Yesterday, I lost my footing on one of the two steps leading to a landing which leads to basement stairs and to the back door of my house. I instinctively reacted by swinging my left arm to brace a fall. I did not fall because my wrist caught the corner of a wall. I did get a nasty bruise near the wrist, though.
We’ve all had plenty of close calls. Except for some positive circumstances, we could be in dire straits. We also know of situations when luck was not present and something awful resulted. We might see a homeless person on the street and say to ourselves, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”
Yesterday’s close brush with serious injury, or perhaps death, put me in the mood to think about the concept of “dumb luck”. Macmillan’s online dictionary defines “dumb luck” as “the way in which something good happens completely by chance, without being planned or deserved. The synonyms are: luck, luckiness, beginner’s luck, and charmed.
I’ve had two nicknames in life. One is “Red”. The other is “Lucky”. Does having such a name bring about some sort of subconscious influence on one’s life? Does believing that being “blessed” with good luck cause a person to take more chances, thus confirming the belief? There is a lot of pseudo-science regarding this subject. We can also find some fair amount of legitimate psychological studies, too.
There is something going on with luck that goes beyond the mathematical concepts of randomness. There certainly are psychological and social aspects of good luck. After all, one’s attitude about other aspects of life has plenty of influence on whether or not a person succeeds. There has been a fair amount of debate and writing about the topic of luck.
Luck is sometimes thought of as some sort of metaphysical “energy” or a “being” similar to a guardian angel. Patrons of gambling halls and casinos sometimes hope for the presence of “Lady Luck”. Whenever I’ve had a string of successes and good fortune, there seemed to be an indescribable “presence” of a ghostly power that steered me towards happy outcomes. My skeptical nature knows how the mind plays tricks and that the metaphysical illusion is a deliciously compelling state of mind.
Conversely, when events do not turn out as anticipated or the results are unfortunate, it seems like “Lady Luck” has gone away. Some people believe that bad luck is the result of some type of metaphysical curse or influence by an inauspicious or demonic energy. As in the case of “Lady Luck” there seems to be the illusion of a presence. This often results in a sort of unconscious “confirmation bias”. The mind takes note of bad stuff happening. This encourages the belief in bad luck or curses.
There is the type of luck that affects the lives of extremely wealthy, powerful people and the lack of luck that affects the very unfortunate members of our species. Being born into a wealthy family that has much influence over society is a major determining factor in good luck. So is being born into a positive, encouraging family. It is a matter of either having immediate access to resources or the knowledge about how to obtain those resources that greatly influences success in life.
Similarly, if a person is born into poverty and has little or no access to resources, she will find many roadblocks to success. Although it’s less probable that a person from a disadvantaged background will experience great wealth and power, it’s not impossible. Circumstances and timing might come to the aid of the less fortunate individual.
Someone born in a country like the United States or Canada automatically has the good fortune of living in a country that has vast resources of nearly all sorts. Opportunity is abundant. All one needs to do is pursue success and the means to acquire it are already present. “Self-made” millionaires frequently, conveniently forget how they accumulated their great wealth.
If a person is born into a place like Ethiopia, the situation is markedly different. When a person yearns for success there, she will find physical and cultural roadblocks in her way. She must have the good luck of having family or friends who encourage her. There also must be some sort of opportunity to exploit.
I think of my own good luck and feel thankful for being born physically healthy into a lower middle-class family in the United States. My birthright included good public schools and libraries, the acquaintences of influential fellow citizens, the presence of opportunities for gainful employment, and the friendships of people who shared and encouraged my love of learning and discovery. There was plenty of being in the right places at the right times.
Oh yes, there is the good fortune of having the nickname, “Lucky”.