Three Wishes

One of my favorite books is Aegypt (reissued as The Solitudes), by John Crowley. The book begins:

If ever some power with three wishes to grant were to appear before Pierce Moffett, he or she or it (djinn, fairy godmother, ring curiously inscribed) would find him not entirely unprepared, but not entirely ready either.

There turned out to be so many angles to consider–his changing desires even aside–that, a grown man now, professor, historian, he still hadn’t completed his formulations.

Pierce is on a long bus ride, and mulls over these angles to pass the time. Long ago, he formulated his ideal first two wishes:

The lifelong and long-lived mental and physical health and safety of himself and those whom he loved, nothing asked for in a subsequent wish to abrogate this

An income, not burdensomely immense but sufficient, safe from the fluctuations of economic life, requiring next to no attention on his part and not distorting his natural career.

Oliver Herford illustrated the fairy godmother...

Image via Wikipedia

But what about that pesky third wish? In his childhood, Pierce had often resorted to the greedy idea of using the third to wish for three more, ad infinitum. But with growing maturity he came to see that unintended consequences could render that course fraught with danger.

He had pondered the rather safe idea of wishing the third time for oblivion: “to forget he had ever known wishes could be granted, to be returned to his (present) state of ignorance that such irruptions of power into the world, power placed at his unwise disposal, were really truly possible at all.”

What would your wishes be?

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10 Comments

Filed under Books, Deep Thoughts

10 responses to “Three Wishes

  1. Oh it would be so hard to make wishes – I would be so terribly worried about unintended consequences and the like if I wished for anything too big. Obviously for my daughter to have a long and happy life, for my husband and I to have a long and happy life together … oh – and I’d wish for some generous benefactor to grant me a wad of cash to set up my Waldorfy playcentre I blogged about 🙂 Thanks so much for your inciteful comments on that – its great to have someone who really understands Steiner’s indications around these blog-lands!

  2. They would have to be a secret – otherwise wishes won’t work 🙂

  3. The more I think about it…the less able I am to come up with three wishes. I would have to say Pierce Moffat’s wishes would be what I’d have to go with ;).

  4. Eve

    I too liked his wishes, but then I wondered about what it would be like to have guaranteed what so many others could not have. That wouldn’t seem right.

    I’ll have to think about it awhile. Do you know what you’d wish?

  5. I read this post this morning and thought about it a few times today. Seems silly that I can’t think of 3 wishes. My 5 year old said for everyone in the world to have laughter, for everyone in the world to have love, and then he wants a trip to Hawaii (or Tahiti) with his brother. Oh, or to become a world famous fast cyclist. 😉

  6. I’ve thought about this, and this is what I would wish for:

    1. The immediate end to all intolerance, religious, ideological or otherwise.

    2. The immediate end to patriarchy and all its ramifications, but most especially inequal pay for equal work, the pornification of society, and the assumption that women are responsible for men’s sexuality.

    3. Immediate balance between the first and third world, bringing an end to poverty.

    That’s all. Not a lot really.

  7. Nana

    I believe in the reincarnation of the spirit (or soul, if you prefer) into a corporeal being for as many “lives” as it takes to accomplish whatever missions we choose for ourselves.

    We have incorporated all of our wishes in the life plan we have chosen. This does not mean everything is predetermined, since our lives take many twists and turns as we encounter the life plans of everyone with whom we have a relationship.

    Those who suffer from pain, hunger, neglect, or any other afflictions of the body do not return to the corporeal world, but remain as spirits for eternity. Some even accept the challenge of becoming guardian angels.

    3 wishes make a great foundation for a fairy tale

  8. Gypsy: Pierce Moffett thought a winning lottery ticket might be good 🙂

    URD: Oh fine, don’t play!

    Dawn, Eve, Charlotte: I think I’d pick Pierce’s wishes too, even if they are a bit selfish. He pondered what wishing for world-changing events might do:

    “World peace and suchlike enormous altruisms he had long dismissed as unworkable or worse…. No one could be wise enough to gauge the results of imposing
    such abstractions on the world, there was no way of knowing what alterations in human nature and life might be required to bring about such an end.”

    But it’s good to consider that in many stories, those who use their wishes to help others are usually even more richly rewarded.

    Nana: I believe in reincarnation too, but I think we always return. Excessive suffering might make us need to stay in the spiritual world a bit longer before the next round, though. You could look at fairy tales as a reflection of the spiritual world (in which perhaps we have powers that we do not on Earth) or as a reflection of childlike consciousness (in which case wish fulfillment isn’t so strange!).

  9. Ooh, this post is inspiring me…! I like the idea of wishes in fairy tales.

    From my own viewpoint, at first I thought it would be easy to make three wishes but, as Dawn says, it is actually surprisingly difficult! I’m going to think about this some more…

  10. I’m with Gypsy: I would like a long and happy and safe life for my daughters and my husband. And I would reserve the right to use my other two wishes at a later date! But if I could be a little bit selfish, I would ask for more time — not to clean or teach, but to learn. There are so many things *I* want to do with *My* life and I feel like the only thing i have ever sacrificed for my choices is Time.

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