Passing from winter to winter again

Remember those lovely genies who grant wishes? Well, you’re one and you’ve just been emancipated from your restrictive lamp. You can give your three wishes to whomever you want. Who do you give your three wishes to, and why?

Taken literally, this one’s a no-brainer. We probably all know friends or family members in dire need of a granted wish. So – a one-paragraph post coming up?

Let’s get the wishes out of the way. After all those years cramped and confined in that abominable brass contraption, here I am, breathing fresh air, expanding… That’s enough of a wish for me.

Wish number one: would go to my Canadian sister. Her husband, my brother-in-law, has just learned that he is seriously ill. He and my sister are in a bit of a spin at the moment. I would give the wish to her, so that she could magick him well again.

Wish number two: would go to my Kentish sister. Her daughter, my niece, has been struggling for many years with kidney failure and a rare complication that means another transplant might be impossible. She is thirty years old. I would give this wish to my sister, so that her daughter could have a normal life, without a roomful of dialysis fluid for company every night.

Wish number three: would go me – or my alter ego, her – the one who blogs a lot. She would wish her mother a respite – a window of sanity, however brief, at the end of a long life, free of the Voices, the confusion and the fear.

However, I have thought quite a lot about wishes and I wonder if, in the larger scheme of things, we ought to wish. I tend towards the belief that we, as souls, design our own lives before we enter them. The ‘older’ we are, as souls, the more carefully we select the experiences we need, to learn what is left for us to learn. In ‘magicking away’ people’s problems – even if it was possible – might we be short-circuiting the life-experience, the suffering, even, that they had planned for themselves in their resting, between-lives state? As a genie on day-release from HMP Battered Brass Lamp, would I be helping them or helping myself as I sprinkled the old fairy-dust and distributed my wishes? In a way, this magic lamp concept is a way of wiping out all those other people problems that nag at you, eating into your emotional capital and sapping your creativity. It’s an endless list of sorrows – but with the genie’s help you could scrub out so many of the items on that list, erasing all those worries spun out by other people’s lives.

But how hard it is to take the longer view, when there is no proof. How hard to remember that this will not last for ever, that the worst of sufferings is short-lived in the context of eternity – a sparrow’s flight across a lighted hall. How hard it is to accept what cannot be changed, and to be patient under duress. If there was such a thing as a magic lamp, how could you not reach for it?

“The present life of man upon earth, O King, seems to me in comparison with that time which is unknown to us like the swift flight of a sparrow through the mead-hall where you sit at supper in winter, with your Ealdormen and thanes, while the fire blazes in the midst and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry tempest, but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter to winter again. So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all.”

Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People

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