Some of us will attribute any kismet we’re graced with to today’s date, some will feel more confident than ever in clenching their eyes shut and hoping for something unfeasible. Thousands of couples that have waited god-knows-how-long will tie the knot on what our society deems “a lucky day.” It’s 11/11/11, make a wish.
I’m not sure who to blame. Tradition? Our parents? We’ve been encouraged to make a wish once a year, every year, since we were cognizant enough to know what it meant. Maybe it’s Disney’s fault. All that “when you wish upon a star” noise fed to us from an early age. Did we ever stand a chance?
I don’t remember the first time I made an 11:11 wish. Sometime after I’d quit wishing on dandelions and rogue eyelashes. I’d be in class and someone would excitedly grab my arm, “It’s 11:11! Make a wish!” And I would, though I’m not sure why; I’d wish for something fleeting and of low import like some 15-year-old boy’s affections and it became habit, to wish for useless trivialities.
Why do we wish at 11:11? The origins on this one are unclear. Psychics, historians, and numerologists all have different, unfounded perspectives. Generally, (and correct me if I’m wrong) it’s believed that humans are “stalked” by the number 11 – that we are inclined to look at a clock 11 minutes past the hour, that this occurrence is beyond coincidence.
In the past, I’ve caught myself checking the time at 11:11 and feeling like I’d earned a wish. But the same thing happened to me post 9/11 — it was 9:11 every time I looked at a clock. Obviously it wasn’t, but these numbers hold meaning for me so I notice them. Other numbers? Not so much. I’ve looked at my watch ~5 times while writing this paragraph and I still couldn’t tell you what time it is. But when you’re looking for something, especially a number that tells you “go ahead, wish on me!” — you’re going to find it.
The problem I have with wishing is, when you become too dependent on it, you’re downplaying your ability to achieve goals without mystical assistance. It is the laziest form of activism.
There are two examples in popular culture that come to mind when we talk about wishing. One, the Make a Wish Foundation, is positive. It asks a terminally ill child to “make a wish,” and then the foundation sets forth in granting the aforementioned wish. There’s wishing, followed by carving out a plan and meeting goals. Presumably, the child can’t achieve his goals without outside help, but someone is taking initiative to turn words into action.
The second example, as a woman and an Oprah fan, embarrasses me: The Secret. Published in 2006, Rhonda Byrne’s self-help bestseller focuses on positive thinking (good) and a three-step process daftly titled, “Ask, Believe, Receive” (bad). In other words: Ask the universe for what you want; believe that you deserve it; receive the fruits of your mental labor. This is, for lack of a better word, delusional. The voodoo science outlined in the book suggests that hard work and ingenuity are no match for gratitude and visualization, which is, historically speaking, complete and utter BS. Like, hi. It’s Ask-Believe-ACHIEVE-Receive. Don’t get it twisted. Frankly, I don’t know how anyone can earnestly believe that they deserve something without taking any aggressive action to accomplish it. The hungry get to eat, that’s all I’m saying.
The truth is, I don’t want to live in a wish culture. I want to surround myself with people who are proactive and passionate, who believe they can accomplish goals not by way of mysticism, but by taking appropriate, rational steps toward their destination. And it’s not like everyone I know is passively hoping to trip over good fortune one day — even if they were, it’s not the number eleven’s fault — but I think it’s important to embrace our free will and potential rather than sit around with an inflamed sense of entitlement and expect that everything is going to work out in our favor.
There’s nothing wrong with tradition or with wishing. When I have children, I’m not going to ban them from blowing out candles on a birthday cake. It’s whimsical and in a way, it helps us conceptualize our desires. But why wish when you can plan? Why dream about things you can realistically have? We shouldn’t be afraid to work for the things we want. We shouldn’t wait for opportunities to fall into our laps because we happened to look at a clock at the right time. Frivolous wishing is a dumb, guilty pleasure. It’s a turn of phrase. It’s not a way of life. Getting married today will not safeguard your marriage. Looking at the right clock at the right time doesn’t guarantee you anything. Dream, hope, and wish – but above all, work. Getting what you want isn’t nearly as gratifying otherwise.