The Word Foundation



Vol. 14 DECEMBER, 1911. No. 3

Copyright, 1911, by H. W. PERCIVAL.


TO children is often told a fairy story about an old couple who spent much of their time in wishing. While they were seated at their fireside one evening, and, as usual, wishing for this thing or that, a fairy appeared and said, that knowing how they longed to have their wishes gratified she had come to grant them just three wishes. They were delighted and to lose no time at putting the fairy’s generous offer to the test, the old man, giving voice to an immediate desire of his heart or stomach, wished he might have three yards of black pudding; and, sure enough, there in his lap were the three yards of black pudding. The old woman, indignant at wasting so valuable an opportunity to get something for the mere wishing of it, and to show her disapproval of the old man’s thoughtlessness, wished that the black pudding would stick to his nose, and there it stuck. Fearing that it might continue there, the old man — wished that it would drop. And it did. The fairy vanished and did not come back.

Children on hearing the story feel annoyed at the old couple, and as indignant at the losing of so great a chance, as was the old woman with her husband. Perhaps all children who have heard the story have speculated on what they would have done if they had those three wishes.

Fairy tales that have to do with wishes, and mostly foolish wishing, are a part of the folklore of almost every race. Children and their elders may see themselves and their wishes reflected in Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Goloshes of Fortune.”

A fairy had a pair of goloshes which would cause their wearer to be at once transported to whatever time and place and under whatever circumstance and condition he wished for. Intending to confer a favor on the human race, the fairy placed the goloshes among others in the ante-chamber of a house where a large party had gathered and were arguing the question as to whether the times of the middle ages were not better than their own.

On leaving the house, the councilor who had favored the middle ages put on the Goloshes of Fortune instead of his own and, still thinking of his argument as he went out of the door, he wished himself in the times of King Hans. Back he went three hundred years and as he stepped he went into the mud, for in those days the streets were not paved and sidewalks were unknown. This is frightful, said the councilor, as he sank into the mire, and besides, the lamps are all out. He tried to get a conveyance to take him to his home, but none was to be had. The houses were low and thatched. No bridge now crossed the river. The people acted queerly and were strangely dressed. Thinking himself ill he entered an inn. Some scholars then engaged him in conversation. He was bewildered and distressed at their display of ignorance, and at all else he had seen. This is the most unhappy moment of my life, he said as he dropped behind the table and tried to escape through the door, but the company held him by his feet. In his struggles, the goloshes came off, and he found himself in a familiar street, and on a porch where a watchman slept soundly. Rejoicing at his escape from the time of King Hans, the councilor got a cab and was quickly driven to his home.

Hello, said the watchman on awaking, there lie a pair of goloshes. How well they fit, he said, as he slipped them on. Then he looked at the window of the lieutenant who lived upstairs, and saw a light and the inmate walking up and down. What a queer world this is, said the watchman. There is the lieutenant walking up and down his room at this hour, when he might just as well be in his warm bed asleep. He has no wife, nor children, and he may go out and enjoy himself every evening. What a happy man! I wish I were he.

The watchman was at once transported into the body and thought of the lieutenant and found himself leaning against the window and gazing sadly on a piece of pink paper on which he had written a poem. He was in love, but he was poor and he did not see how the one on whom he had set his affections could be won. He leaned his head hopelessly against the window frame and sighed. The moon shone on the body of the watchman below. Ah, he said, that man is happier than I. He does not know what it is to want, as I want. He has a home and a wife and children to love him, and I have none. Could I but have his lot, and pass through life with humble desires and humble hopes, I should be happier than I am. I wish I were the watchman.

Back into his own body went the watchman. Oh, what an ugly dream that was, he said, and to think that I was the lieutenant and did not have my wife and children and my home. I am glad I am a watchman. But he still had on the goloshes. He looked up in the sky and saw a star falling. Then he turned his gaze wonderingly on the moon.

What a strange place the moon must be, he mused. I wish that I could see all the strange places and things that must be there.

In a moment he was transported, but felt much out of place. Things were not as they are on the earth, and the beings were unfamiliar, as all else was, and he was ill at ease. He was on the moon, but his body was on the porch where he had left it.

What hour is it, watchman? asked a passer-by. But the pipe had fallen out of the watchman’s hand, and he made no reply. People gathered around, but they could not awaken him; so they took him to the hospital, and the doctors thought him dead. In preparing him for burial, the first thing that was done was to take off his goloshes, and, immediately the watchman awoke. What a dreadful night this has been, he said. I wish never to experience such another. And if he has stopped wishing, perhaps he never will.

