QC Koan: If the universe were turned inside-out in a nanosecond, would you be likely to notice?
The Genie or the Pack?
A man is hiking on a trail in the mountains, a day hike to get away from things. A few hours into his hike he comes across a bright blue daypack at the side of the trail. He goes to pick up the pack when a genie materializes. The man knows a genie when he sees one because he’s seen them in the movies.
The genie says: “If you leave the pack where it is, and I mean don’t even touch it, I’ll go with you and become your protector for the rest of your life.”
The man is suspicious. “You mean the rest of my genie shortened life?”
“No tricks. The rest of your long and fruitful life.”
“That seems like a good deal.” The man reflects further. “If you’re a genie, why don’t I get three wishes?”
“Who says I’m a genie? And even if I am – three wishes? What a load of nonsense! What comic book did that come out of? No, the deal is that I will be invisibly and continually at your side and will be your protector for the rest of your natural life. And I might add that your life will be longer with me looking over your shoulder and whispering into your ear. And I’ll have to take on illness, demons, and bullies – that should go without saying.”
The man is about to accept the amazing offer. Then he looks at the bright blue daypack again and starts thinking. If the genie is willing to give up so much and become the protector of my life, that pack must really be valuable. It stands to reason that the pack is worth a great deal more than it appears – perhaps more than the genie’s ongoing protection.
He looks at the genie with resolve. “I appreciate your offer, but I’ve decided to take the pack.” The man reaches down and picks up the daypack. The genie disappears.
Greedily, the man opens up the pack and looks inside. Grossly disappointed, he dumps the entire contents onto the ground. The pack was filled with freeze-dried camp foods and a canteen. Nothing else. No hidden pouches or compartments. Hoping for a magic potion, the man drinks from the canteen, then throws it to the ground. “Water, it’s just water!” Feeling in great throwing form, the man throws the pack for emphasis. Then he stares at the freeze-dried camp foods, failing to notice the variety of offerings.
It takes the man a moment to fully appreciate his choice. “My god,” he says out loud, “this stuff is nearly inedible.” In disgust he kicks at the food packs with all he is worth, failing to connect. “Strike three,” he says as he turns and heads back down the trail toward home.
“What an idiot I am,” the man says out loud. Clearly he did not get away from it all, which was the purpose of his walk in the first place. He would carry this day with regret for the rest of his life.
The genie, now invisible, was watching and shaking his head – saddened by the limits of human insight. It was a win-win situation for the poor fool, he thought. He walked from fortune because he couldn’t see past the package. Because that food had become a genie’s food (the genie loved freeze-dried meals), it had acquired a genie’s essence. And the bright blue daypack was like a Horn of Plenty – it never ran dry.
As the genie was walking away, he remembered a time when he came across a lone backpacker in the mountains, and decided to grant him three wishes for his dedication to the outdoors. The guy’s first wish was that the genie become a woman. The genie complied. Next the man wished that the woman meet all his needs for the rest of his life. “I’m a woman now, not a genie. I can be a relatively good companion, but I can’t grant magic wishes.” The backpacker was so angry he left her standing where she was.
In case you’re wondering, the genie really did become a woman. She knew she would need to live out that incarnation before returning to her true form as a genie. Out of habit, she did try granting the occasional wish. It wasn’t to her satisfaction. So, with a genie’s natural inclination for solitude and wild places, she became a biologist who worked on her own in remote locations. That’s how she developed her affection for freeze-dried foods and the bright blue daypack that a colleague gave her when she was desperate with hunger. A genie never forgets. They say, “Fly me to the moon.” I want to tell them to eat the food that has been blessed.