Magic Water

One day, long ago, some mysterious men found an artesian well hidden away in an unknown land. They were thirsty and so they drank the water and soon realized that it was not ordinary water at all. It had magical powers. Anyone who drank the water was not only healed of all infirmities, but lived a happy and contented life. Once the men discovered the magical powers of the water, they began to bottle the water and sell it to anyone who could afford it.  The price to be paid, however, was all that the buyer had. This meant that the rich, of course, had to pay much more than the poor. At first, many people came to buy the magic water, especially the poor, and all of their sicknesses were healed. As the world became more prosperous, however, fewer people wanted to pay all the money they had for the magic water. Even the dying were reluctant to buy the magic filled bottles if they were wealthy. After all, they wanted to leave something to their children. Instead, people began to seek education to find cures for diseases. They created institutions, hospitals and research centers. Political organizations sought ways to fund these endeavors. Even though all of these efforts were quite expensive, it didn’t cost them all they had. And the world was somewhat successful. Many cures were discovered and medicines developed but the more success they had, the more driven they were to discover new cures and not buy the magic water. Meanwhile, the people who had discovered the magic water continued to live their healthy and contented lives, trying to persuade others to come and buy it. As the years passed by, fewer and fewer people came to buy health and happiness because they wanted to keep their money. So, at last, some of the people that sold the magic water came up with an idea. What if they diluted the magic water with regular water, half and half, and then sell it for only half of what people owned? This worked wonderfully for a while and sales immediately increased. However, instead of curing every disease, the bottles of magic water now cured all but the most dreadful diseases.

As time went on, paying half of all one owned began to seem too high a price to pay for a bottle of magic water. Most people wanted to own houses and cars and, although they admitted these things didn’t make them happy, they decided to keep their possessions and endure their illnesses and discontent. So, low and behold, those who sold the magic water began to dilute the potion even more, to one-fourth magic water and three-fourths regular. Once again, sales increased. The problem was that now the bottles of magic water cured only common diseases and made the people feel better for a few years. As time went by, alas, even this was deemed too expensive and even fewer people were willing to buy the magic water. So they diluted the bottles of magic water further and further and reduced the price more and more until the magic water cost almost nothing and practically everyone had several bottles in their cupboards.

The problem was that now the magic water cured nothing but the common cold, or perhaps some minor back pain.  Instead of giving people happy and contented lives, it only made them feel a little less anxious on Sunday. So the people began to complain that the water didn’t really work. To solve this problem, those who sold the magic water began to supplement the bottles with psychological and social programs that looked just like the programs that the rest of society offered. This way, one could have the best of both worlds: the magic water and the magic of science and technology.

And so the world continued. They bought diluted water – some as low as one per cent – and it hardly cost them anything. Moreover, with the supplements and hard work they managed to convince themselves that what they had was just as good, if not better, than what the original founders had discovered many years before. Most people who now bought the water had little expectation that it would do anything other than taste good. Consequently, the new bottles of magic water not only had little effect but also helped deceive some people into thinking that they had the pure original magic.

So, when those who still sold pure magic water offered it to society, most people proudly announced that they had already purchased the magic water and were perfectly satisfied with what they had. Some believed that it was the same as the original, while others admitted it wasn’t quite the same. They argued that since there was no original magic water left, this was the best they could obtain. Then there were the honest ones that could see that the water had little or no effect and perhaps never did. Those stories of cures and contentment were all just fantasy. And, as time went on, a few even came to believe that not only didn’t the magic water cure anyone, it was actually the cause of all their diseases and discontent.