LUCK: HEAVEN SENT OR RANDOM CHANCE?

No one has ever proved luck actually exists. Webster calls it a “force” that brings good fortune or bad. That could mean it’s related to the weather, the stock market, the Communist Party or even the office Christmas party. But maybe it’s just a word we made up to explain life’s up and downs.

Purists insist events are subject to the laws of probability and any other explanation is just wishful thinking. But can’t we fudge those laws by increasing our efforts to reach our goals? Movie magnate Samuel Goldwyn once claimed, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Others believe in a mysterious source of unearned good fortune like “dumb luck” and “Beginner’s luck”. Shakespeare wrote “Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered.” An Arab proverb puts it another way: “Throw a lucky man into the sea and he will come up with a fish in his mouth.” Some only half believe in luck like the man who blames his failures on bad luck, but takes complete responsibility for his hole in one.

We should be active participants in our pursuit of good fortune. There’s the story of the woman who prayed for help to win a lottery prize. After weeks of praying with no results, she shook her fist at the sky and cried, “You haven’t been listening to my desperate prayers to be a lottery winner!” Just then there was a clap of thunder and a voice roared from the clouds, “For heaven’s sake, buy a ticket!”

Religion and luck have been partners for centuries as the devout have asked heaven to deliver good fortune, some paying the shipping and handling charges in advance. The Aztecs, Mayans and Incas paid with human sacrifices, voluntary and otherwise. Most of us, these days, politely ask heaven to tilt the odds in our favor from time to time. There probably are as many prayers said during church bingo games as at the Sunday services. ( Please, Lord, have him call B-14 and I’ll split the pot with you.”)

What is your best guess about luck? Is it the main force behind someone’s successful career? Someone said, “You can always tell luck from ability by the duration.” My favorite luck comment was by the author Jean Cocteau: “We must believe in luck, for how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like.”

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