Are some blessed, some cursed or do you make your own luck?


Luck is a much debated phenomenon, with the pragmatic insisting that one makes one’s own. It certainly helps to be proactive and opportunities do seem to fall our way by being in the right place at the right time and with the right attitude but even so …

I suspect that there is such a thing as luck – chronic luck, I mean – good and bad. Maybe you don’t class it as luck but I was forced, recently, to tell the story of my last few years to an impartial observer [apart from his own inbuilt prejudices] and I have to admit, it sounded like a string of excuses, a series of subsequent little disasters which just happened to come about due to a conjunction of circumstances.

It’s the old story – one could have prevented some of them with better planning but who thinks of remote possibilities occurring in the scheme of things? Who imagines for a minute seven or eight of these in a row, in some sort of cascade effect?

I’d like a pound for the number of times someone close to me has said that there is the remote possibility of something going wrong but the odds are against it but I knew, deep down and sure enough, it got complicated.

This dental work. That very day, my mate said that so often, something which could be dire turns out to be better than expected. I said nothing and then discovered it was much worse than anyone could have imagined. Only the x-ray I have at home shows the truth of this. If I speak of it, it sounds as if I’m imagining dire consequences so I usually say nothing.

Sailors are known for their superstition but how often is superstition based on things observed and interpreted in the light of other knowledge, even racial memory?

The Mary Celeste, the ghost ship, was certainly an unlucky ship:

Her first skipper, a Scot named Robert McLellan, fell ill and died. Then John Nutting Parker assumed command and skippered the Amazon’s maiden voyage, but she ran into a fishing weir off Maine, received a large gash in her hull and had to go to the shipyards for repair. While she was there a fire broke out amidships, bringing Captain Parker’s command to an end.

Amazon’s first Atlantic crossing went without mishap until she entered the Straits of Dover and collided with a brig. The brig sank, Amazon again went for repairs, and her third skipper went to seek another command.

Following the necessary repairs and the appointment of a new captain, Amazon returned to America, and she ran aground off Cow Bay, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

She was pulled off the rocks and repaired, but appears to have passed from one owner to another, several of whom seem to have gone bankrupt and none of whom derived any good from their contact with the ship. She eventually passed into the hands of J.H. Winchester and Co., a consortium of New York shipowners.

By this time the Amazon had been enlarged, flew the Stars and Stripes and was named Mary Celeste. According to testimony just prior to this trip, she had been purchased at a salvage auction in New York for $2,600 and rebuilt for $14,000. Her rebuilt condition was confirmed by the crew of the Dei Gratia later when they said, “Her hull appeared to be nearly new.”

So you see, like a cancer which has been cut out but then seemingly reappears from nowhere, certain things do seem to reside and reappear and sailors are willing to accept that some fates are best not tempted – the albatross springs to mind and the stormy petrel, for example.

It can cut both ways – there’s good luck too.  Some things I touch always seem to turn to gold and anyone who stays close to me always stays safe from harm – nothing I do personally, it just happens that way.  There’s a weird one, useless to any but me – wherever I drive, parking spaces always appear.  Against that, if I walk under a series of street lights on lampposts, they can sometimes go out as I pass below them, only to come on again as I move away.  This is no bull – it happens.

Opportunities appear from nowhere and though that happens to all of us, in my case, it’s useful for finding blogposts to write on.  With my mate up the road, the interaction does it.  Neither has anything particularly in mind at the start but over a cup of tea, this leads to that in the conversation and voila – there are four complete blogposts .  He’s still awaiting the cheque, which I assure him is in the mail.

There’s a theory that things happen to people who can imagine things happening to them and the blunt, obtuse pragmatist in his narrow world never has anything happen to him out of the ordinary.  Those who believe in the paranormal happen to find paranormal activity and those who pooh-pooh it do not.  Ever.

Sheer bloody experience has taught me to use 360 degree peripheral vision and if I see a conjunction of circumstances which could possibly combine to create an outcome, usually dire, then I assume now that it will happen and if it doesn’t, it’s a bonus.

Next year, certain things are due to be attended to, all around the same time, which should see me gone – the odds are that this will happen and they will certainly end this blog.  The optimist will say nah, you’re imagining things.  We’ll see – the cards might fall the other way.

Luck – who knows?  I certainly don’t and all I can do is form hypotheses based on what I’ve observed so far.  That’s all any of us can do.  That and pray.

