There was once an episode of The X Files in which Agent Mulder found a genie rolled up in a carpet.
And strange as it may seem, that episode of old-school sci-fi television has a lot to do with my wish for the world in 2023.
Whatever he wanted, all he had to do was ask. Three wishes were Mulder’s for the taking!
There was no catch, but there was a “but.” He could have whatever he asked for, but the genie was not generous in her interpretation of wishes.
You see, she hated what she was. She had been born a regular girl in the 1500s; a French peasant who by chance happened upon a genie in a bottle. Her own wish – after receiving turnips and a mule – was for great power and long life.
And so she was transformed into a magical being, destined to live three wishes at a time. A gemstone embedded in her nose marked her as a genie.
Her whole existence became centered around granting small-minded people obscene riches – and sometimes extended body parts – that inevitably hastened their demise. Her beneficiaries had very short life expectancies.
So what would Mulder wish for?
Fans of the show will know that Mulder’s life was all about finding “the truth.” What was the alien conspiracy threatening the planet? Who was behind the abduction of his sister and the murder of his father? What was the government covering up?
Given that history, it’s no surprise that his first wish was: Peace on earth.
It was granted with a nod of the genie’s head… at which moment, every person other than Mulder vanished.
For the first time ever, the planet was at peace. But this was not what Mulder had intended.
His second wish: Bring everybody back. (Incidentally, this was one of the very few times in the show’s long history that Mulder ever swore at anybody).
And now, with a single wish left, Mulder had the opportunity to change the world for good, once and for all. Such an opportunity would never come again. Everything hinged on his next words.
What was Mulder’s third wish?
The audience never heard his words, but we did see the results. The episode’s final scene was of the young woman sitting in a cafe, watching the world go by. She wore a smile on her face, but no gemstone on her nose. Mulder’s final wish was the she could have her life back as she wanted.
Did Mulder change the world? Or did he waste his most precious opportunity?
I think that Mulder realised that changing the whole world with a single wish was simply impossible. And I think that he’s right.
Nothing that you or I can do will alleviate all the world’s problems.
There’s no amount of money that will end suffering or bring that elusive “peace on earth.” There’s no “silver bullet” to end poverty or human trafficking, and there will always be war.
What we can do is change the world of another human being.
Even if we cannot end hunger and malnutrition for everyone, we can still provide meals for a family, or even for a community.
We can’t end homelessness, but we can open our own home to someone who needs a roof over their head.
This doesn’t mean we should “think small.” In fact, I strongly believe in being bold in our dreams; we should set out to create a better world for all.
But it starts with just one person. There’s no “systemic change” without an individual life transformed.
So, start with one person. Just don’t stop there.
Our world could be a fantastic place – if we make it so.
In 2023, let’s all set that as our new year’s resolution. A wonderful world. Starting, right now, with the people who we have the power to help.