An optimist, a pessimist, a realist and an abstrationist walk into a bar…

“I’d like half a pint of Guinness,” each says as they take their seats at the bar.

A group of old friends had decided to go out for a drink together. They had all known each other since birth, and while they all had drastic (if not contradictory) opinions about they way the world worked, they all respected each other, knowing that without each other, they would not exist. Naturally, they avoided the obvious topics, and soon enough their drinks sat in front of them. Two of them immediately smiled and thanked the bartender at the arrival of their drinks, yet the other two sat in shock.

“What terrible luck!” exclaimed the pessimist, “It appears my glass is half-empty!”

“Shame,” replied the optimist, relatively apathetic, “mine was half full.”

Ignoring the paradox, the realist replied as well, “I just got some beer, good enough for me.”

“You don’t seem to understand,” said the pessimist, heat evident in his voice, “my glass was half empty, I asked for half a pint, I got a glass that was half empty.”

“Oh, you think you’ve got it so hard, don’t you,” mocked the abstractionist, “I got a beer full of glasses!”

They all sigh, unhappy with the outcome of this reunion, and all quickly begin to examine the outdoors from the small windows of the pub.

“Would anyone care to join me outside? I feel the fresh air might be nice for all of us,” suggested the optimist, never leaving his role.

“Whatever,” replied the pessimist, standing up.

The realist shrugs and rises as well, going to the door, ignoring the abstractionist’s queries of “Wait, this place has an outside?”

Once outside, they find a table for four and immediately sit down, not looking each other in the eye.

Soon enough, the realist looks out at the landscape, looking closely at the hills.

“Don’t these hills look like white elephants to you?” he asks the group, prompting an immediate reaction from the abstractionist, who cannot help contain a snicker.

“Alright, to hell with it, I knew this would be awful from the start!” the pessimist roars, flipping the table over and storming off.

Challenging Luck

“As established, luck is a vague term used to describe the ultimate incapability of human beings to spend unneeded amounts of time calculating the events of fortune vs misfortune that might occur throughout a given period of time longer than about 3 seconds. Many people have tried to associate values to certain factors, coming up with factors and variables and constants and all kinds of useless mathematics that ultimately do little to predict the overarching question of someone’s instantaneous fortune. So, we call it luck. But perhaps there is a way to calculate a value for someone’s luck based on information on not only themselves, but the world around them. Yet how do we even begin to accomplish this?

“To start, we can look back at a fictional concept known as “psychohistory”, first found in the writings of Isaac Asimov in his Foundation series. The plot revolves around a mathematician named Hari Seldon who attempts to save a dysfunctional and desensitized society dying galactic empire from itself by predicting the future, allowing civilization to rebuild and reshape itself, taking the necessary steps towards ultimate utopia, Seldon’s plan engrained into the very essence of their culture. While this is only a fictional representation, there are many sciences that actually exist that seek similar if not the same goal, including one that, while sharing the name “psychohistory”, inspects very different aspects of sociology and psychology throughout time. However, these fields all assert that human nature, while seemingly random is, in theory, predictable. From this, we can assume then, that our overall fortune is ultimately predictable. Can we then assume we can establish a function for the good fortune we may experience over time, and from there, our instantaneous fortune, also known as luck?

“The first and most obvious step would be to start assigning values to different variables. Lets say x is equivalent to lifespan in years, and y is equivalent to relative fortune on a scale of -100 to 100, with 0 being a complete balance between good and bad events, -100 being death and 100 being the ultimate potential fulfillment that one might reach at any given point in their lifespan. But where do we go from here? What other variables do we have to include when determining a line? Well, assuming we are using the function F(x) = mx + b, we need to calculate a value of b before we can proceed. The value of ultimately decides the potential fortune that one will have at birth, and is based on a number of factors. A good place to start would be the HDI of the country in which the subject was born. Further factors would be the sustainability of this HDI based on historical implications of that society’s geography, dependability, internal politics, chance of society-modifying illness, culture and its implications on future health, impact of other nations, etc.” – Some pompous jerk with a stereotypical English accent

This makes absolutely no sense. Going against the whole point of luck, its own very random definition? Give me a break. The bias is killing me. This paper is overly-analytical of an abstract concept. Unoriginal and boring. You’re better than this, so I want a completely redone paper on my desk by tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, enjoy the music.

“Hold my beer?”

Who was the first person to say “Hold my beer?” right before they preceded to do something beyond stupidity? Did they think you’d be one of the lucky few that managed to pull of that particular stunt on that dirt bike? Lets be honest, professionals train for months to be able to pull off such a stunt, and after a few beers did they truly think that they’d even be able to hold onto the handlebars, let alone go off a jump, through a flaming hula-hoop and into a swimming pool and somehow not get hurt? Did they ever realize halfway through their antics that luck is only so powerful, that there is so much that is not luck, and purely under their control?

