Sunday, August 24, 2008

Blessed or Lucky?

On my professional blog I have an entire section of what I call "therapeutic distinctions", which are pairs or groups of words that appear to share somewhat similar meanings but which actually reflect important differences which can have profound implications for a way a person lives. I've recently been reflecting on one such distinction that seems to be more appropriate for my personal blog. It involves the distinction between "blessed" and "lucky".

Good and bad things happen to all of us. It's an old truism that we often can't tell one from the other, that often something looks terrible and it later turns out to be wonderful. Regardless of whether a certain event is a boon or a disaster, we all can usually distinguish what we like from what we don't.

Recognition and gratitude are pretty appropriate responses when we recognize something has occurred in our lives which we don't feel like we've particularly earned. Such recognition can take a lot of forms. For instance "I caught a lucky break", "I was in the right place at the right time", "I took a chance and it paid off" reflect one essential perspective, the "luck" perspective. (I just flashed on Pasteur's quote that "chance favors a prepared mind".) Some people are more comfortable using a "blessing" perspective, such as "God blessed me", "the universe smiled on me", "an angel was looking out for me".

By the way, I just discovered that "blessing" is also the collective noun for a group of unicorns (as in "a blessing of Unicorns"). I think that's beautiful. As a further tangent, the unicorn's horn was said to neutralize poison, and I recently heard the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodronn say that peacocks are able to eat poison without damage. So this causes me to invent this exercise in intentional consciousness: reflect on one of the many poisonous thoughts or emotions in your life -- we all have them! Now bring into your awareness the image of a peacock and a unicorn. Sit and breathe with that a few minutes and see where that takes you.)
Now back to our regularly scheduled blog.
I'm not fully comfortable with either "lucky" or "blessed". "Lucky" seems too random. I acknowledge that a lot of coincidence and randomness is inescapable in life but I don't want to live in a world that is devoid of deeper meaning. "Blessed" leads me to a feeling of gratitude and comfort but then I start to question the validity of the flip side of the equation, i.e. "cursed". Sometimes ascribing "God's blessing" on a fortuitous event seems a little too self-serving.

What emerged from the dynamic conflict between these two concepts is the word "fortunate". This concept seems to split the difference between lucky and blessed, or to join the two into a more unified sense that auspicious events can imply some supra-conscious intervention or opportunity. So often I don't know for sure if I feel more blessed or lucky to live my life (even with all its challenges -- most of which I bring upon myself, human that I am) but I am increasingly comfortable describing myself in this moment as exceedingly fortunate.

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