“If you wish hard enough, it will come true.” Henry, a kid who idolizes Bolly, a has-been prize-fighter, issues the Big Tall Wish, and changes the outcome of Bolly’s latest fight from a loss to a win. But the wish requires Bolly’s buy-in. When Henry tells Bolly that he won the fight because Henry wished it, Bolly tells him that wishes don’t come true, and the win is undone.
Serling concludes that Bolly “shares the most common ailment of all men, the strange and perverse disinclination to believe in a miracle.” The story would be trivial if we read this as as admonishing us from believing in miracles where a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. As Hume argued, what has to be explained is the widespread belief in miracles, given that miracles are events for which there isn’t evidence. In this story, a miracle is not a violation of the laws of nature, but simply something unlikely, e.g. a win for an aged fighter who just broke four knuckles. Henry believes in Bolly against the odds. He has hope, but Bolly has lost it. Without hope, without thinking that he could win, Bolly doesn’t have a chance.
Put differently, mental states can bring about physical states. A trivial case: I form the intention to raise my hand, and then I raise it. A non-trivial case: I form the intention to win the fight against a formidable opponent, and I win it. Clearly the intention alone isn’t a sufficient cause, but it may be necessary. Again, without hope, Bolly doesn’t have a chance.