Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Of prayers and wishes

AOG, Madrid

The year is almost over, but the worse thing is that Christmas is almost upon us. 

The last time I was in London, the lights were up on Oxford street. 

So that's about two months of lights and decorations. The season is in full swing once again.

However, Christmas always makes me think about those people who will have to "bear" the celebrations once more. 

I am thinking about those people who will not be able to fully participate in the festivities. 

People who wish they had the money to buy all the goodies on show. 

Money to buy a little bit of happiness. Never mind money, sometimes just a job will do.

Here in Madrid, the season too has started. But in a different way. 

I once read that the great American poet, Maya Angelou, said this about luck: "If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities".

You see, one of the typical things people in Spain do this time of year, is buy a lottery ticket. It is a national custom. The Spanish, like the Americans, are obsessed with luck.

My partner buys me a ticket as a Christmas  present. I think it is kind of nice that someone gives you as a gift the opportunity to acquire a lot of money.

In Madrid's Gran Vía boulevard, there is a certain lottery vendor known as 'Doña Manolita' who acquired its fame years ago for  being a place where a few winning tickets were sold over the years.

Spain at present has Europe's biggest unemployment rate as well as the largest number of people unemployed in the developed world to the tune of 4.5 million people. 

Yesterday on the paper, as well as on television, there were stories about how long the lines were and how they crowded out other shoppers in the area. 

I walked past it this past weekend and the line was something else. More than ever, the Spanish need their luck to change. Or, barring that, just extra cash will do quite nicely, thank you. Can we blame them?

It is easy to see that in time of despair, some of us detach our thoughts from our mundane lives and throw ourselves into the arms of fortune in the hope that, as Angelou wrote, a single fantasy will change one million realities. 

We all want change, though we all fear it. Of course, the change we like is the change we can control. The change we work for and expect as the fruit of our toil and labor. 

Yet I remember the eternal Chinese caveat: "Be careful what you wish for, it just might happen". 

And lets not forget the great Spanish mystic, St. Teresa of Avila, who wrote: "More tears are shed over answered prayers than  unanswered ones". 

So, as per usual, we have something to fear from the unknown and we are warned, in both Chinese and Western cultures, not to want to change things too much. Not to ask for much. 

Not to desire much, just in case. Just in case we get it. 

And then what? Perhaps it is more about not wanting too much, and using fear to try and make us happier because, more than likely, our prayers won't be answered, and our wishes won't be granted. 

Yet, even though this might be the case, we choose to envelop a little bit of knowledge, or mundane philosophy if you like, in  transcendental ideas. 

Is it that the Earthly world is just too real for us to cope with it fully?
I don't know. 

All I know is that the year is coming to an end.

That 2010 will eventually be forgotten, for better or for worse. That I will pray and wish for change, and that nothing out of the ordinary will happen. 

I will not wake up a millionaire from just wishful thinking. 

Or from buying a lottery ticket. 

Of course, I might just buy the winning number. 

One never knows!

That is why we call it a game of chance. 

The online dictionary defines the word thus: "The unknown and unpredictable element in happenings that seems to have no assignable cause."

No assignable cause. 

Much like what is done when one prays. When one makes a wish.

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