Be careful what you wish for”, followed by “it might just come true” is an ironic maxim concerning the perils of wishing without grasping unintended consequences. Most perilous is that “it might NOT come true!”
First, we need to stipulate that wishing for something is relatively synonymous with desiring, expecting, hoping, praying, and craving for it.
Next, is there a more elemental source for all these sentiments? I say need is the fundamental emotion that drives these. We feel an urge, which then stimulates thought to create a story that conforms to that need. Then we begin expecting reality to match the story. This feeds back on the larger framework of ideals that have been developing within us since childhood and that we treasure dearly.
Finally, how do we feel when our wish for a certain result falls through? Not happy! As Buddha said, Painful is the craving for that which cannot be obtained and pleasures are the bait, the result is pain. Therefore, I say, “Be careful what you wish for, it will be the source of your suffering” hits the nail on the head.
The core ideals we cherish determine what we wish for in life. This sets up the potential pitfalls that lie ahead. An example of this is my experience in the stock market last year. It plunged and knocked down the value of our stock. If my core ideal was to succeed and make money, this crash would have really bummed me out! As it happens, my core ideal is patience and balance. The plunging stock market handed me an excellent opportunity to practice what I preach — another core ideal of mine.
Therefore, we can improve the maxim further: “Take care in what you idealize to limit future suffering.” That is the value of embracing so called ‘spiritual’ ideals as much as possible. They counterbalance the ‘more is better urge’ that pushes us to get all we can as quickly as possible. (See How the hoodwink hooks) Christ put it well, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. That last line says it all.
Speaking of being careful of what we wish for
The Daily Show had Grover Norquist on recently. He champions never increasing taxes. Many regard that an extreme view, included me. On the other hand, he makes a solid sobering point. Essentially, he points out that raising taxes is what politicians do instead of governing or making hard decisions. I can’t argue with that. He is correct historically. In a democracy, people wish for things and vote for politicians who promise to deliver them, preferably without exacting payment in higher taxes. Naturally, we blame the corporations or the politicians, but in a democracy, the buck actually stops with we the people! It actually does, but then, isn’t that the problem? As chapter 70 hints, Our words are very easy to know, very easy to do. Under heaven none can know, none can do.
Modern government conforms to the natural wish to get something (benefits) for nothing (no taxes) if possible. In the wild, that is rarely possible. Such expectations run counter to what actually occurs in nature. Nature is a pay as you go system. My initial reaction was to oppose Norquist’s “No new taxes” rigid stand. After deliberation, I must admit he has a point. People the world over simply don’t seem capable to pay as they go unless compelled by nature to do so. We wish for more on one hand, and wish to pay less for it on the other. In modern times, we have cleverly found a way to borrow from the future to make up the deficit of today. This childish behavior supports Norquist’s position; this also means Norquist’s plan is doomed. Taxes will go up… but spending will outstrip any tax increase in the end. Getting more for less must be in instinctive urge, and so impossible to pass up let alone eradicate. As chapter 16 cautions us, Answering to one’s destiny is called the constant, knowing the constant is called honest. Not knowing the constant, rash actions lead to ominous results.