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On Luck: Bumper Sticker Profundity

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Luck is not a lady, but when it's bad, it's a cruel mistress, no doubt. It is merciless and wanton, harsh and humbling-a figurative public scolding from your mother. It strikes at any time and yet its whimsy seems to give way to a pointed deific punishment because truly it seems as though bad luck begets more bad luck. The man or woman in an accident today is notified the next that the IRS is seeking more information. If that's a characteristic of bad luck, then it applies to good luck as well: we're promoted at work today and next week we are appointed to the board of the local Civitan club, the fulfillment of a meager dream. 

Luck is about cycles and cosmic whimsy: it has to do with the multiple minor and major epochs each of us measure time, and our lives, by: there are good periods in our lives, almost always marked by a "string of good luck," and there are bad, where "one of these days my luck will turn." Has anyone ever had a fatal accident on the way to snatch the lottery check?  

We note these epochs in our diaries, if we are especially conscientious, or thumbtack them to our memory if we aren't. And luck's cycles, from a distance, tend to bad; that is, our luck is progressively running out, and then one evening we go to bed and, as you would guess, never get up again. The ultimate bad luck.  

Bad luck trumps, inevitably, its opposite and we may feel betrayed or relieved when it does. It doesn't matter how we feel about this; it's luck, and we have no control. This is the cosmic view of luck, the so-called 35,000 feet take on the matter. Good to bad: our first kiss, second divorce; turning 21, swallowing the purgative for our scheduled colonoscopy; our first house, the nursing home. Uncomfortable bedmates forever, these two: our first car, first wreck; first job, unemployed; Monopoly, Bingo. 

On a smaller scale, less pessimistically, bad luck arrives, but good luck inevitably is waiting around the corner. How we measure luck is by how happy we are, or think we are. I was promoted today: good luck for me. No matter how hard someone works, no matter the struggle, these have nothing to do with luck, certainly not bad luck, good either. But the concept that bad luck will usually give way to its opposite provides some solace for us when our spouse reads that supposedly private text message. Of course, the reverse is true: if good luck is an ambulance, bad is dead on arrival. 

Luck is the weather; it's good or it's bad. It's the thief in the night, so to speak, who decides to pass by my house; or doesn't. Luck is random. If I am happy because of a particular success I am unhappy when my best friend has a similar experience-and so luck, perhaps the most alluring and frightening of all human mysteries, good or bad, makes us selfish when we have none good coming our way. Our generosity knows no bounds when we're rolling lucky sevens all night. 

Really, the whole definition is a modified bumper sticker: luck happens

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About Stephen Foster

  • This was not what I expected. I was expecting bumper sticker profundities like “Get off on Big Beaver – Exit 69” – yes, there is a Big Beaver exit here in Troy, MI and it’s exit 69.

    But you are right about one thing: Luck happens.