Do you believe in luck?
Wikipedia defines it as "good or bad fortune in life caused by accident or chance, and attributed by some to reasons of faith or superstition, which happens beyond a person's control."
It is then classified into a few different categories, including cultural views of luck (and the Roman belief in Fortuna), luck as lack of control, luck as a logical fallacy, luck as an essence, and luck as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The "luck" perceived as out of our control would include things like where and to whom we are born, what we look like, whether or not we are sick or healthy, etcetera. In this respect, I must consider myself very lucky, as I love my family and I am, in general, a healthy person.
The rationalist argument about luck is that it is merely a term for those who want to avoid reality and take refuge in wishful thinking: that one can possess "good" or "bad" luck.
"To a rationalist, a believer in luck who asserts that something has influenced his or her luck commits the "post hoc ergo propter hoc" logical fallacy: that because two events are connected sequentially, they are connected causally as well. In general:
A happens (luck-attracting event or action) and then B happens;
Therefore, A influenced B." (wikipedia).
I must admit that I've been guilty of this illogical thinking, but so has anyone who has ever felt remotely superstitious or practiced a 'just in case' philosophy about something that is said to be good or bad luck. (Ever passed on one of those e-mails just to cover your bases? Or knocked on wood when you realized a long streak of health?)
Luck as essence suggests that one's belief in luck is determined by one's faith or belief system, and the idea that luck is influenced by actions, rituals, prayers--depending on one's philosophy.
The most common ways that we as people incorporate the notion of luck into our lives are:
--With games/gambling. We recently played a dice game on vacation, and it was impossible, when the goal was to roll two ones and some people simply couldn't do it, not to think that somehow the dice "liked" some rollers and not others. An odd phenomenon, but a common one.
--Lotteries. Who among us has not bought a lottery ticket at least once? And in what frame of mind does one buy that ticket?
--Decisions. "Leaving it to chance," according to Wikipedia, is often a way for people to resolve issues--for example, the flipping of a coin.
--Numerology. Many cultures embrace the idea of "lucky" and "unlucky" numbers. What's your lucky number? Why? Do you consider any numbers unlucky?
Luck is a fascinating concept to me, both in its largeness and its vagueness and also in its cultural persistence.
For example, when I have a manuscript floating out there in various offices, I often tend to think the results will be less about my talent and more about the way the universe works. It will be luck.
What's your philosophy about luck, or the lack thereof?
(Photo: by me, 2008, near my home. A "lucky" shot of the sunset).