Jul 26, 2023

I don't know.

Do we attract calamity and-or advantage? As someone who's read a lot of military history, I know that soldiers always know of one lucky guy in the unit who never has bad things happen to him. The other troops try to stick as close to him as possible. In September of 2006, Mary Wollens of Toronto, Canada, bought two $8 million lottery tickets in two different stores. Luck? Fate? Pure chance?

Other people seemed cursed. I used to think I was. It took me a long time to realize that most of the disasters I survived were due to my bad choices. And a lot of what I thought was bad luck was actually good luck. I was nearly blown up by the Irish Republican Army. On that day other people were completely blown up. I was lucky, not unlucky.

My current thinking is that most of it is pure chance. I don't think individuals are saved because they're going to have a starring role in some hugely important plan later on. I certainly don't think that when an airliner crashes and breaks in half right in front of your seat but you survive unscathed, it's because "someone was looking out for you." What about the people who were sitting on the break in the fuselage? Do you honestly think you're somehow better or more deserving that they were, so you got to live while they died horribly?

I just don't buy that. There may be some truth in the notion that people attract "bad luck" in the sense that they're more vulnerable to malign spirits. My brother Tim was at our mother's house yesterday, and the tape measure he set on the drier suddenly flew across the room. The same thing happened to me while I perused a box of photos. I said something extremely uncomplimentary about a person in the photo, and the box flew off the sofa as though it had been kicked.

My view is that the overall machine isn't set up to victimize or benefit us as individuals, but within that machine there may be gremlins that screw with us. Maybe there are also anti-gremlins that help us out on a small level. I don't think they save lives or arrange for you to win million-dollar lottery tickets, but maybe they help you see things that give you strength. Maybe they point out a direction that you can then choose to go in, which will result in you helping yourself.

As I said, I don't know. I think free will is paramount, and that sort of negates the idea of good or bad luck conferred upon you from the outside. You can experience lucky or unlucky events, but I think it's more luck of the draw than intervention.

Once I was driving on California State Route 60—the Pomona Freeway—in the rain, off to pick up something for a trip to the Bay Area. This was 1994, and I was still a creature of bottomless rage. As I contemplated how much angrier I would be once I was back in San Francisco, due to the fact that I'd been mercilessly run out of the city, an eighteen wheeler in the lane to my left jammed on the brakes to avoid hitting an idiot who cut in front of the truck. I knew exactly what was going to happen, so I instantly pulled onto the right shoulder. We were all doing about seventy miles per hour. The big rig jackknifed, the cab pointing to the left and the trailer swinging to the right, directly at me. I couldn't slam on the brakes because of the rain and the oil on the surface of the roadway, which rises up out of the concrete on the first day of the rainy season. All I could do was slow down a little.

The trailer swung past me at about sixty miles per hour, missing my front fender by no more than an inch. The driver of the rig regained control, straightened out, and we all drove on as if nothing had happened. This incident occurred on the overpass, where the Pomona Freeway intersects California State Route 57—the Orange Freeway. If the trailer had hit me, it would've tossed me off the 60 down to the 57, about fifty feet below. The trailer could've hit the driver's door of my Toyota Corolla, killing me; the fall down to the Orange Freeway could've killed me; or I could've survived both impacts and been killed by cars driving north on the 57. I dodged near-certain death three times in about four seconds.

Personally, I think it was pure chance. Nobody saved me. I don't deserve such attention.

Not unless we all get it.