Who still blows out the candles on the birthday cake? It’s been a few decades since I’ve even had candles on mine. Yet, I still fondly remember the childhood birthdays when this happened. On each birthday, mom baked my favorite devil’s food chocolate cake, decorated it, then placed the corresponding number of candles representing age onto the cake. The last time she did this was for my seventeenth birthday.
With family and friends gathered around, mom or dad lit the candles and everyone sang “Happy Birthday”. Someone usually commanded me to close my eyes and make a wish but not to tell a soul what it was. Then I was expected to blow out the candles with one exhaled breath to make the wish come true.
This quaint little custom is popular among many families. Interestingly enough, there is a little wisdom in the wish-making portion of the ritual. One of the reasons for the secrecy is to deprive naysayers of reasons to discourage you from pursuing your wish.
In a perfect world, there would be no naysayers to tear apart our morale. There would be allies who support us and only offer constructive criticism and advice. However, naysayers exist and sometimes do their discouraging deeds on our birthdays. Hence, one of the needs for discretion about our wishes.
Another reason to keep silent about one’s most fervent wish is to tap into the will and temptation to over-share one’s inner life. When we harbor a secret, there is often a strong desire to tell it to someone, perhaps our closest confidant. This urge can be extremely strong. Instead of caving in and revealing the special wish, it is smarter to constructively channel that mental energy into means that can enable the wish to manifest.
According to Chanakya, the author of the ancient Indian treatise the “Arthashastra”, our intentions are most strong when we exercise discretion. Once one reveals the wish to another soul, the drive and focus of the wish becomes dissipated in answering comments. Of course there is the problem of dealing with the inevitable, subversive naysaying.
One of the most important reasons to have a secret wish is to intelligently, mindfully regulate happiness. Wise people always leave something to wish for. It’s easy to spoil oneself with too much happiness. If a person attains every single desire, she or he spoils her or himself and becomes jaded. People who feel especially entitled do not regulate their happiness and thus become a burden on society. When we have everything, whatsoever, that our heart desires, we are bored easily and we become a slave to discontent.
It’s good to have something positively lovely to dream and wish for. We need the wish in order to fuel curiosity and hope. Overabundance of manifested wishes results in dullness of spirit and can easily lead to self-destructive behavior and habits. The lack of a fondest wish leads to stagnation, torpor, and can be fatal. Ironically, when there is nothing left to desire, happiness wanes. Then over-attachment and fear take over the mind. As the ancient wise sages warned, “If there is nothing left to desire; there is everything to fear.”
So, do not tell me your beautiful, special, personal wish.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the actor, producer, singer, songwriter, video director, and controversial celebrity, Marilyn Manson. “When all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed.”