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Chasing Luck

“Or is it due to luck (dia tuchen), since many people say happiness and good luck to be the same thing?”

Eudemian Ethics

Michael Jordan wore his college shorts under his uniform for luck, vomiting was Bill Russell’s pre-game ritual, Serena Williams’ special footwear is her lucky charm and Madonna has a red string bracelet to ward off bad luck. So, what’s luck got to do with success and happiness? The world is pretty divided on this one. Many believe in luck, a few don’t and others mostly think it wouldn’t hurt to try out something if it can make life a little better. But, they wouldn’t say that they really believe in it.

Does luck exist or do we want it to exist? Perhaps life’s so random that if you take luck out of the mixture you are left with nothing but unpredictability and chaos. Think about it, sometimes you do everything right, work hard, make sacrifices, play by the rules and yet you don’t get the results you want. While some people have it easy. How do you explain that? Everything else has a reasonable explanation.

Is it the inexplicable that we find harder than the hardships of life itself? We fear chaos, and yearn for pattern and predictability. Everything that human history has done so far can be boiled down to one phenomenon- the will to explain everything. That which we cannot understand and therefore explain, makes us afraid. We know nothing about luck and we never will. Those who believe in it, simply do and know that this works for them. Some might say that focusing your thoughts and feelings in a positive direction greatly impacts your life. A UCLA research showed that people who felt that they were lucky had a higher drive to succeed. So, is this what luck is? Focusing and willing something to happen, or is it more? Who knows! But I remember when we found a four-leafed clover, walking on a beautiful trail in Raritan one summer. Right up till that moment, this Irish belief was just an interesting alien concept. But the moment we found it, we became believers! With great reverence that four leafed clover was put in a frame next to my older son’s picture. Good things have happened since. And I have a rule when something good happens to me- don’t jinx it by questioning it!

History is riddled with fascinating stories of people who turned lucky or unlucky by possessing certain objects. The Hope Diamond brought misfortune to all its owners. Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were beheaded, Princess de Lamballe was beaten to death by a mob and Jacques Colet took his own life. Story has it that this diamond was stolen by Jean Baptiste Tavernier from the idol of a Hindu goddess. Cursed, he was later killed by wild dogs.

For centuries, the East and many ancient cultures around the world had a simple explanation why objects are lucky or unlucky. So simple that it might baffle some people today, even though energy and transfer of energy is something even a fourth grader understands. Objects absorb energy through touch or from their environment. Sometimes residual energy left over from a traumatic or a highly emotional incident gets absorbed by an object. A deep affection for an object can cause a spirit to get attached to it. It’s not uncommon for people to feel that a piece of jewelry inherited from an aunt brings bad luck every time you wear it or moving to another house brings about a change in fortune. Psychics and healers recommend cleansing old objects with salt water, sage or with crystals to rid it of its previous energy.

Chinese Feng Shui too works on the principle that all objects contain Chi. The passive Chi, or Yin must be in perfect balance with active Chi, or Yang. Through harmonious arrangements of objects and use of appropriate colors in the house, one can achieve the right energy vibrations in the home that will attract money, happiness and love. Red attracts Yang and those looking for love and happiness can use it for home accents and highlights. Green attracts wealth and blue, symbolizing water (Yin) is for drive and passion. The lucky bamboo plant, the Feng Shui cat, crystal and bells are popular lucky objects that many Chinese own in their homes.

The ancient Indian architectural science of Vaastu also lays down rules for building houses and other structures. Spatial geometry and design must compliment the five elements- Earth, Water, Fire Sky and Wind. When there is imbalance, it effects all aspects of life, health, money, peace and success. But, negativity can be lowered through Yantras and Pyramids. Yantras or Mandalas are objects that have geometric drawings that look like a confluence of triangles. What look like mere triangles are copies of ancient mystical diagrams, with astronomical esthetics that possess the power to awaken certain energies in the environment that they are placed in. Some ancient Indian temples are actually three dimensional Yantras that create powerful positive energy fields. A perfect place to find peace and pray for the fulfillment of your desires.

Energy and the movement of energy was the basis of all ancient forms of medicine. Ancient cultures believed that energy charged objects could alter vibrations and the resonance in other things. Crystals and gemstones acted like conduits that helped negative energy flow out and positive energy flow in to the body. The physical was aligned with the supernatural elements, balancing the life energy (Chi for the Chinese and the Chakras for the Hindus and Buddhists). Similar theories were the foundation of almost all ancient healing methods. Even today this is a widely accepted belief among healers, psychics and astrologers.

To believe in luck really means two things, two opposite things. While on one hand we relinquish control to a higher power that decides our fate, on the other we think we can alter it. With tiny objects that are powerful, sometimes magical, even holy. Maybe, like the many other mysteries of life, we are not meant to know if happenstance shapes the path of our life. The interesting part is to wonder and never know.