My Favorite Debt

I picked up a hitchhiker this morning and he identified me immediately: “You’re a Cedarville student, aren’t you?” Is it that obvious? Do I just radiate repressed fundamentalist vibes? But Samir assured me it was just a guess based on probabilities: C.S.U. students speed by, C.U. students pick him up. He’s living at Wilberforce but travels for undisclosed reasons (not a job, he says) to Xenia every day, a 4 mile commute that usually takes him an hour because he doesn’t have a car. “Neither do I, this is my brother’s.” We laughed. I mentioned my trip last summer; he mentioned his Chicago-to-L.A. trek in the ’70’s. Farthest N.W. he’d gotten was Eugene, which he described as an “enormous Yellow Springs,” which we both concluded was awesome. So I’ve now received some 40 rides as a hitcher, and given two in return. At this rate I might even pay off my student loans before repaying kindness owed, but at least this is a debt I don’t mind at all.

By the way, I stumbled across a book that echos some of what I discussed a month ago. Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets “examines what randomness means in business and in life and why human beings are so prone to mistake dumb luck for consummate skill.” I haven’t read it yet, but sounds interesting since it’s one-half of the same coin I blogged about earlier.

Also re: old posts, a friend gave me a copy of Phillip Lopate’s excellent essay “Resistance to the Holocaust,” an American Jew’s incisive look at the machinery of memory built up around the Holocaust and the ways in which this atrocity is used & abused. Unfortunately, I could only find a very brief excerpt online, the rest of which you’ll have to find in Lopate’s book Portrait Of My Body (1997).

Brief Discursus on Luck

I’m told that good Christians don’t believe in luck. I am not a good Christian. But I am one, and I do believe in luck. In fact, misunderstanding luck may lead to illogical reasoning and illogical behavior.

Luck is simply this: the improbable becoming actuality. The modifiers “good” & “bad” are not absolute, but do express the degree to which the now-actual was previously improbable.

I heard a lady on TV the other day talking about getting mugged/robbed/assaulted while shopping in a grocery store. She ended her interview with a TV-made quip: “You know, you think you’re safe when you’re shopping for groceries, but now I know you’re not.”

This is what happens when you don’t understand luck. You say, and believe, stupid paranoid shit like this. Local news, of course, feeds off confusing people over the probable vs. improbable. The correct conclusion is, “Damn, it was extremely unlucky for me to get clubbed in the noggin while shopping for oatmeal.” 

Likewise, it’s really bad luck when you’re flying over the Hudson River and a pterodactylesque pigeon flies into the jet engine of the airplane you’re riding on, but it’s mildly good luck that you and your compadres escape this pigeon-induced disaster with nary a scratch.  The wrong conclusion is, “Pigeons are a menace to society that must be annihilated”/”Commercial airplanes are an extremely unsafe way to travel.”

This post dedicated, with affection, to Alice in Chains.