Friday, November 10, 2017

The Talking Fish

On the radio today, I heard about a filmmaker who devised an idea for a documentary: he would go door to door and film people’s responses to one scenario. What if you found a magical talking fish that could grant you three wishes before you released it? What would you wish for?

Of course, this is merely a variation of the Aladdin’s lamp tale from the Arabian Nights. On the other hand, it also recalls W.W. Jacob’s cautionary tale of “The Monkey’s Paw” that warns to be careful what you wish for. Or as a lawyer would put it, draft your wishes carefully to consider all the possible loopholes and save the last wish in case you need to undo the first two.

But my reaction on hearing the question was visceral, without thought or consideration. I immediately knew what my wishes would be, in order of priority. But first, what would yours be? Go on, write them down. I’ll wait. I’ll meet you back at the next paragraph.

Are you back? Got your list? Good. Here were my three wishes, off the top of my head: (1) To rid the world of hatred; (2) To rid the world of illness; and (3) To be reunited with all my loved ones I’ve lost. I probably might have made different choices as a child, and again as a young man. I think age plays a role in one’s perspective. So does a degree of selfishness. Perhaps more than ever in my lifetime I see so much hatred in the world today. It’s the cause of much persecution and most wars. In my own selfish way, I’d like to spare my family and friends, and myself from being touched by this senseless violence. And why not extend that protection to everyone else, too? Similarly, as I age, I see more of the debilitating and painful effects of illness afflicting so many, including myself. I’ve spent time at cancer hospitals watching not only adults, but young children, walking the halls or dining in the cafeteria in hospital gowns, their hair long gone and their eyes staring back with a gaze hinting at the unimaginable suffering they are enduring. However, illness affects not only them but their healthy family members as well: the mothers and father, siblings, husbands or wives… the toll it takes on them is equally devastating. Most selfishly of all, I miss my departed loved ones: both human and pets. They had been my nurturers and support system throughout the years, and the source of constant unconditional love — the nutrient we all need to survive and prosper.

No amount of money could purchase my wishes. Henry David Thoreau wrote: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” No one aspires to a life of mediocrity. We all wish to accomplish something meaningful with our allotted lifetimes. Many of us would like to leave the world a better place than we found it. So that’s how I would explain my wishes to the talking fish.

“If wishes were fishes…” But of course, magical talking fish don’t exist.

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