Meeting a genuine genie who really offers you three wishes may be disconcerting. Put on the spot, how does one know what to wish for first? Money – house – car might seem like a good starting point, and if you say them quickly enough the genie might even consider them to be one wish! However, it is more likely that you will be given a penny, a doll’s house, and a toy car and the genie will consider her duty done.
No, the business of wishing requires consideration. Take money; you might rephrase ‘money’ as ‘enough money to live on for the rest of my life’, but there are considerations to take into account. The first thing, of course, is to decide whether you want a lump sum or a regular income, and whether that should appear in your bank account or in a bag marked ‘Swag’. Secondly, there are all the potential changes to circumstances to think about; today, you might be a single person with modest needs, but in five years’ time you could be married with three children. Genies are very literal-minded beings who will not take such things into consideration, so you must weigh up all these points for yourself.
Having decided on what a reasonable amount of money looks like, you move on to the home in which you will display your wealth. Things to take into account here might include, where the house is located (whether near or far from your relatives), how large it should be (bearing in mind the potential family we discussed earlier), and whether you want a garden. And speaking of gardens, do you want to tend it yourself or hire someone? In the latter case, you had better hope you took account of becoming an employer when considering how much money you wanted! Oh, and don’t forget to include furniture in your wish.
So, you have an income that will help you weather the storms of life and a new house with all the furniture and white goods and gadgets a modern home requires. You remembered to ask for the home cinema and ultra-powerful router, right…? Now, you are thinking about a new car, whether it should be something small and sporty, or large enough for that imaginary future family and, perhaps, a couple of dogs. But here you might pause for a moment. After all, your first two wishes have been rather selfish and self-centred ones. Are there other people who could benefit from the genie’s gifts?
You cast your mind over your family; your mother in need of a hip replacement but at the end of a long waiting list, your sister struggling to pay university fees, your cousin who wants to start a new business. Now that you have everything you need, you could wish for healing for your mother, your sister’s fees to be paid, or new premises for your cousin.
However, making such wishes without consulting the people involved might be problematic. Your mother may feel guilty for having ‘jumped the queue’, and your sister might really like the little job she took behind the scenes at the local theatre to help with her tuition, and your cousin might have been looking forward to finding his own premises. Your well-meaning actions might not bring the sense of contentment that you hoped for.
Then, it might occur to you that there is no need to stop at family. With a click of the genie’s fingers, you could solve global problems like poverty, hunger and disease! Perhaps you only need to say the words, ‘I wish for an end to all wars’, and it will be so.
However, here you will run into issues similar to the ones with family but writ much larger. Eradicating poverty is not as simple as giving everyone in the world a bag of cash. There are whole systems and structures that would need to be radically changed. You might find yourself in a world you do not recognise. And, to be honest, no conscientious genie would grant that kind of wish, anyway.
So, next time you rub an old lamp and a genie appears, think carefully about how you will use your wishes!