When I was a child I heard, as you probably did as well, that a wish made upon seeing the first star of the evening might just be granted.
I didn’t believe it, not really. But still, the thought of it was a powerful thing. I couldn’t just ignore the suggestion that this might be a possibility. How could I not at least try?
It seemed clear that in case the wish ever came true, I wanted to make sure that I would have wished for the right thing. If I were to wish for a giant bowl of candy and I got my wish, then I’d wonder what might have happened if I’d wished for something better. Well then, what to wish for?
There was an obvious contender for first place in this little mental contest. A girl in my class, who was beautiful, graceful, and pure. I wanted her to like me back. But after some soul-searching, my childish mind concluded that even this wasn’t a good enough wish. There were too many things that could go wrong. And so, with a bit of pain, I dismissed that thought.
Finally I settled on what I wanted, and throughout my childhood, every time I was alone outside, looking at the sky, and I saw a lonesome star, I asked for the same thing:
Happiness. A contented life.
I’m actually pretty proud of my younger self, looking back at that decision. Indeed, I might wish that my adolescence and young adulthood could have been as insightful as my childhood!
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was an infantile Aristotelian.
And it just struck me today how similar that is to my hopes for my children, now that I am older and have little ones of my own. I always say that all I want for them is happiness and a desire to be virtuous. If they have that, even if they have nothing else, I will rejoice for them.
This focus on happiness has led me down some unconventional roads over the course of my life, but it has done well by me.
I’ve learned that happiness is almost always attainable, so long as you are able to make your happiness contingent upon the right things. And even with few resources, it is possible to design your life in ways that make it as easy as possible for a person to be happy and full of gratitude.
But first you have to want it, and know you want it. You have to know that if you only had one wish to make for yourself that had a chance of coming true, you’d spend your wish on the right thing.