Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Of all the luck

I react in two different ways to the horrors and miseries of the world. Sometimes I feel sad that so many people are struggling and floundering and unable to better themselves. At other times I feel happy that I'm lucky enough to have a comfortable, peaceful life while others don't.

The sadness tends to win out, but why should it? Why shouldn't the happiness win out? Why shouldn't I fully appreciate my good fortune, even if I'm very aware it's not shared by everyone? Why be sunk in gloom just because others are?

I think I have a problem with the idea of luck. I can't accept its randomness, its capriciousness. I can't accept that if you're lucky you should just be happy and celebrate it.

I find that hard. I dwell on the fact that others are less lucky, others are stumbling around while I'm not. I feel uncomfortable about it. I feel I've had it too easy. I feel I don't deserve it. I feel a sort of survivor's guilt.

But all I'm doing is taking the edge off my happiness. Spoiling it with pointless doubts and misgivings that make me feel bad instead of just enjoying my luck. I won't simply accept luck for what it is, a sort of burst of sunlight that happened to fall my way and brighten my life.

Why look a gift horse in the mouth? I've been lucky. My life has worked out exceptionally well. Why question it? Why pick it to pieces?


  1. Yep. It's a tricky one. I often have the survivor's guilt thing too. I was going to write more in this comment, but I'd like to read what others have to say about this.

  2. amazing that we are so much alike nick. and you've said it well here.
    i have thought those same thoughts.

    actually many would think i've been terribly UNlucky with my beloved bob and both of my parents dying so young while i was yet so young myself. a lot of loss to deal with.
    but the REAL truth is...
    i look at the fact that i'm not a traumatized refugee homeless and unwanted and living in filth trying to get enough food and clean water and i feel overwhelmed by my GOOD luck. and i feel guilty for having such great good fortune in so many ways.
    i guess it's all always relative really.

  3. Scarlet: It's strange this survivor's guilt thing. If good or bad luck is totally beyond our control, why should we feel guilty about it? It makes no sense.

    Tammy: I know, for all our agonising crises and tragedies, we in the West are still fantastically privileged compared with the sort of desperate people you mention - refugees, war victims, the enslaved and tortured, the falsely imprisoned etc. We really have very little to moan about and much more to be cheerful about.

  4. I agonized over this when I was a teenager, then a voice said, "If you're so smart, why aren't you happy?" Well, how can we be happy when other people are suffering? "What good are you doing them? If you want to help them, help them. Otherwise don't add to the misery in the world. There's already too much there." Sounded like good advice to me.

    It reminds me of Renoir who was criticized for painting such beautiful pictures. He said there was enough ugliness in the world without him adding to it.

  5. I enjoy what I have...but I know that I'm damned lucky to have been born when and where I was so will do what I can to help people without that luck.
    A drop in the ocean, yes, but as the old lady said as she pissed in the sea ...every little helps.

  6. Jean: "If you want to help them, help them." Good point. I'm hesitant to join any cause I'm not totally committed to, as the likelihood is I'd drop out again two months later. But if I could find such a cause, I would certainly get involved. I do of course give money to charity, sign petitions, attend rallies, and all the usual stuff, but that's a bit different from a regular commitment to something.

  7. Helen: Indeed, a drop in the ocean is still better than no drop at all. Or for that matter actively sneering at those who are worse off than you are and blaming them for their troubles.

  8. The way I look at it some sperm met a willing egg, and that was my first bit of luck. It's all so much a matter of chance. If I had not been stood up by a date, I would not have asked this nice, friendly young man to drive me home, the man I've been married to now for 52 years.

  9. Hattie: Indeed, those lucky encounters between two strangers. If Jenny hadn't started work one day at the bookshop I happened to be working in, and if we hadn't taken a liking to each other....

  10. Make sure to do all the good you can with the good fortune you are blessed with, that's what it's about.
    And if you have done all the good you can, you have nothing to be guilty about

  11. Kylie: I certainly do all the good I can, so that's something. People who luck out and then abuse that luck to trample all over others are pretty disgusting. Like all those wealthy sods who couldn't care less about the poor.

  12. Most people " just get on" with things
    No guilt, no shame no worry
    Just get on

  13. John: Ah, you're such a matter-of-fact person. I envy your ability to "just get on", as you put it. You simply scythe your way through so many daily chores and activities, it leaves me breathless!

  14. I thought about this post for a while. I guess I temper my joy with helping others not so fortunate. Not money (can't afford). Just practical help where needed and when asked. I don't tear at my good fortune, and really it's a mixed bag as I have my share of tragedy too but on the whole I realize how lucky I am and how truly luckier by being able to help those who desire it.

    Balance is everything.


  15. I too would rate myself as a very lucky fellow. And, why look at that particular gift horse in the mouth? I am content to let matters be.

  16. www: Certainly helping others is a fitting way of balancing your personal good fortune. I help others where I can, though I don't have that many close friends so there's not a lot of opportunity. Luckily there has been very little serious tragedy in my life.

  17. Ramana: What a stroke of luck that you don't look a gift horse in the mouth!

  18. I try to express my gratitude every chance I get.

    On some level I think I've been very lucky and on others I think the Universe has it in for me.

    What I have learnt is to embrace every moment of joy and to do what I can for other people when I can.

    Joy should be shared unreservedly. Bad news and feelings are spread so easily, joy should be shared to counteract this.

  19. Rose: I routinely keep bad news and feelings to myself, I know how dispiriting they can be to others. I would tell Jenny, but that's usually it. I do try to share joy, if there's anyone around to share it with! The world could do with a bit more joy-spreading and a lot less moaning and back-stabbing.