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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I Grant You, Loyal Reader, Three Wishes

In the Mahabharata, King Dhritharashtra offers Draupadi three wishes. First Draupadi asks for freedom for her husband and his brothers (who have just lost it in a dice game). Then she asks for the return of the goods they had lost in the game. She actually declines to use her third wish, because to do so would be greedy.

If you or I were offered such an opportunity, it would become very important to grasp the parameters of wish-formulation. Why is Draupadi allowed to combine the wish for five different peoples freedom into one? If she can make that one wish, why can't "I'd like their freedom as well as their possessions returned to them" count as one wish?

There must be some rules, otherwise one could just string together every wish one has ever had with a whole bunch of "ands." But what are they?

4 comments:

  1. At a guess, her husband and his brothers make the conceptual unit, "my family members." Who suffered a singular calamity: their loss of freedom. It's interesting, given various contentions about what does and doesn't cross cultural barriers, that Wish 1 is tied off by just about every Aristotelean dramatic unity I can think of: people, place, time, event.

    The wish for restoration of their property has to be a second wish because it's a separate harm. They could have lost their property without also losing their freedom; they could have regained their freedom without regaining their property. The property is not the people.

    You could also say one wish is for the restoration of their negative liberty, the other for their positive liberty

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  2. You're one strange cat, Gene. :)

    When I was a kid, my wish was to have anything that I imagined to be to come true. It seemed like a loophole to the 'ol, "I wish for infinite wishes" thing. 'Cause, everybody knows that the single most important rule in wish granting is that you cannot wish for more wishes.

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  3. "Dhritharashtra"

    What a mouthful of a name.

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  4. drit-uh-rashed-ruh ("uh" as in "duh")

    I think...

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