Luck, Not Ripeness, Is All

As almost everyone knows the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots to win the 42nd iteration of the Super Bowl. The Giants won the game with a touchdown with only 35 seconds left to play. But the critical play happened moments earlier. David Tyree a mostly invisible player made once in a century catch on a pass that never should have been thrown. Eli Manning, the Giant’s quarterback, should have been tackled ending the play, but miraculously he got away from a pack of defenders and heaved the ball in the general direction of Tyree. The rest is now myth.

The point here is that the universe is ordered by chance. Manning could repeat the great play over and over again like Sisyphus and the rock and never make the completion, but on the one time he had to he did. Somebody wins the lottery no matter how steep the odds. Without the almost, note almost, impossible play everything is different. Manning is not the Most Valuable Player. the Giant’s coach is not a genius rather just another coach, the Patriots have a perfect season. The Giants have a great season, the Patriots a failed one all because of a sport. Forget about luck being the residue of design. Sometimes it’s just random, blind, dumb luck

The strangeness of reality caused the ancients to invoke divine intervention in the affairs of men. Modern scientists have come up with chaos or complexity theory. The universe is built on a palace of chance. Everything appears predictable, logical, and orderly after it’s happened. Before the event we deal in probabilities only. If you anticipate the event early enough any outcome is improbable. Yet there will be an outcome. Our lives are improbable.

Artists have wrestled with this problem in varying ways. Tolstoy’s famous theory of history posited a logic to history. The logic of cause and effect, not the toss of the dice that troubled Einstein so famously. Woody Allen (I blush to mention Allen in the same paragraph with Tolstoy and Einstein but I need to make a point) made a movie about how life turns on chance.

Pasteur decreed that fortune favors the prepared mind. And it often does. But sometimes the quarterback gets away and a spear carrier saves the day. Of all the good things to be in life lucky is the best. Just don’t award too much credit when luck turns the day. Luck has a way of turning around.

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