14 comments for “Are some blessed, some cursed or do you make your own luck?

  1. November 6, 2009 at 10:06

    I have often said of myself that if it wasn’t for Bad Luck I’d have no luck at all.

    Not cripplingly so, more pull the rug from under feet sort of luck or as Toby Frost put it, “the incontinent toddlers of fate have once again visited the swimming pool of my life”.

    I seem to find myself ‘starting all over again’ for some reason and it’s getting a little wearing.

  2. November 6, 2009 at 10:07

    Yes – precisely, PC. That’s how it seems to be happening.

  3. November 6, 2009 at 10:34

    Well keep your fingers crossed think positive thoughts and avoid anything dangerous like that corner by where you live, roads, chavs and yoofs, keep away from water and tall buildings and avoid things like cheese and burgers. In fact buy some cotton wool and a bodysuit and fill it as much as possible. Don’t write anything controversial, like about feminazis, homos, our government (remember David Kelly) or plod.

    You should live forever then.

    Personally, I think that you make your own luck. However, I also know that the ingredients are hard to find and depend on your circumstances. WHen you are at the bottom they are almost impossible to get hold of unless you stocked up before. Making luck with the wrong ingredients leads to bad luck. Best playing safe under those circumstances.

  4. November 6, 2009 at 10:53

    “…wherever I drive, parking spaces always appear.”

    They see you coming mate, and are desperate to get away 🙂

  5. November 6, 2009 at 11:22

    @ Lord T
    Yes I agree, without risk there is no life. And I have always felt the pull of the road less travelled. So I must take some responsibilty for what has occured, the more risk perhaps the more chance of failure.

    Yet what if I make a decsion that seems good at the time and leads to wonderful things, yet 5 years down the line, someone in an office 8000 miles away decides that because some people in an office even further away haven’t made as much money as they should, the people 8000 miles away should lose their jobs to make up the difference. Even though they are profitable and doing their jobs so well they all got bonuses the year before, it will cost less to get rid of them than the others.

    Is that Bad Luck, Karma, Happenstance, was it my bad decision to start with? or is it just life?

    And what if it happens over and over again. Sometimes you can’t help but think you’re a little bit cursed

    Or It may be I’m just one of those people who just couldn’t make their own luck even if they were given a kit and a video of instructions.

  6. November 6, 2009 at 11:49

    @Mr Cat,

    It’s just life. I’m in a similar situation myself with the economy and have lost a lot.

    However to put it in perspective. You go out for a walk because you want to clear your head. You get picked up by the secret police and tortured for info you don’t have. You never see your family again.

    Or you find that you have advanced cancer and will die in a few weeks, no cure.

    Those are bad luck. Our bad luck pales into insignificance then.

  7. November 6, 2009 at 12:21

    Our bad luck pales into insignificance then.

    Well said, indeed it does and I constantly remind myself of that.

  8. MTG
    November 6, 2009 at 12:25

    I am so envious of that luckier me basking in a parallel dimension where I own Microsoft.

  9. November 6, 2009 at 16:47

    MTG, can that other luckier you stop my copy of Word crashing? Ta.

  10. November 6, 2009 at 18:57

    Maybe you are forgetting to look after yourself when keeping others safe!

    I should show this post to one of my friends who would have a lot to say about it I am sure 🙂

  11. Jim
    November 6, 2009 at 23:34

    Theres 2 sorts of luck – the sort you make yourself, by analysis of the likely problems you will encounter in a given activity, and preparation for those outcomes. Things go smoothly for you because you prepare. Others fail to do so, and a small setback snowballs into a crisis. The old adage – fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

    Then there’s the totally inexplicable stuff – things over which you have no control going your way, helping you along life’s path (or not as the case may be). I have always been on the receiving end of positive random luck – I have missed severe injury and possibly death through what I like to describe as my guardian angel’s oversight.

    I notice my friends seem to have much worse luck than I do, and wonder why my life seems to run so smoothly, and theirs do not.

  12. November 6, 2009 at 23:38

    Noted and thanks.

  13. November 7, 2009 at 09:38

    Too much pessimism in your penultimate para. A friend once told me of a principle in driving accidents – the car will go towards what you’re looking at. He remembered it at the right moment, looked for the gap and went through. Maybe it will help improve your luck if you cultivate that habit. You speak of bringing luck to those around you; if light shines on them, light is in you.

  14. November 7, 2009 at 23:16

    I was thinking along the same lines as Sackerson 😉

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