It crossed my mind today: if a higher being with the power to grant requests asked me what three things I would like to receive, what would I choose?
Given this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I would not be mentally prepared to know what to ask for if the offer came suddenly. Supernatural beings who can give you anything you want don’t seem to be the type to patiently wait while you study text, myths, triumphs and failures to discern how to best maximize your gains.
There are different ways to approach answering the question. The two most basic I can identify are deciding what will best benefit your interests and situation by providing you with the necessary keys and environment to achieve your goals, or alternatively determining how a supernatural being thinks and makes choices so the things you ask for will be granted in such a way as to maximize your interests. A major component of the granting is how the deity interprets your wishes. In a simplistic example you could say “I want to be the richest man in the world” and receive an amount of money in your bank account and some kind of inheritance and that’s it. But in the legends and fairy tales we hear of people who receive supernatural gifts, whether earned or not; such statements are always counterbalanced with disasters. Your inheritance could be disputed by a powerful criminal cartel, you could come under immediate IRS investigation, or you could be overcome by selfish greed and fulfill the adage of “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”
Thus, if you subscribe to the more simple granting scheme it would probably be better to ask for the means to solve a specific problem. “Get me out of poverty” or “make my family financially secure” may be looked upon more favorably because it is not asking to put you on the level of the god granting you the wish. The life of a human is limited; this is our gift, and knocking that out of balance with something so absolute would be disastrous.
I would approach it from the other perspective: the deity will in some way make a judgment about your wishes and that will affect the granting. For this reason I think it would be unwise to ask for “absolute power” because power is fleeting, power corrupts, and the deity knows all of this. The deity will be disappointed and likely you will become its slave as a result of the granting. Even as the billions cry for mercy in the grip of your fingers, how much more your own throat will be clutched by the vise of the god to whom you owe your power.
Thus I reject completely selfish gains and would seek instead to receive divine gifts, not take divine powers. Yet the division between selfishness and selflessness still ought to be considered. Would the deity mock you if you only wished for “world peace?” Or would it consider you small-minded if you only wished for things for yourself? Should you choose one personal skill, one personal pleasure and one let’s-benefit-everyone or some other combination?
I would try to play the role of the hero who receives the gifts of the father / heaven and takes them back to make the world better. I would try to make one of the wishes give me pleasure as well as responsibility, but the others would purely empower me to solve problems or help improve the world. What they would be, though, I am not sure.
If I had asked myself this question a year and a half ago I think I would know at least half the answer. That I don’t know it right now says something.