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Intention or Luck.

0 Heart it! Richard Josephson 48
September 29, 2018
Richard Josephson
0 Heart it! 48

Intention or Luck


Being well intentioned and fulfilling those intentions is a source of happiness. But, what about just getting lucky?

Let’s say we are hiking, dehydrated, and out of water, and searching the terrain for signs of it, we notice the glistening signs of water on a rock overhang. Upon reaching it, however, we notice it is only the glistening of minerals embedded in the rock. No doubt we will feel very disappointed. But, what about if while sitting to rest near the spot, we notice some water just a few feet away. Of course, we would be happy. But, would we think that we were right after all?

The above situation is called the “Gettier” effect, and its implications have been the subject of philosophical debate for some time. All of us have surely experienced Gettier-like situations, the fact that we have them is not debated, but how we should react to them is. “Oh,” I was right after all,” might be the most common reaction, in the situation above. Being thirsty and feeling the coolness of the water as it nourishes our body and spirit will certainly occlude philosophical speculation! And, probably rightly so, we are trekkers, damn it, not philosophers.

But, philosophers say that if we blur the boundaries between luck and intention it can lead us to a distorted view of our world and cause confusion. Not knowing the difference between what is accidental rather than intentional may cause us to disregard our blessings and take credit we don’t deserve. Moreover, if we don’t draw boundaries between accidental and intentional, when we are “right on” and things do go according to our intention, we will not take the credit we deserve.

The above logic plays a bigger part in our lives than many may realize and that is why it has been a subject of philosophical debate. Depression often follows those who win lotteries because they think they played a bigger part in winning than they did. Winning a million dollars is great when you humbly acknowledge the good fortune, but if the money blinds you, and you fail to discriminate good fortune from good intention, and you think you earned it, the newfound wealth may not bring happiness.

There is a satisfaction when goals are reached in accord with our intentions, that chance cannot provide. Knowing what we are doing when we are doing it is “right intention,” one of the “Truths” on the “Noble Eightfold Path” of the Buddha. It is also “right mindfulness”.

All of us wish to be happy and avoid suffering, but it doesn’t always appear in a predictable guise. The seemingly disadvantaged may in fact be far happier than the seemingly prosperous. Outward appearances are indeed deceptive and unreliable. The poor envy the rich because they have luxury, the rich pity the poor because they don’t, yet if either side were to join the other for a few days, they might find things very different than they thought.

Kids in Nepal may kick around a ball some tourist gave them far beyond its useful lifespan, while a well-heeled neighborhood kid may have ten almost new and want another. Whose happier? Obviously the one focusing on the game and the social interaction it brings, rather than the ball.

Although life may seem like a game of chance, it really isn’t. If we wish to sync with the way things are, we must set our mind on doing so. Being blown about by circumstances, things going our way sometimes, not others, is a door leading to constant uncertainty. And, uncertainty leads to stress and depression.

Consciously engaging with life, understanding our goals and how we want to achieve them, will be a joy even if we don’t always succeed in our aims. It is the game that brings joy, and not necessarily winning it. Let the cards fall where they may but know the hand you are playing.

The path we choose to walk will have its obstacles no doubt, but not having a path is itself an obstacle. Whatever path we choose, whether it is the overall course of our lives, or the minute details of our day, we should work with a plan and know what that plan is. That in itself will bring satisfaction, achieving our aims in full or part is just frosting on the cake.

If we aim an arrow at a target, it doesn’t matter if the target is a tin can on a fence, or a well-shaped bulls eye with colored circles radiating brightly. Simple aims and ambitions in life, well looked after and mindfully engaged in, are fine, if that is what comes our way. High ambitions, too, can be proceeded upon with a humble attitude. It is up to each of us to find her path, know what it is and walk it.

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0 Heart it! Richard Josephson 48
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