The watchman walked away, but he left the goloshes behind. Now, it happened that a certain volunteer guard had his watch in the hospital that night, and although it was raining he wanted to go out for a while. He did not wish to let the porter at the gate know of his departure, so he thought he would slip through the iron railing. He put on the goloshes and tried to get through the rails. His head was too big. How unfortunate, he said. I wish that my head could go through the railing. And so it did, but then his body was behind. There he stood, for try as he would, he could not get his body on the other side nor his head back through the railing. He did not know that the goloshes which he had put on were The Goloshes of Fortune. He was in a miserable plight, for it rained harder than ever, and he thought he would have to wait pilloried in the railing and be jeered at by the charity children and the people who would go by in the morning. After suffering such thoughts, and all attempts to liberate himself proving futile, he happened to wish his head once more free; and so it was. After many other wishes causing him much inconvenience, the volunteer was rid of the Goloshes of Fortune.

These goloshes were taken to the police station, where, mistaking them for his own, the copying clerk put them on and strolled forth. After wishing himself a poet and a lark, and experiencing the thoughts and sentiments of a poet, and the sensations of a lark in the fields and in captivity, he finally wished and found himself at his table in his home.

But the best the Goloshes of Fortune brought to a young student of theology, who tapped at the door of the copying clerk on the morning after his experience of poet and lark.

Come in, said the copying clerk. Good morning, said the student. It is a glorious morning, and I should like to go into the garden, but the grass is wet. May I have the use of your goloshes? Certainly, said the copying clerk, and the student put them on.

In his garden, the student’s view was confined by the narrow walls which enclosed it. It was a beautiful spring day and his thoughts turned to travel in countries which he had longed to see, and he impulsively cried, Oh, I wish that I were traveling through Switzerland, and Italy, and——. —— But he did not wish further, for he at once found himself in a stage coach with other travelers, in the mountains of Switzerland. He was cramped and ill at ease and fearful of the loss of passport, money and other possessions, and it was cold. This is very disagreeable, he said. I wish that we were on the other side of the mountain, in Italy, where it is warm. And, sure enough, they were.

The flowers, the trees, the birds, the turquoise lakes winding through the fields, the mountains rising on the side and reaching into the distance, and the golden sunlight resting as a glory over all, made an enchanting view. But it was dusty, warm and humid in the coach. Flies and gnats stung all passengers and caused great swellings on their faces; and their stomachs were empty and bodies weary. Miserable and deformed beggars besieged them on their way and followed them to the poor and solitary inn at which they stopped. It fell to the student’s lot to keep watch while the other passengers slept, else they had been robbed of all they had. Despite the insects and odors which annoyed him, the student ruminated. Travelling would be very well, said he, were it not for one’s body. Wherever I go or whatever I may do, there is still a want in my heart. It must be the body which prevents my finding this. Were my body at rest and my mind free I should doubtless find a happy goal. I wish for the happiest end of all.

Then he found himself at home. The curtains were drawn. In the center of his room stood a coffin. In it he lay sleeping the sleep of death. His body was at rest and his spirit soaring.

In the room were two forms moving quietly about. They were the Fairy Happiness who had brought the Goloshes of Fortune, and another fairy called Care.

See, what happiness have your goloshes brought to men? said Care.

Yet they have benefited him who lies here, replied the Fairy of Happiness.

No, said Care, he went of himself. He was not called. I will do him a favor.

She removed the goloshes from his feet and the student awakened and got up. And the fairy vanished and took the Goloshes of Fortune with her.

It is fortunate that people have not the Goloshes of Fortune, else they might bring greater misfortune on themselves by the wearing of them and having their wishes gratified sooner than the law by which we live allows.

When children, a large part of our lives was sent in wishing. In later life, when judgment is supposed to be mature we, like the old couple and the wearers of the goloshes, spend much time in wishing, in dissatisfaction and disappointment, at the things we got and for which we wished, and in useless regrets for not having wished for something else.

Wishing is generally recognized to be idle indulgence, and many suppose that wishes are not followed by the things wished for and have little effect on their lives. But these are erroneous conceptions. Wishing does influence our lives and it is important that we should know how wishing influences and brings about certain effects in our lives. Some people are more influenced by their wishes than others. The difference in the results of the wishing of one person from the wishing of another depends upon the impotence or the subtle power of his thought, on the volume and quality of his desire, and on the background of his past motives and thoughts and deeds which make up his history.

Wishing is a play in thought between mind and desire around some object of desire. A wish is a desire of the heart expressed. Wishing is different from choosing and selecting. Choosing and selecting a thing requires comparison in thought between it and something else, and the choice results in the thing chosen in preference to other things with which it has been compared. In wishing, the desire prompts the thought toward some object which it craves, without stopping to compare it with something else. The expressed wish is for that object which is craved by desire. A wish receives its force from and is born of desire, but thought gives it form.

He who does his thinking before he speaks, and who speaks after thinking only, is not as prone to wishing as he who speaks before thinking and whose speech is the vent of his impulses. In fact, one who is old in experience and who has benefited from his experiences does very little wishing. Novices in the school of life, find much pleasure in wishing. The lives of many are processes of wishing, and the landmarks in their lives, such as fortune, family, friends, place, position, circumstances and conditions, are forms and events in successive stages as the results of their wishing.

