One of the most compelling voices in the Magic community, Patrick Chapin “The Innovator” is a member of the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame and the author of Next Level Deckbuilding.
“Haven’t Used a Single Wish Yet, and Not Planning on It” was originally published on another website; it appears, now, on Five With Flores at the author’s request.
A while ago, I was at RIW Hobbies getting ready for an event. Some friends of mine were discussing a philosophy question one of them had been asked recently in a class.
“If a genie gave you one wish, and you couldn’t wish for more wishes, what would it be?”
The two of them had been debating the “best play.” Others chimed in with suggestions; by far money was the most popular wish, though how much seemed to be a matter of debate. Other suggested wishes include “Living as long as one wants,” “One’s parent to still be alive,” and “Finding the ‘perfect’ girl and having her fall in love with you.”
With all of these ideas of how to spend the wish, the guys in the conversation were initially shocked and then quite skeptical when I replied, “I would not use the wish.”
“Call!” They were not only surprised, but initially a bit disappointed, thinking that I was only resorting to this answer out of laziness or lack of imagination.
“Seriously, I would not use the wish, not on anything, not at all.”
At this point they began to suspect that I was attempting to look “too good for a wish.”
“It’s not about being too good, it is about the universe already being the best possible way for today and that I am continually bettering my life though my own will, though my efforts. Why would I trivialize my life, what I am done, what I will do, Who I Am, by using a wish to get what I want rather than getting it myself?”
They mocked me at this point, claiming that if I were in that situation, I would surely wish for something.
“Whatever I would want is already mine if I take it. The Universe is the ultimate wish granter. The difference between the genie granting my wish and the universe is that the universe gives me an opportunity to be it myself, plus it gives me what I really want. The genie merely lets me “witness” it, as oppose to be the cause of it, plus the genie can only give me what I think I want. I already have essentially unlimited potential, but if I take the genie up on his offer, I am basically a slave to him, as it is him that is the source of my experience, rather than myself and the Universe.”
They continued to be skeptical, claiming that it sounded all well and good to say that, but why would not $100 extra be better than not using a wish at all?
“Money is a means, not the end in and of itself. The point is to know yourself, the Universe experientially. To wish for $100 may give me a $100, but what have I really gained? If I was $100 short, if I wanted $100, I could just go get it. If I found myself with $100 extra, I would find a way to give away an extra $100. The thing is, if the genie gave me the money, it would devalue both money and my human experiences. You and I both know what it is like to trade hours of actual work for a single digit worth of dollars. That builds character, character that if I could just wish for money, I would not have.”
Adam was appalled by this answer, “You are concerned about building character? Is this a joke? Who cares about building character, go do whatever you want with the money and build character that way! Are you really telling me you wouldn’t have used a wish to get out of going to prison? What about losing all the money you had made back in the day?”
When I was younger, I lived a strange life, one of excess and riches, mindless self-indulgence, and adventure. I was making a fairly absurd amount of money for a kid living so dumb. I decided to move past that life, giving it all up. Unfortunately, these types of things have a way of catching up with you, and eventually it did. It felt like I lost everything.
My money, my cars, my material possessions, my power, all gone. I let it go, though, and tried to move on with my life. I took a job with Wizards of the Coast R&D, my literal dream job. It was the most satisfying work of my life at that point and by no small margin. Then, however, my past continued to revisit me. My freedom was stripped from me, taking me four years to regain. Was I a victim? No sir, and any perceived individual injustices can be written off to having made mistakes that can have unpredictable side effects.
It wasn’t just my freedom that I lost, however. My dream job obviously disappeared, as I could certainly not make it to work each day. In addition, the first girl I ever loved was under a great strain. We were together for three-and-a-half years, but the prospect of years and years of waiting, as well as the stress between us over how difficult both our lives had become was too much. After I was down 18 months, she left me and while I was broken-hearted, I can hardly blame her.
I had lost everything. Didn’t I wish I didn’t lose everything? Don’t I wish I didn’t feel that pain?
First, obviously if I really thought I had lost everything, then it would show a lack of understanding about what it is I really have, but outside of that, it is easy to look back and see how each and every one of those forks in the road has lead to a better life than I would have had if I had “used a wish.”
The money, the cards, the self-indulgence? What was that worth? I make a lot less money now then I did when I was a kid, but I have more wealth. Not only do I have more to show for it, but it means more to me. I value things that I would never have valued when I was a kid. If I buy flowers for a girl today, it means something very different to me then it did when no amount of flowers would “cost” me anything.
I think about all of the things I have accomplished that I never would have, had I not had the motivation of “needing money.” For instance, isn’t it very likely that I never would have written a book? Writing a book is very difficult, but needing to keep a roof over your head is strong motivation. Now that it is written, however, I find it one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. If I had unlimited money, I likely never would have. I hardly was staying sober for a week straight, let alone in a position to finish such an undertaking.
What about my freedom? I didn’t value my freedom ten years ago, the way I value it today. I truly did go to the “School of Hard Knocks.” I experienced strange, dangerous, bizarre, difficult, painful, enlightening, moving, and joyous moments in life that I never would have if I had gotten out of it by way of a wish. It is almost as if I had received a wish a year earlier, as I had almost mystically gotten out of a bad situation. What had changed? Not much, not nearly as much as what was different now, after this four year education.
It is not just about valuing my freedom, my life, though that is a big part of it. It is about how strong I am now, as the trials and tribulations I have endured have giving me priceless experience points, so to speak. If not for the four years I spent behind barbed wire on top of that mountain, I would not be the man I am today. I really like the man I am today.
What about losing my dream job? Well, the truth is, at the time, I wasn’t as good at it as I could be. I was immature. I was used to being an overachiever and did not pour all of my effort into it, or rather I didn’t know how to. It has been nearly eight years since I had that job. I have continued to educate myself, practicing design, pushing myself everyday. I want to do that kind of work again some day, and I have spent the last eight years perfecting the craft, becoming the best possible designer I can be. I am going to keep pushing myself to be better and better, striving to some day have an opportunity to do that kind of work again, as I truly love it and if I have a second chance someday, I will have the benefit of years and years of strengthening of my skills to make me better, as well as added maturity.
What about losing my first love? Well, now I am in Love with the woman of my dreams, an unlikely connection that I never would have made had I “used a wish” so many years ago. My first love? I will always have love for her and I am thankful for our time and experiences together, but there is no question that my girlfriend today is a better fit for me than I ever realized there could be. Surprise, surprise, the Universe knows what I want better than I do! It isn’t just finding a girl that is better for me, it is also about learning to be a better man to a woman. It is about learning Who I really Am, and what Love would do.
Everything I have ever experienced leads me to believe that the Universe doesn’t make mistakes. Everything that happens is the best possible thing to happen. I know it is easy to debate or dispute this, I am merely saying that everything in my life points to this as Truth.
Each and every human experience that I encounter is a blessing that helps me evolve and Know Life. It took each and every experience I have had to bring be today, and it will take each and every experience I am to have to make me reach my full potential. I wouldn’t wish to give up a single one, not for anything.
Thanks very much to Patrick for this contribution!
For those keeping score, Patrick is 1) currently and happily working in game design and 2) got married to his dream girl last summer.