Grad School Diary: Ask and Ye Might Receive

The other day in class, on the topic of Chaucer's Parliement of Fowls, my professor went into one of his interesting monologues about a reward system that often appears unfair when processed by reason. Although he applied this theory to the artist, it is, of course, applicable to other roles and situations in life. That one may do a certain amount of work and think it worth a certain amount of reward, only to find that, that which is given in reward is disappointing to their expectations. Hence that which one thinks due them may not necessary be that which is actually rewarded them. I thought I understood what he meant but felt it had very little to do with the Paliament of Fowls. Until re-reading the poem gave me another perspective on the female eagle's dismissal of the love proposals of the three male eagles; whom, each, wanted her for a sweetheart. Despite their display of great affections, their humiliating quarrels amongst themselves––upsetting the other birds––and despite their passionate pleading with the female eagle to have mercy upon them, none of them got what they asked for. And so it is with our world.

We do not always get what we ask for. And personally I think this is excellent. I mean we do not always know enough to want what is best for us, seeing as none of us know the future. And sometimes, even when we know what is best, we desire that which corrupts, or that easy way which does not help us in the long run. There have been many moments in my life when I thought I wanted something, only to have it and wished otherwise. And the opposite is true, too. But let's get back to the part of asking and receiving. I grew up fed on the biblical notion that to ask is to be words away from receiving. To ask and not receive is to be thus undeserving. I remember talking to a friend a while back, whom, also confused about not always receiving that which she had prayed for, says to me, but it is said "ask and thou shall receive." In other words why am I not getting that which has continually been my request? Am I undeserving? I did not have an answer for her then. But now I think I have something.  It is not that it is guaranteed that we shall receive what we request, but that we have a better chance of acquiring or having our wishes met when we put out there what it is that we desire. So it is not ask and ye shall receive, but rather ask and ye might receive. However it seems true that we also sometimes get what we hope for but we are unable to recognize it as such. Which then suggests that we do not really know that which we seek.

Also, it is not specified how many times we must ask, as it is not said in what ways we may be rewarded: directly, indirectly, immediately, not immediately, etc. Is it the same with you, too, that sometimes when you cease being active in pursuing something, is when it falls into your lap? Or perhaps if we really desire something then we must repeatedly seek ways of acquiring it until our desires are fulfilled or until when it is given us we know to recognize it. It goes back to an example I got in another class on this same topic of asking; it spoke of a man whom upon finding his house burning, or some such, screams fire! fire! until people came and helped him put out the fire. And it suggested that when we really wish for something we ought to be very active in pursuing it. The effort that we invest into seeking it suggest how much it mean to us. I think this is also my professor's point, although his expression of it was more fixed on expectations and rewards. The catch therefore is the might: that is knowing that although all is possible nothing is guaranteed. Hence it is necessary to come to the understanding that, that which we seek does not always desire us, or may not even be that which we truly need. Therefore, how much do we want it? How much are we willing to put up to to get it? But also how does it improve us? Could it hurt us? How is it significant to our wellbeing?  But I wonder if the asking or working for the thing, is not in of itself a reward? As long as we have the ability and therefore the opportunity to keep asking or keep seeking the reward, does it not mean that we are already using our time in a worthwhile fashion? That we are already reaping a reward? It is not true that everyone is conscious of that which best interest them. And even if we do not come to posses what we desire, do not we often find that our efforts in its search has been a reward in of itself?

-
Jane

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