In Brief—The author wonders if he has been lucky or if there is more than luck going on.
Luck or Circumstances?—
Am I lucky that I am white? Am I lucky that I am an American? Am I lucky that I have a good education? Am I lucky that I have lived at the right time in history? Am I lucky that I have experienced good health throughout most of my life? Am I lucky that I have the friends I have?
These may seem like luck, but is it really good luck or is it more? Ralph Waldo Emerson has said, “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” He has also said, “Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.” Others have said that it’s being in the right place at the right time. I think it’s more than this.
In looking back over my life, there have been occurences that could be labeled good luck, but after due consideration I believe there have been instances that weren’t luck. Here are some of them.
When I was a little kid, I liked to climb trees. The higher, the better. One day, high in a tree, a branch gave way. I was falling head down toward the ground. At the last moment, a thick branch struck my legs and flipped me over causing me to land on my feet. Luck?
When I was ten I ran in front of an unnoticed turning car. The driver didn’t see me, but I reached out, vaulted over the fender and kept on running. I was unharmed and the driver was no doubt swearing. Luck?
In my haste to catch an updraft, I launched my hang glider off the side of the mountain without paying attention to the straps that suspended me above the distant valley floor. To my horror, I discovered my error and gingerly, ever so slowly, placed the straps where they should have been before I took off. The flight continued without incident. Luck?
On another occasion about which I have written, the late afternoon lift turned into downdraft. I figured my only chace to avoid landing in the rubble below was to pick up speed in a shallow dive in an effort to reach the landing zone. It worked. I made it…barely. Luck?
After visiting the doctor for a suspicious spot on my chest, I was speeding down Santa Monica Canyon when I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop. In my ignorance over being told I had a simple basal cell carcinoma, I blurted out to the cop that I had just been told I had cancer and wasn’t paying attention to my speed. He paused, saw the look on my pale face, handed me my license and said, ”Slow down. You’ll live longer.” Then he returned to his bike. No ticket. Luck?
On my way home from San Diego and facing snails-pace slow-moving traffic, I pulled onto the paved apron and sped past the long line of cars. I was pulled over by a Highway Patrolman who told me I was traveling in an illegal lane. I explained and pointed across the grassy divider where numerous cars were speeding southward down the apron I had been on the previous day. The patrolman saw them, listened to my explanation and said, ”You can tell your friends you talked a Highway Patrolman out of a ticket.” Whereupon he got back in his car and I dutifully joined the slow-moving traffic file. Luck?
It is said that a person is known by the company he keeps. Essentially this means that people are similar in character to their friends. If true, then I have truly wonderful friends who have shaped the person I am. At a bare minimum, the individuals in my circle of friends are reflective of me and show that both they and I have good taste and discrimination in the folks we choose to hang around with. Certainly, my friends are thoughtful, kind, smart and add to the person I have worked hard to be.
Now, am I lucky or is it something else? In the fall from the tree, the circumstances of my fall were the governing factor. The lower branch was there regardless of my fall. Had been for years. Its presence was simply coincidence…and my good fortune. Luck? Possibly.
My carelessness in running in front of an oncoming car was compensated for by my physical speed and youthful athleticism. Luck had nothing to do with it.
My carelessness in the hang gliding incident was overcome by reasoning and caution. It was brains, not luck.
My ignorance and the compassion of the cop saved me from a ticket, nothing more. Luck? Maybe…
The San Diego freeway incident depended on my glibness, coincidence and a reasonable patrolman. Maybe I was lucky that the patrolman was working that day.
Luck, you say? Maybe it’s somewhere in the mix. What do you think?