Wishing is concerned with all the things that seem attractive, such as the getting rid of a supposed blemish, or the acquiring of a dimple, or to be the owner of vast estates and wealth, or to play a conspicuous part before the public eye, and all this without having any definite plan of action. The commonest wishes are those which relate to one’s own body and its appetites, such as the wish for some article of food, or to obtain some dainty, the wish for a ring, jewelry, a piece of fur, a dress, a coat, to have sensual gratification, to have an automobile, a boat, a house; and these wishes extend to others, such as the wish to be loved, to be envied, to be respected, to be famous, and to have worldly superiority over others. But as often as one gets the thing for which he wished, he finds that that thing does not fully satisfy him and he wishes for something else.

Those who have had some experience with the worldly and bodily wishes and find them to be evanescent and unreliable even when obtained, wish to be temperate, to be self-restrained, to be virtuous and wise. When one’s wishing turns to such subjects, he stops wishing and tries to acquire these by doing what he thinks will develop virtue and bring wisdom.

Another kind of wishing is that which has no concern with one’s own personality but is related to others, such as wishing that another shall recover his health, or his fortune, or succeed in some business enterprise, or that he will acquire self-control and be able to discipline his nature and develop his mind.

All these kinds of wishes have their particular effects and influences, which are determined by the volume and quality of desire, by the quality and strength of his mind, and the force given to these by his past thoughts and actions which reflect his present wishing into the future.

There is a loose or childish way of wishing, and a method that is more mature and is sometimes called scientific. The loose way is for one to wish for the thing that drifts into his mind and strikes his fancy, or that which is suggestted to his thought by his own impulses and desires. He wishes for a car, a yacht, a million dollars, a grand town-house, large estates in the country, and with the same ease as when he wishes for a box of cigars, and that his friend Tom Jones will pay him a visit that evening. There is no definiteness about his loose or childish way of wishing. One who indulges in it is as likely to wish for any one thing as for any other thing. He jumps from one to another without consecutiveness of thought or method in his operations.

Sometimes the loose wisher will gravely gaze into vacuity, and from that ground begin to wish for and watch the building of his castle, and then wish for a different kind of life with the suddenness with which a monkey while hanging by his tail, wrinkling his brows and looking wise, will then jump to the next limb and begin to chatter. This kind of wishing is done in a half conscious sort of way.

One who attempts to apply method to his wishing, is fully conscious and aware of what he wants and for what he wishes As with the loose wisher, his wishing may begin on something that he fancies he wants. But with him it will grow out of its vagueness into a definite want. Then he will begin to hunger for it, and his wishing will settle into a steady craving and rapacious wishing and a steady demanding the fulfillment of his wish, according to what has been termed of late by a certain school of methodic wishers, “The Law of Opulence.” The wisher with a method usually proceeds according to the new-thoughting scheme, which is, to state his wish and to call upon and demand of his law of opulence its fulfillment. His plea is that there is in the universe an abundance of everything for all, and that it is his right to call out from the abundance that portion for which he wishes and to which he now lays claim.

Having asserted his right and claim he proceeds with his wishing. This he does by a steady hungering and craving for the gratification of his wish, and by a steady pulling by his desire and thought on the asserted universal supply of abundance, until the rapacious void in his desire has been to some degree filled. Not infrequently the wisher, according to the new-thoughting method, has his wishes gratified, though he seldom if ever gets just the thing he wished for, and in the way for which he wished it. In fact, the manner of its coming often causes much sorrow, and he wishes that he had not wished, rather than suffer the calamity which is entailed by the getting of this wish.

An illustration of the foolishness of persistent wishing by those who claim to know but who are ignorant of the law, is the following:

In a talk about the futility of ignorant wishing and against those methods of demanding and wishing which are advocated by many of the new cults, one who had listened with interest said: “I do not agree with the speaker. I believe I have the right to wish for whatever I want. I want just two thousand dollars, and I believe if I keep on wishing for it I will get it.” “Madam,” replied the first, “no one can prevent you from wishing, but be not too hasty. Many have had reason to regret their wishing because of the means by which that for which they wished has been received.” “I am not of your opinion,” she protested. “I believe in the law of opulence. I know of others who have demanded of this law, and out of the abundance of the universe their wishes had been fulfilled. I care not how it comes, but I want two thousand dollars. By wishing for it and demanding it, I am confident I shall get it.” Some months later she returned, and, noticing her careworn face, the one to whom she had spoken asked: “Madam, did you get your wish?” “I did,” she said. “And are you satisfied with having wished?” he asked. “No,” she replied. “But now I am aware that my wishing was unwise.” “How so?” he queried. “Well,” she explained. “my husband had an insurance on his life for two thousand dollars. It his his insurance that I got.”

(To be Concluded in the January issue of The Word.)