wider global significance, much beyond the lives of simple individuals, their small worlds and their basic needs. It aims to remove many common fears and reminds one of his / her insignificance in the scheme of things and the Higher Design.
The lives of more than 80 percent world population are dependent more or less on the whims and wishes of the remaining 20-percent. It is that overwhelming majority that fits into this proverb, the remaining 20 percent are just outliers. The wishes of that majority don’t generally come true. For them ‘wishes don’t fly, actions fly’ but even that does not always happen, as COVID-19 has just proved.
Note 3: According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report (https://inequality.org/facts/global-inequality/#global-wealth-inequality): “the world’s richest 1 percent, those with more than $1 million, own 44 percent of the world’s wealth. Their data also shows that adults with less than $10,000 in wealth make up 56.6 percent of the world’s population but hold less than 2 percent of global wealth. Individuals owning over $100,000 in assets make up less than 11 percent of the global population but own 82.8 percent of global wealth.”