Some thoughts on being lucky

“Oh, you’re so lucky.”

I hear it all the time–in emails people send me, in conversations, in feedback on my Web site. “Oh, you’re so lucky.”

Why am I so lucky? For reasons that have nothing to do with luck. You have a girlfriend who likes bondage? Oh, you’re so lucky.” “You have more than one partner, and everybody is OK with that? Oh, you’re so lucky.” “Oh, you own your own business? You’re so lucky.”

It’s profoundly annoying. No, I am not so lucky. I have the partners I have, and I live the life I live, because i sat down and made conscious, deliberate decisions about the way I want my life to look and the people i want to share it with. Luck has nothing to do with it. I own a business because I chose to start a business, and accept the risk that comes along with that. I have the partners I have because these are the people who I have chosen to share my life with, and they are with me because they have chosen to share their lives with me.

“Oh, you’re so lucky.”

It seems as if people actually do believe that their lives are all about random chance. The job they have? Luck. The partner they’re with? Luck. The shape of their lives? All random happenstance; luck of the draw, that’s just the way it turned out.

I cannot rightly apprehend what would make someone feel so profoundly disempowered in his life. “Oh, you’re so lucky”–this is the cry of someone who sees something he wants but feels utterly powerless to have it, someone who goes through life seeing only a random collection of unrelated events, driven by pure chance, with no connection between them and no hope of comprehension. The person who feels empowered–the person who feels like he can have the things he wants, if he just puts his mind to it–does not see luck.

“Oh, you’re so lucky.” I live with a woman who enjoys being tied up because I share with my partners the things that interest me, and the things that I like; I communicate with them, and build a foundation of honesty and trust and mutual respect. This is not luck. I have received countless emails from my BDSM Web site that are variations on one of two themes–“I want to try this stuff but I’m afraid to tell my partner, what should I do?” and “I have always wanted to try this stuff, but I didn’t tell my partner, and after we’d been together for fifteen years he told me that he’s always wanted to try it too.” Well, see, there you go. If you don’t ask for what you want, don’t expect to get what you want–luck isn’t going to help you.

Of course, a person who does not believe it is possible for him to have something is not going to feel empowered to seek it. I wonder, though, what does he see when he sees other people living the way he wants to live, but believes is impossible? What is it that makes him feel so disempowered? Why should these things be accessible to others but inaccessible to him? “Oh, you’re so lucky.” We make our own luck. A person does not start a business by accident; it’s not like you’re walking down the street one day and you see a busines lying on the ground that’s fallen out of someone’s pocket and say “w00t! Lookit that–wow, I’m lucky!” And the conduct of a romantic relationship is no different. One does not choose a partner by luck; one does not have an exciting and rich sex life by luck. “Jeepers, you got Betty Sue in the Mate Lottery and I got stuch with Sally May–I hear Betty Sue’s really kinky. Boy, you sure got lucky!”

So a person who feels disempowered in his life, who believes his life is nothing more than a series of random unconnected events–how does he choose a partner? What does he say to his partner–if he does not see any hope of controlling his life, and does not see any way for him to effect any control over his destiny, what does he talk about?

“Oh, you’re so lucky.” Every time someone says that to me, a part of me wants to grab him by the shirt collar and scream, “Do you have the faintest idea what you’re saying? Do you even realize how much it says about you and the world you live in? This is your fucking life, and nobody is accountable for the way it looks but you! If there are things you want in your life, then for God’s sake, why aren’t you going after them??! What’s holding you back? This is your fucking life, man! It’s the only one you’ll ever have! DO something about it, already! Don’t insult both of us by telling me how lucky I am because I have something and you want it, go and get it already!

“Oh, you’re so lucky.” It’s insulting and baffling at the same time. Insulting, because it totally misses the decisions I’ve made that have made me who I am; baffling, because anybody can make these choices, and indeed people do, every day. A person who wants something but chooses not to pursue it turns his back on what he wants, and then is surprised when he doesn’t have it. What the fuck? Your life, every day, is shaped by the choices you make. Don’t like the music? Change the tune!

I have a problem.

It’s a serious problem. No, it’s not a medical condition. No, it’s not the fact that I hold political, social, and sexual views that put me at odds with 90% of the population. No, it’s not fleas.

