Fate, luck and lotteries

David, Dice thrower, 1775-80
David, Dice thrower, 1775-80

Human beings seem to be hard-wired to look for patterns and meaning in the course of events. We also depend on metaphors to make sense of our experience (there were two of those in the previous sentence – ‘hard-wired’ from technology and ‘course’ from the sport of racing). Mythology and belief systems help structure such ways of making sense of the world.

Is the world (and our life) governed by Fate or Providence? Is it just a matter of luck? Metaphors help us answer the question. Is there a Wheel of Fortune that raises some today only for them to fall tomorrow? Is it all just the luck of the draw or the result of an unlucky throw of the dice? Mythology and religion offer different interpretations. Perhaps there are Norns who spin the rope of human experience and then suddenly take their scissors and cut it. Perhaps there is a President of the Immortals who is sporting with us (as he did with Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles). Perhaps there is special providence in the fall of a sparrow (as Hamlet put it when he realised he was about to die). Perhaps there is no meaning or cause at all.

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