Wanting the Impossible

By Michael E. Brooks
“Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven” (Proverbs 23:4-5 NKJV).
We had left very early one Sunday morning to drive to worship with a village congregation in southern Bangladesh, so when we were near our destination, and saw there was time, we stopped for breakfast at a roadside café.
We ordered the good flat bread that Bangladeshis call “parota,” and my companion asked if I wanted eggs with mine. I answered “yes,” and the waiter then asked “do you want duck eggs or chicken eggs (has dim or murgi dim)? ”
Though I did not think fast enough at the time, I later wished I had joked, “Do you have morog dim (rooster eggs)?” They would have laughed at my poor Bangla and we all would have enjoyed the joke.
There is, however, nothing amusing about deluded desires. Those are the things which we want that either do not exist or are not attainable. Unfortunately such desires are abundant.
Much of the world’s population, influenced by movies, television, magazines, and other media, believes it is possible and even their right to attain wealth and luxury that is simply not available to them.
They feel frustrated and cheated when their efforts are not successful. Many of the rebellions, revolutions and terrorist movements that we face are begun or at least fed by playing to such desires.
A novel I read several years ago mentioned this phenomenon and called it “the crisis of reduced expectations.” The author proposed that “all over the world people are suddenly coming to realize that their children and grandchildren are going to have it worse than they did, that the trend line is down.”
His fictional economist explained, “There is not enough productive capacity in the world, plus enough raw materials, plus overage” for everyone to have what they expect as their right.
I do not know if this author’s cynical analysis is correct, but it is clear that many people want things they cannot possibly achieve. Not because of lack of ability or even opportunity, but because the object of their desire simply does not exist. They have “set their eyes on that which is not.”
Frequently if not usually, this is because of mutually contradictory elements in their desires. A young man wants abundant income, along with lots of leisure time in which to enjoy it. But the only means of obtaining the desired income is in excessive hours of hard work.
A young lady wants a handsome, exciting young man who thrills her with romance and adventure. She also wants that young man to become a faithful husband who provides for her and any children they may have.
She rarely stops to think that those characteristics which she associates with romance and adventure rarely go along with faithfulness, dependability and unselfish love for others.
A certain level of ambition is to be commended. Realistically evaluating ones capabilities and opportunities and trying to maximize those is prudent. But irresponsible longing for things which simply cannot be is a certain route to misery.
It is one thing to joke of eating “rooster eggs”. It is something else entirely to spend one’s life in a vain pursuit of goals that are logically and practically impossible. In counseling young couples prior to marriage I have always stressed the importance of realistic expectations in their relationship and in their lives.
They must not measure one another by some idealistic Hollywood image of manhood or womanhood. And they must not expect luxury and ease without effort or price. Only failure will accompany such impossible desires.

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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