“The world is what it is — we fight, we die. Wishing doesn’t change that.”
“I have to believe in a better world.”
“Go ahead. I have to live in this one.”
Buffy Summers and Rupert Giles in Buffy – The Vampire Slayer: “The Wish”

A tweet reminded me of self-help books that essentially say that you just need to wish hard enough to get something. Or at least, that’s that remains when people have read the book, or what is talked about. (Which raises a couple of questions about the responsibility of an author when s/he is misunderstood, if this author was misunderstood … but that’s something for another posting.)

Anyway, I don’t read these kinds of books — just not my kind of literature. Same with books or “motivational speaker” who point to anecdotal stories of individuals who risked a lot to achieve their goals while ignoring that the vast majority of people who tried it failed. Nothing against exceptions, but the reason why they make so interesting stories is that they are the exception. And also nothing against striving for extreme goals. If that’s what a person wants, hey, why not. But I think it’s basic decency to be informed about the situation and that success is highly unlikely. Otherwise it’s just deceiving someone. I don’t like people lying to me to make me feel better, nor do I like people telling me that I will be successful when the chances are pretty low. But then again, I prefer to make my decisions based on information.

As for the view that wishing alone can bring something forth, I mean besides wasted time … huh …

If it’s just a question of having hope, totally agree — well, within reason. Also if it’s a question of motivation to actually inquire about what you want, to find out what is needed to actually achieve it and strive for it, to use network effects, okay. Hope is important and when it comes to motivation, any bit helps. And you cannot get what you do not ask for. Well, you can, but that’s kinda random.

But otherwise it’s a strange view.

Somehow the individual is so important that the whole universe jumps on demand. My mind reliably balks at the idea of imagining the universe given the size of it — and the complexity. That system caring about a single human? It’s a bit like that machine in “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” that shows the user his/her role in the universe and people going mad when they realize how unimportant they are.

Even if it’s only the person’s social universe (or system) that is supposed to respond … waow, why should other people be obliged to provide something? Strange “I want my pony” thinking.

Even worse, suppose a person wishes with all his/her heart and “it” does not happen. Whose fault is it? As with many self-help books, the easiest explanation is that the person just did not wish hard enough. It was his/her fault. But hey, there’s probably another self-help book for that … and another … and another. (Okay, the skepticism has just entered the cynicism territory.)

Frankly, I find the view of an uncaring universe much, much more comforting. To quote Bertrand Russell:

The universe may have a purpose, but nothing we know suggests that, if so, this purpose has any similarity to ours.
Bertrand Russell

A universe that does not care might not give us what we want, but in the same vein, it is not hostile. It does not care either way.  It is not out to get us deliberately. It just is. Things are in motion and we better deal with them. Trying to appease it will not work. Or to quote Ingersoll:

Man must learn to rely upon himself. Reading bibles will not protect him from the blasts of winter, but houses, fires, and clothing will. To prevent famine, one plow is worth a million sermons, and even patent medicines will cure more diseases than all the prayers uttered since the beginning of the world.
“The Gods” by Robert G. Ingersoll, 1872

To take a different look at the issue — would you really want a universe that is just a plaything of the person who wishes the most? Would you want people having that much power? Some idiot who really, really wishes for something and getting it?

Nope, so luckily, wishing alone does not change anything. Nor is it helpful. Hmm, quote night, how about some Frost:

A person will sometimes devote all his life to the development of one part of his body – the wishbone.
Robert Frost

So, why not instead of wishing or praying a little more planing and acting? Of course, that requires first to find out what you actually want, and whether what you want is actually good for you. And what you are willing to invest in it and how far you are willing to go for it. And what you do not want and how to avoid it.

And that is the actually difficult thing.