My problem is this: Credulity pisses me off. I mean really pisses me off. When I see people spouting nonsense about how the Egyptian pyramids were built by space aliens or how meditation can teach you to levitate, unlock your psychic powers, and cast out demons or how vaccination is a Jewish plot to murder Christian children or whatnot, I get mad. Breatharians, Bigfoot fanatics, the looney tunes who hang out in Groom Lake, Nevada believing they’ll uncover evidence that the government is hiding the wreckage of a crashed flying saucer, and the yahoos who go on about the lost continent of Atlantis and its super-advanced spacefaring civilization produce in me the exact same emotional reaction as I have when I hear someone say something like “This world would be a better place if we killed all the niggers.” I get that pissed.

The world is filled with people who dress up turds to look like brownies, and then sell them on the street corner. And the world is filled with people perfectly willing to take a bite. And it’s infuriating.

You see, this kind of credulity is never harmless. It softens the brain. It corrodes reason, the one thing that sets us apart from the other animals. It makes a person easy to manipulate. Atrocities happen because the gullible are willing to believe that thus-and-such a person isn’t really human, doesn’t have a soul, murdered Jesus, whatever. Gullibility is a knife at the throat of civilization.

Even in its less extreme incarnations, the credulity that lets people happily munch on turds and believe they’re brownies is expensive. I’ve ranted before about the gullible nitwits that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money–MY money–on “psychic drug detectors” (empty plastic boxes from Radio Shack whose “inventor” claimed could harness “psychic energy” to detect drugs and even locate missing persons, which he sold for $8,000 a pop to schools and police departments all across the country). And, of course, there’s the yahoos who buy everything from “laundry balls” (which supposedly “energize water” to get clothes clean without detergent) to “AIDS crystals” that use the energy of those Egyptian pyramids to cure AIDS.

It all well and truly pisses me off.

It’s amazing, really. I feel like I’m living in a society of people who cannot muster the cognitive skills to tell the difference between shit and brownies. You show a person two Web sites–one published by the CDC, for instance, and the other by that aforementioned Christian Fundamentalist group that believes that vaccination is a Jewish plot to kill Christian babies, and it’s a crap shoot which one he’ll believe. Basic analytical and reasoning skills are so lacking in the population at large that you might as well flip a coin.

“But,” the person will say, “it’s important to hear both sides of the story.”

Both sides??!! Both sides of the story? One side contains carefully collected, peer-reviewed, objectively verifiable data; the other contains the ravings of religious zealots about how the Jews fabricated evidence of past smallpox epidemics, invented margarine to poison Christian women, and oh, by the way, the holocaust never happened.

Christ, people. Seriously, if that’s your idea of “listening to both sides of the argument,” you’d best re-open the debate about whether or not the world is flat.

There is absolutely nothing that is so well-documented, so obviously true, that a turd-dresser can’t come along and try to make believe that, no, wait, there’s another side to the story. Unfortunately, it seems that very few people have functional bullshit detectors; hell, there are actually people willing to believe that water will change its crystal structure in response to human emotion–which, when you examine the methodology (namely, writing words with an emotional content onto a piece of paper and taping it to the side of a glass in a freezer) leads one to the inescapable conclusion that not only is water responsive to human thought, but it’s also possessed of the remarkable ability to read written Japanese.

If water is fluent in reading Japanese, and my body is 70% water, shouldn’t I be able to read written Japanese with at least 70% fluency? And what happens if a person writes a Japanese word on a piece of paper but doesn’t know what the word means–does the water still react? But I digress.

Of course, for the faithful who believe this nonsense, the turd-peddler has many devices for sale. They’ll energize the water with, y’know, positive emotions, to, y’know, cure cancer. God help me, I am not making this up.

Why? Why why why? Why are people so goddamn incapable of distinguishing between shit and brownies? Why is it that no matter how many turds these people bite into, they’re so eager for the next? Do they so desperately NEED to believe something–conspiracies, sea monsters, anything because their lives are so crushingly dull? Are they completely blind to the breathtaking, awe-inspiring wonder that really exists in the real world? Are they just so intellectually sloppy that they don’t know any better–they can’t read total gibberish dressed up with scientific-sounding words and tell the difference between that and real science? What makes a person gullible? Why are otherwise intelligent, articulate people so hopelessly credulous that they’ll send their bank account information to deposed government officials in Nigeria who want to wire them “THE SUM OF $150,000,000 (ONE HUNDRED FIFTY MILLION US DOLLARS),” believe in Bigfoot and Nessie and space aliens in the deserts of Africa, but will refuse to immunize their kids because “oh, there’s no real proof that it works”? Where do these people COME from?

Grr. Maybe I’m the space alien.

All I can say is, God bless James Randi–a far, far more patient man than I.