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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.

Originally posted at Saturday, December 29, 2007 | Comments (4) | Trackback (0)

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