One can put so much on the shoulders of luck. It is a heavy burden, a burden only matched by whatever holds our universe together. Luck is everything and nothing, and because of this nothing, there is a limit to the power of luck. Sure, one can look at their raw existence, pointing fingers at luck and saying “Its his fault!” Frankly, this is childish. Saying luck is responsible for everything is like saying all your actions were fated from the start, that no matter what you do or did, you were always going to do it, and because of that, it is not your fault. However, when responsibility’s ugly face pops through the door, you neglect it, ignore it until nothing is left but an empty husk of someone who chose to not accept that their life is not governed entirely by some abstract force, but by their own actions.

Fascinating.

What is the fascination surrounding luck, anyhow? Why must we care so much about such a trivial thing, associating the concept with some grand power that rules over our lives? Why must we constantly concern ourselves with the mortal issue of worrying about what luck  fortune will bring us next?

http://www.nature.com/nrc/journal/v4/n1/fig_tab/nrc1257_F1.html

Human migratory patterns over our existence. Photo courtesy of Nature.com

Looking back in time holds the answer to these questions. Before the very beginnings of civilization were taking hold upon the land, where people were organizing into large groups, migrating across continents in search of food or better living conditions, we saw luck as the governing force. We did what we could to promote good fortune, but ultimately the laws of nature were out of our control. We could find a cave to hide in, but that wouldn’t change the fact that it was still going to rain. We could travel to a new, green grove of the forest in search of food, but there was no guarantee of finding food. This luck, this randomness, this chance people would take began to be known as a higher power. In some faiths, worship of a god is a worship of luck. As civilization grew, we became increasingly dependent on good harvests and protection from those who wished to do us harm, which meant further prayer to an entity determining our luck. Throughout history, people sing out for good fortune, wishing for nothing more than this ever so powerful ambiguity be on their side.

Perhaps that is why today we hold luck in such high regard, because our species evolved with it.

What is Luck, Really?

Photo Courtesy of NewtonianNocturn of Deviantart.

While luck is a double faced coin in one sense, it is a one-faced coin in another. There’s good luck, bad luck, high luck, low luck, the list could go on. Like a similar word, fortune, a noun that one might associate with oriental sweets or crystal balls, there is both good luck and bad luck. Good luck typically implies the achievement of good fortune in an instant, whilst bad luck implies poor fortune in an instant. But what is it that makes luck, lucky? After all, luck in itself means almost nothing without a modifier, positive or negative. Why is it that lucky implies positive connotation whilst luck is simply a noun. In the proper sense of the word, lucky would just be one prone to events of fortune, be them bad or good.

In order to find the true meaning of luck, one might start at a dictionary definition. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, luck is “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions”. While this looks like a good definition, what does it actually mean? To start, the word chance is a synonym probability, and seeing as probability is defined by math, chance is hardly an ideal choice for a word that is meant to be almost exempt from math, even though ultimately most acts of good luck are the result of factors the human mind is seemingly incapable of processing.

Does this mean luck doesn’t actually exist, then, if this seemingly random function is based clearly in mathematics, a function? It very well could. However, when fortune is factored into the equation, fortune is predetermined, which might mean then that the functions that guide our life are predetermined after all, and we lack the ability to prevent anything, as math has guided our actions the entire time, and we have no say in the matter?

Ultimately, though, it might just come down to a battle of fate versus chance, string theory versus Schrodinger’s cat. Perhaps the world will never know what factors guide our life, but for now, for it is a word and therefore must have a meaning, even if it is as abstract as the meaning of life.

A Bond Poker Game

Bond sits down at table.

He glances at the other players.

Winning tonight, he might not be able.

He looks to his cards, he decides to call.

The men and woman, they watch him,

for this hand he must give it his all.

The cards go in, their wagers ever bold

He looks at his hand

Bond decides to fold.

The cards go out again,

Bond is given a refreshment

As he examines his new hand.

The wagers go out and all is lost

For his cards, only money is his unsaid demand.

Oh, but what is this?

A villain’s cards go down

Surely, the mission is no longer his.

But finally, our hero is in the right

His cards show his only luck

For a pair of Queens carries all the might.

The World’s Luckiest Man!

This is a thoughtchild of mine, a small skit/play written simply out of jest. Enjoy.

The World’s Luckiest Man, MATTHEW, is walking down up the mansion granted to him on accident by the Queen of England after he had just won the lottery. He is flanked by beautiful servants on each side, as well as luscious gardens.

SERVANT: Sir, look above! A meteor headed straight for you!

MATTHEW: What?

MATT looks up only to see a meteor crash down next to him, on top of his SERVANT.

MATT: Oh, what luck! Had she not spotted it, I might just have ceased to be!

Suddenly a DOCTOR shows up.

DOCTOR: Mr. Luck, sir, I have the results in.

MATT: Oh, let me see. What do they say?

DOCTOR: Well, not only are you completely cured of any cancer in your body, it also turns out you are immune to every single bacteria and virus known to man!

MATT: Oh, what good luck, I have! I shall immediately donate my blood to science so that you might make the same for all of mankind!

