According to Greek mythology, Midas was a king who lived in Phrygia in the eighth century B.C. He was very wealthy and had more gold than anyone in the world. He stored the yellow coins and bars in huge vaults underneath his palace and spent many hours each day handling and counting his treasure.
But no matter how much gold Midas collected and put into his vaults, it was not enough. He always wanted more, and he spent much of his time dreaming about how to obtain still more gold.
According to the legend, one day a being dressed in white appeared to Midas and granted him a wish. The king instantly wished for the “golden touch”—that everything he touched would turn to gold.
The next morning when Midas woke up, he found that his plain linen bedcovers had been transformed into finely spun gold! He gasped with astonishment and jumped out of bed. Then he touched the bedpost, and it turned to gold. “It’s true,” he cried. “I have the golden touch!” He rushed through the palace, brushing against walls and furniture along the way, all of which turned to gold at his touch.
Out in the garden, he went from bush to bush, touching roses and other flowers, smiling as they turned to gold.
This is the part of the legend most people remember. Many people seem to be fascinated with the idea of being able to create gold—unlimited wealth—at the touch of a finger. Obviously, this is what people are thinking about when they refer to the “Midas touch.”
But the Midas myth doesn’t end here with everyone living happily ever after.
Finally, tiring from the excitement of touching various items and seeing them turn into gold, Midas sat down to read while he waited for breakfast. But the book he picked up immediately turned to gold. Then when he tried to eat a peach, a spoonful of porridge, and a piece of bread, they each turned into hard golden lumps! Even the water in his cup turned to gold.
The king grew alarmed. “If even my food turns to gold, how will I ever eat again?” he worried. Just then, Midas’ daughter, Aurelia, came into the room. She was the only thing he had loved as much as his gold. Aurelia ran to her father, threw her arms around him, and kissed him. Much to Midas’ horror, she grew strangely still and turned from a loving, laughing little girl into a golden statue.
The king howled in anguish, overcome by the horror of what was happening before his very eyes. He had gotten what be asked for, but he suddenly realized he didn’t want what he was getting.
Fortunately, this is still not the end of the Midas myth. There is yet another part to the story.
The being dressed in white suddenly reappeared and asked, “Well, King Midas, are you not the happiest of men?” “Oh, no,” moaned the king, “I am the most miserable of all creatures.”
“What? Did I not grant your wish for the golden touch?” “Yes, but it is a curse to me now,” Midas wept. “All that I truly loved is now lost to me.”
“Do you mean to say that you would prefer a crust of bread or a cup of water to the gift of the golden touch?” asked the glowing white being.
“Oh, yes!” Midas exclaimed. “I would give up all the gold in the world if only my daughter were restored to me.”
According to the myth, the being dressed in white told Midas to go bathe in a certain spring of water that would washaway his golden touch. He was also to bring back some of the water to sprinkle on his daughter and any other objects he wished to change back to their original form.
So the legendary King Midas gladly gave up his golden touch and rejoiced in the restoration of the simple things of life—family, food, and natural beauty. Midas realized that these are the things that have greater value than gold.
The truth is, we do not live in a fairy-tale world. There is no Midas touch or magical formula for material success. But there are opportunities for those who are willing to be diligent and faithful in the work of their mind and hands.