A Meditation on Fate, Chance, and Luck at Year’s End

I’ve never been a big believer in Fate with a capital F, with its creepy overtones of predestination. I don’t care to think there is an intelligent power who has pre-ordained your life for you, or that your biology and environment makes it impossible for you do anything but what you will do. Even if this may be true, it’s a horrible principle to base your life on, I think. By doing so, you think the future is already determined, and that makes life not really much worth living.

I do, however, believe in chance and luck. Chance, as I define it, is an accidental event you have no control over that happens without your direct action. A bridge collapsing, picking up a magazine in a doctor’s office and finding a great article, overhearing your favorite song blasting out of someone’s window–all are examples of chance. Chance can be random (a kicked-up stone hitting your windshield) or semi-random (a terrorist blows up a building near you). Random (or really, seemingly random) chance is usually a result of some natural or social process. Rust weakens a bridge, for instance, causing it to collapse. Semi-random chance is triggered by someone else’s actions that in turn affect you. A drunk driver smashes into your car. It’s caused by someone’s actions, but you did nothing to instigate or trigger the event personally.

Chance can ruin or make your life worse, as anyone who has caught a strange illness can attest. It can also enhance your life, and this is what we call luck.

Luck is really just a type of chance: an event that goes in your favor. You can meet someone who offers you a job or becomes a spouse. You can find money on the street. You can win the lottery. Bad luck is just chance, really.

Now, there are those who would argue that we make our own luck. You have to be prepared to meet a possible spouse. You have to buy the lottery ticket to win. And I suppose there is some truth to this. There’s probably two forms of luck too. The kind where you’ve positioned yourself to receive it, and the other kind, which theologians call grace. Grace is an unexpected, undeserved gift. You don’t have to be prepared to receive it, or worthy to receive it, you just do.

Coincidence is a form of luck, I think. Bumping into the right person at the right time. Having someone give you a book you were just thinking of. It’s a form of good luck.

I wish you and yours the best of luck in the new year.

4 thoughts on “A Meditation on Fate, Chance, and Luck at Year’s End

  1. I’m so happy you didn’t include “serendipity” in this meditation. Although I think it is a wonderful word, it has been used a bit too much lately. I used it in the title of one of my publications and in a PhD proposition (you know the “For Inspiration Only” one): Serendipity, as in accidental discovery, is less random then chance.”

  2. Nice entry – most of yours are, but it seemed appropriate to say thanks and have a happy New Year after reading this one 🙂 Who knows how forces operate – why people or ideas are brought together. It’s kind of like the function of mystery in a relationship – that there always has to be something not fully explained. Luck and chance are a bit like that – sometimes they can’t be fully understood but still appreciated.
    The more we pay attention to things like hackability, unintended consequences, luck etc. the better designers – and citizens – we’ll be. Luck is a form of magic, and often daily living lacks that magic that makes it interesting.
    BTW Saw the movie ‘Stardust’ the other day – a good cinematic exploration of luck and love. Worth a peek if you get a chance.

  3. I was very interested in your comments after arriving at your course BLOG, I was surfing for some information on how to to prepare my Thesis for my Msc at Middlesex University in London , England. Your BLOG is therefore of much interest to me and also a particularly helpful research resource. I would be very grateful for any advice you could give mr regarding my research at London Zoo, could you perhaps have a look at my rudimentary attempt at a BLOG, your comments would be warmly received. I hope I have found a chance contact who has already provided a very rich source of research material for my Msc in England, Thank you for your impressive effort.

  4. Your comments ring bells for me but also wanted to say thanks for your site it’s an invaluable find/resource for my current research attempts at London Zoo/Middlesex University, England. I would be very grateful for any advice or guidance, particularly regarding my rudimentary attempts at Blogging and my Thesis direction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *