The Third Wish: A Fable
Copyright 1987 by Becky Fitzsimmons

The Third Wish: A Fable

© 1987 by Becky Fitzsimmons


Once upon a time a genie appeared to a young philosopher. The genie said, "I will grant you three wishes, but I will count each statement that you make as a wish, and for each question that you ask, I will take away one of your wishes."

The young philosopher said, "I wish that my thoughts, actions, and wishes will bring only good and no harm into the world, or into being, or to anyone." The genie looked surprised, then said, "Granted," and settled back to listen.

The genie thought about how most people would have either used up a question on this, or worded the wish to protect only themselves, or only their own family, or only humans. Of course, any damage done to the animals would hurt the humans. But this human talked as if aware that there could be all kinds of life forms. Well, thought the genie, the young philosopher will blow it on the next one.

After all, everyone made certain assumptions about what they could or couldn't have. It was these assumptions that kept the humans from getting what they wanted. They would ask a question at this point if they hadn't already, or just decide for themselves that the best they could get would be this or that thing, and their secret fears would destroy whatever value it might have had. The literature of lamps and wishes was the literature of human failings.

The genie himself was getting tired of the repetition. After all, the point was for humans to discover the way things really worked, not to make them miserable. What would this one ask for? Someone else's view of what is possible? That's what the questions really were. A car? A million dollars? World peace? By the time they asked for one of these, they always used the last wish to make sure there was nothing wrong with what they'd gotten, and if they did it in question form, the thing itself would be taken away. One guy had asked for his wishes to be "foolproof," then asked for world peace. Then he asked if world peace would mean having to alter his lifestyle. The genie gave the young philosopher a disparaging glance, in anticipation of a similar display.

The young philosopher said, "I wish to be a genie unto myself and others for as long as I want to and whenever I want to, able to give to myself and to others."

The genie nodded slowly, puzzled. This one was really grabbing the bull by the horns. At that moment the young philosopher had it all. In a moment it would surely all be gone. Wait. Something was wrong here. The genie scratched his head. The philosopher waited.

The genie said, "You asked to bring only good and no harm into being." The philosopher nodded. "Then you asked to be a genie, able to give to yourself and others." The philosopher nodded again. Suddenly the genie knew what this meant. "But you are repeating yourself!" he said.

The young philosopher said, "I know," and walked away.

The genie ran after the philosopher, shouting, "Master of the universe, teach me!"

"But you have already realized," came the reply.


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