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.
First, we need to stipulate that wishing for something is relatively synonymous with desiring, expecting, hoping, praying, and craving for something. Next, is there a fundamental source for all these sentiments?
As I see it, we feel a visceral need, which stimulates thought that creates a story that conforms to that need. Thus, primal need is the lowest common denominator for those rather synonymous sentiments above. Then we begin expecting reality to match the story. This feeds back on the larger framework of treasured ideals developing within us since childhood.
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”.
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 this view extreme, including me. On the other hand, he points out that raising taxes is what politicians do instead of governing or making hard decisions. He is correct historically. In a democracy, people wish for things and vote for politicians who promise to deliver them, preferably without raising taxes. Later, when the chickens come home to roost, we naturally and irrationally blame scapegoats (e.g., corporations, politicians), but in a democracy the buck stops with ‘we the people’. Well… that is the dilemma! Chapter 70 speaks to this irony, 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 just don’t seem capable of ‘paying 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 contrived clever ways to borrow from the future to make up for 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 an 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.