DOCTOR: Oh, but sir, there is no need, we took all the blood we needed from you earlier!

MATT: Oh, excellent. The two start walking. Walk with me, fair doctor. So, (he turns to face the doctor again) have you ever had one of those days where you just feel especially lucky? As he turns, a bullet and three arrows ricochet past. 

DOCTOR: I’m not quite sure what you mean, sir.

MATT turns back to walk on his way as a dud bomb lands right where he had just been standing.

MATT: I’m not quite sure I understand either, to be honest. I just can’t help but wonder that things have been going my way lately. He looks down as a red dot from a laser appears on his forehead. Oh buggar, my shoe’s come undone. He kneels down to tie it as a gunshot echos, and the shot flies past, killing a large deer that had happened to wander onto the grounds. What was that?

DOCTOR: Oh, nothing sir. Say, what are you going to do about that deer?

MATT: I–

Before he can finish, he is cut off as a team of parachuting butchers flies from the sky, jumping on the corpse, for a few seconds, then leaving behind a stack of perfectly packaged and processed venison as they run off.

MATT: Well, there we go.

MATT snaps his fingers, and a team of servants comes to retrieve the food.

MATT: So, I seem to recall there being mentioned on the Television some sort of catastrophic event was supposed to happen.

DOCTOR: I don’t quite recall sir.

MATT: Huh.

Just as the words leave his mouth, a large explosion sounds in the distance. Suddenly an empty time machine appears in front of MATT.

MATT: Is this a time machine? Quickly, everyone, pile in!

A group of people immediately pile into the time machine.

DOCTOR: A perfect genepool…

The DOCTOR hops in, leaving behind MATT.

MATT: But wait, you forgot– His words are lost in the ensuing chaos.

The Double Faced Coin.

There are two fundamental Imagedifferences in the way people look at luck. Sometimes it is a simpler word or representation of the way people see the series of incalculable equations that make up our day-to-day lives work out in one’s favor. Some see it as fortune through a god, or simply as some unknown fate. They see the aspects of life that are simply tiny acts of fortune or misfortune, It is a product of materialism. This is the surface of luck, its dirt-covered face.  However people often forget the deeper, more beautiful side of luck.

Just think, billions upon billions of years ago, some unexplainable explosion spread matter around the universe, tiny little particles being spread farther than we can even begin to conceive. From there, they began to bond, and after a few billion years we had planets, and from there organic proteins, and from there complex molecules, molecules that began to form the very basis of life.  Then came the prehistoric life, before a single human had even walked the earth. Mammals started to show up, and after the Ice Age, the result of a stray space rock impacting the Earth’s surface, humanity began to show up, walking their first steps on the ever receding glaciers of years past. From there we struggled on, through viscous beasts to the Atomic Bomb. The raw chance of humanity existing was so slim, we as a species should not exist. And even so, with the odds ever not in our favor, our planet exists, we exist, and we are still here and we live our ever-so-fortunate lives in the utopia of modern society, with our first-world technology and access to clean water and food. And what a gross over-simplification this is.

So next time you’re outside, gazing up at the stars, think about what must have happened in order for you to exist. Think about luck.

Synonyms of luck:

  • Fortune
  • Chance
  • Fluke
  • Blessing
  • godsend

Antonyms of luck:

  • misfortune

Luck – The Etymology

luck (n.) late 15c. from early Middle Dutch luc, shortening of gheluc “happiness, good fortune,” of unknown origin. It has cognates in Dutch geluk, Middle High German g(e)lücke, German Glück “fortune, good luck.” Perhaps first borrowed in English as a gambling term. To be down on (one’s) luck is from 1832; to be in luck is from 1900; to push (one’s) luck is from 1911. Good luckas a salutation to one setting off to do something is from 1805. Expression better luck next time attested from 1802.

A gentleman was lately walking through St Giles’s, where a levelling citizen attempting to pick his pocket of a handkerchief, which the gentleman caught in time, and secured, observing to the fellow, that he had missed his aim, the latter, with perfect sang-froid, answered, “better luck next time master.”  [“Monthly Mirror,” London, 1802]

luck (v.) by 1945, from luck (n.). To luck out “succeed through luck” is American English colloquial, attested by 1946; to luck into(something good) is from 1944. However, lukken was a verb in Middle English (mid-15c.) meaning “to happen, chance;” also, “happen fortunately.”

“But, he thought, I keep them with precision. Only I have no luck anymore. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.” – Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

“Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known.” – Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon USA

“Above all, he liked it that everything was one’s own fault. There was only oneself to praise or blame. Luck was a servant and not a master. Luck had to be accepted with a shrug or taken advantage of up to the hilt. But it had to be understood and recognized for what it was and not confused with a faulty appreciation of the odds, for, at gambling, the deadly sin is to mistake bad play for bad luck. And luck in all its moods had to be loved and not feared.” – Ian Fleming, Casino Royale

http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=luck&allowed_in_frame=0

http://flavorwire.com/269902/25-literary-quotes-about-luck