“What would you wish for?” It is a question that I have asked of others and of myself countless times. Sometimes, it is all finished within a laugh. We blurt out fantastical inventions with barely a thought spent. Sometimes, we treat the question as if a fast-talking genie was awaiting our orders. It is a game that is endlessly fascinating because the answers tend to change every time we ask the question. It is also an endlessly useless game because the things that we wish for are seemingly unattainable. After all, if we believed that we could achieve this wish through hard work, we would have chosen something different. The game doesn’t just reveal what we desire; it reveals what we believe is impossible. So, we wish for piles of cash to rain down upon us or for carefree voyages around the world.
Aladdin, for the most well-known example, wishes to become a prince so he may gain Princess Jasmin’s hand. But even as a child, I knew that Aladdin simply had to present himself as he was to gain the acceptance he desired so desperately. Aladdin knows what he wants. He simply doesn’t know how to gain it. Perhaps he should have wished instead to have infinite knowledge. Yet, the movie posits this, too, as the wrong approach. Infinite cosmic power, after all, comes with an itty-bitty living space. The movie ends with Aladdin relinquishing this power to face the future on his own. I think this speaks to our desire to be challenged even as we want things to be easy. We want to triumph, but only after we feel like we deserve it.
It seems so often, though, that no one gets what they deserve. I look at the world around me and see injustices everywhere. I look at the world around me and want to wish it away. But when I close my eyes to imagine this as a better place, I realize that I would be a cruel and unjust god. For my wishes are arbitrary, subjective, and worst of all, vague. I recognize, like Aladdin, that I am not omniscient, and thus, my wishes will likely cause many unintended consequences. But perhaps, this is the inherent value of wishes. I can pretend at omnipotence, if only for a moment. A wish is not simply an expression of desire. A wish is something deeper, a dream of infinite possibilities that we can use flippantly.
Yet for all my endless speculations and formulations, I have not answered the most important question of all. “What would YOU wish for, Corrina?”. I could wish for world peace. But peace can be achieved easily under a dictatorship. I could wish for personal happiness. But one happiness can come at the cost of many others. Perhaps I will wish for something simpler: a beautiful, turbulent life and some good people to enjoy it with.