Wishing upon a star, a blown out candle, or a genie lamp. Getting the world on a plate and then oops! suffering comeuppance from your granted wishes. What would you wish for? and do wishes always have to backfire?
The wishes backfiring on the wisher is a tale as old as Aladdin. And, after all, it worked out nicely for him in the end. But the Japanese folk tale The Stonecutter, and the European tales of The Woodcutter or Loppi and Lappi, even the movie Labyrinth are all stories that carry the warning “be careful of what you wish for”. They also warn against taking things and good fortune for granted, or abusing your new power. Often the traditional stories are also tales about the foolishness of women and how their advice makes the man suffer, or they are lessons about being satisfied with your lowly social position and not longing for more.
With that in mind, what would I wish for? For the world and for me?
My top three big wishes for the world would be as follows:
No more pollution
Imagine a world like that. Imagine the possibilities for ordinary people everywhere.
Unfortunately, those wishes are inherently problematic. You can impose a utopia or wave a magic wand to cure the symptoms but it doesn’t change the core problem. It’s like when you always clean your kids’ rooms; they’ll just make a big mess again because they haven’t learned how to do it themselves, they haven’t formed the habit of looking after their environment.
It’s the stereotypical pageant question and response –
“What’s the most important thing the world needs?”
How could you really impose peace, like not just an end to very specific tensions and hostilities but create an enduring state of peace? Brainwashing people? that’s a bit ick, and I’m not happy about the idea of some kind of magic changing people’s thoughts and autonomy. Getting rid of all the weapons? People are pretty clever and will just make new ones out of whatever they can find. A bit like when my brother was little and wasn’t allowed any toy guns so ate a gun shape out of his sandwiches. People are very creative when they need to get around restrictions. Laying change over the top of society doesn’t lead to lasting and bone deep change. Even changing laws can only help so much – it has to be backed up by education and the slow change of minds and culture. I believe that, in general, imposing a Utopian society leads, more often than, not to a dystopia.
So what about if we skip the large wishes and head to the personal. Those are the wishes that the stories warn us about. I still think you can reduce the problematic nature of these. It’s kind of strange because I have great difficulty asking people for gifts or to spend money on me, and I spend very little of my own money on myself; I’m likely to spend a gift card on things for my boys. Yet there are some things that I could wish for. Whenever I see the evening star I make a wish, and my wish is usually just to be happy. So far it seems to be working.
Good health and longevity – for me and my children. If I had to choose between us then it would be good health and longevity for my boys. And I’m not talking about things I can control myself (like cutting out sugar and exercising more), I’m talking about the big scary cancer like things.
Enough money to live comfortably without worrying about bills. Having enough to save a little bit and to spoil my kids when I want to. The removal of financially prompted stress. I’m not asking for roomfuls of gold like in the stories, just security. This is what keeps me buying those lottery tickets…
Hmmm. I admit on the Third one I got a bit stuck. I can’t really think of anything.
No heartbreak perhaps? But I’ve dealt with that and know I can cope. I know that it sucked but made me stronger. No heartbreak for my kids? That’s more tempting because we always want our kids to be happy. But, to be honest, they’ve already had their share of emotional troubles and while I wish always to be able to lift that, I also see the strength it has built in my oldest in particular. I see how he has overcome the things that face him with grace and with kindness. He said the other day that he wouldn’t change anything because everything in his life had made him the way he is, and he likes who he is. Very Nietzschean. So no, I wouldn’t wish for no heartbreak.
Being a famous and beloved author? (or even just being published lol). *shakes head* Nope. I’d rather do that on my own merits. Unearned praise always sits badly with me.
And that’s the core of the problem with the Three Wishes – it’s unearned. Now, I’m not opposed to being gifted wonderful things, but I suspect that without learning the lesson the outcome won’t stick.
Maybe I should just wish for a Unicorn. Or a Dragon! a tame one, clearly. Housetrained. And with a supply of food. But then, pets are for life, not just for wishes, and I’m pretty sure a dragon lives longer than a human so I’d be wishing it on my descendants too.
Such hard decisions. What would you wish for? Or would you set the Genie free and leave it all up to chance and your own hard work?