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.

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!


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?


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