Late in his disappointing life, Confucius was sitting with his two most loyal disciples. His two closest friends. Together the three of them had been down every road. What was there left to say? What was there left to teach?
“Suppose you tell me your innermost wishes?” the old master finally said.
His two companions gave their answers, the brash and extroverted Zilu wishing he could share bountiful material wealth with his friends, the more inward Yan Hui wishing for profound, unshakable humility. Confucius may have sensed that both were trying to impress their long-time teacher with their answers. When they returned the question to him he kept it simple, embodying rather than merely reaching for both the spirit of generosity and the spirit of humility.
“I wish the old may enjoy peace, friends may enjoy trust, and the young may enjoy affection,” he said.
Tomorrow the last regular season series of the year between the Red Sox and Yankees begins. Whenever I had a chance to wish for something as a child (birthday candles, wishbone, coins in a fountain, etc.) I wished deeply and sincerely for the Red Sox to Win. To Beat the Yankees. To Win Everything. Years came and went and the wish did not come true. Maybe it’s because nobody—not me, certainly not beady-eyed Red Sox manager Don Zimmer, not even Confucius—ever wished for something as deeply and ferociously as the wish Billy Martin willed true thirty years ago this October: to manage the New York Yankees to a World Series championship.
In other words, the above card, from 1978, shows a man who has achieved his innermost wish. As Paul Westerberg might put it: Look him in the eyes and tell him that he’s satisfied.
Then tell me, what is your innermost wish?