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/ 09:13 AM February 06, 2013

As for changing the world, one should not worry too much. The world will change inevitably; and yes, whatever we do or don’t do will have a lot to do with it. But as for saving it, that might be something best left to the Gods. For how would we know with absolute certainty where to save it to and from what or whom?

But there was the young child who asked her father what was the better ambition, money or happiness?

The father took time to think before answering the question. Mainly because it reminded him of the paradox which results always from the tale of the genie giving his emancipator three wishes. In many of these tales the vain man always ends up wasting the wishes and ending up worse than before. We are often told how lotto winners end up the same way. (There is never any proof of this, of course. And so we believe perhaps only by way of being sore losers.)


And yet, the very same little girl once proposed that the first wish the person should ask for is to have more wishes than three. And why not wish for an infinite number wishes?

Why not indeed? And then the tale would now have to be resolved another way. But no matter how, it cannot be precluded that the vain man would still waste his infinite number of wishes anyway. Such being the nature of vanity. If in the course of all these he would gain even a small profit by way of wisdom he might end wishing for something significant enough to wish for.

If it were only a question of money, the fulfillment of that wish never ensures a person’s happiness for very long. Although it must be quickly noted that money is not such a bad thing to wish for. To have is very much more desirable than to have none at all. And if it is plain to see that one should aspire for moderation at all times, how can one ever really and effectively apply temperance where money is concerned?

Let’s face it. Money is addictive. One can never have enough. The vain man would sacrifice anything and everything once he gets enough. And yet, about the only thing more addictive than money is vain happiness.

The story is told of an experiment with a monkey that had a switch button wired to stimulate the pleasure centers of its brain. Bursts of pleasure would waft over it every time it hit the button. As you might well imagine the monkey did not live for too long. You might say it killed itself inside an untempered series of explosive joy. (Which some might say is not such a bad way to go. But even so:)

This story might of course be more parable than real. However, it does raise the possible dangers of getting more than what should be realistically aspired for by way either of money or joy.

What then should be wished for from the genie? What should be the wise person’s first and most important wish? (And we might as well presume that a truly wise person will require only one.)

As we have proposed the premise that to receive free wishes is more often than not a dangerous thing, the only resolution can be nothing else if not this: If one must aspire for anything where the giving and receiving of free wishes is concerned, the wise man should rather wish to be able to give away rather than receive the free wish. The logic is plain to see.


The only thing to do with a free wish is to give it away to somebody else as quickly as possible. By this, the wise man might quickly understand what a free wish would do to a person. He or she might then learn from it without having to face its consequent dangers. Which only proves that the only truly good wish a wise person might ask from the genie is the wish that their roles be reversed.

The thing to wish for is to have as many wishes as a wise person might need to give away to others who truly require it. As for deciding whom to give a free wish to, the wise man should only give to those who would use the wish to free others in the course of freeing themselves. Any other sort of person would only be destroyed in due course. Or end up trapped inside the lamp as the famous fable began.

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TAGS: Ambition, happiness, Money, parable
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