“What’s love got to do with it?” are the words in one of my favorite songs, sung by one of my favorite singers, Tina Turner. Well, I’d like to start this missive with the following question, “What’s luck got to do with it?” My friends; the answer to that question is – “EVERYTHING.”
All you scientific rationalists and realists out there are probably shaking your heads, and thinking, balderdash, this dude doesn't know what he's talking about, or he's on something that is delusion-inducing. Life is a matter of the choices we make, and it is within our control to determine our destiny. You would be half right, and totally wrong. Life is a matter of the choices we make, but at the end of the day, luck is what controls our destiny. Let me give you an example of what I mean.
In December 1972, I was serving in Vietnam. It was near the end of the war; we all knew it. The negotiators were putting the final touches on the cease fire agreement in Paris, and everyone was looking forward to getting out of the war zone at last. Problem was the guys on the ground; the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army units; had other plans. They were maneuvering for more favorable strategic positions when the document was finally signed. This meant that U.S. and South Vietnamese installations were coming under heavy rocket attacks, and units were being ambushed in an effort to move them off their strong points so the Communists could take over and be in a position for their final move on Saigon.
At the time, I was working in a building at Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut Airbase, not too far from the main runway. I don’t remember the date, but I’ll never forget the day. I went to work early for some reason, and was sitting in my office reading. Suddenly, I decided to go outside where my staff was working and chat with them. While I was doing that, we heard the unmistakable sound of incoming rockets. I looked out the front door of our building and saw the columns of black smoke that marked a line of exploded rockets. From their position, it was clear that the Communists were shelling the main runway. Worse, each explosion and smoke pillar was coming closer to us.
I instructed my guys to take cover under desks, counters or any other available shelter, and stay away from walls and windows. As for myself, rather than going back to my office, I decided to stay with them, so I got under a desk with a science fiction paperback to wait out the barrage. The explosions kept getting closer and closer. There was a loud bang, followed by the building shaking and dust particles and bits of glass flying around. None of us were hurt. In the building next to ours, one guy who had been sitting at his desk next to a window was killed by shrapnel and flying glass.
Now, here’s where the luck part comes in. When everything was over, I went into my office and found right behind my desk a basketball-sized hole in the wall, and bits of shrapnel all over the place. The papers on my desk had been shredded by the blast. Had I not decided to leave my office and be with my guys, I would have been sitting at that desk. The hole was right behind where my head would have been. That, my friend, is fate, luck, karma, or Divine Providence. Just plain, dumb luck that I chose not to be in that place at that time. Heck, it was luck, not some rational decision, that caused me to be in the office early that day in the first place. My life is a result of the choices I’ve made, but also the luck that followed, preceded or accompanied those choices.
I'd rather be lucky than right sometimes. It's nice to be right, but luck can keep you alive.
Causes Charles Ray Supports
The Nature Conservancy
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial