Sunday, April 22, 2007


Her friends had always said she was lucky.

"Things always seem to fall into place for you."

"That's not luck," she would explain.

Imagine a can sitting on a fence post, centered perfectly. Completely balanced. As long as nothing comes along to disrupt its peace, it will remain at rest with gravity as its anchor. But what if a curious animal takes interest? What if a child and his father decide to practice their shooting? What if the wind blows? Only random chance or dumb luck would allow the can to find its home in the bucket, placed next to the fence, meant to catch it.

If the wind blows in the wrong direction, or the bullet is shot from the wrong angle, or the squirrel's tail swishes back instead of forth - what happens to the can? Gravity becomes enemy instead of friend and pulls the can towards the earth. The bucket remains empty. One in ten times the can hits its mark. Luck.

Now imagine the can sits off center. It is still balanced, but part of the base hangs off of the post. Underneath the overhanging edge waits the bucket. Again, without disruption, the can will rest atop the post, but this time when one of the outside forces begins its meddling there is a change. The can, due to its careful placement, now hits its target nine out of ten times - or perhaps does not fall at all. In these special cases the disruption - the unexpected variable - actually serves to further center our imperfectly, but purposefully placed can. This doesn't much seem like luck.

"Things always seem to fall into place for you."

"That's not luck. I just made sure to set things up so that they'd fall into the right direction."

When one understands the forces at play, it is easier to ensure one's own fate. Gravity, perfectly consistent and faithful friend, can be used to control an outcome that would otherwise rely entirely on flighty and haphazard luck - who should not be counted on for anything.