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Roadside Musings

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Spirituality and Luck

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Do you think you won a jackpot by being born? Rabbi Rami takes on spirituality and luck.

Many people believe that their being born was a matter of luck.

“I mean,” I overheard a man say into his smartphone, “do you know the odds against me being born? It’s 400 trillion to one. I won the friggin’ jackpot!”

Really? Let’s look into this a bit.

To win a jackpot there has to be a “you” prior to the jackpot drawing, but if the jackpot is literally being you (being born), who is the “you” that existed before winning and who became the winning you you imagine yourself to be?

The only way the idea that you are lucky to have been born makes sense is to assume that you were someone else before you were conceived. You and billions upon billions of other someones were existing somewhere and then you from among these billions of others were randomly chosen to be born as a human here on earth. If this is true, then you can consider yourself lucky, assuming of course you think being born as a human is a good thing. It may not be. Your life before being shoved into a zygote may have been far superior to your human life, in which case being born isn’t lucky at all. Since you don’t know what your life was like before you were conceived, you can’t say if you are lucky or not.

Albert Einstein said, “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.”

I’m not lucky to have been born because there was no alternative to “me” being born. There was no “me” before I was born; there is only “me” after I’m born (three to five years after, according to some psychological studies). In a sense the odds of me being born were 100% in my favor since the only me there is the me that was actually born.

But what about after you’re born? Doesn’t luck play a role in your life then?

No. What looks like luck is the result of a level of prior happenings so numerous, subtle, and complex as to appear random. The fact that we cannot predict what will happen doesn’t mean what happens is random. In a truly random universe, anything can happen at any time for no reason at all. In a truly random universe, an elephant could manifest on your head at any moment and crush you to death. But this isn’t going to happen because it cannot happen because the universe isn’t random. And without randomness the idea of luck is meaningless.

[Also read: “Past Lives and Concurrent Universes.”]

As Albert Einstein said, “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.” Things happen—good things and bad things—because the conditions for them happening are such that they have to happen. You may not be able to predict what will happen because you cannot know all the subtle events that create the conditions for something to happen, but being surprised by life isn’t the same as the universe being random.

If, however, you insist on believing life is a crapshoot, you should know that the dice are loaded.

More from Rabbi Rami on spirituality and lifestance, from the print issue of Spirituality & Health.

Reader question: Am I supposed to feel grateful regardless of what happens to me?

Rabbi Rami answers: Gratitude isn’t so much a feeling as it is a life-stance: remaining open to whatever life brings, good and bad. Gratitude is about receiving rather than judging. I say “thank you” for whatever I receive, and then release what is given to receive what is given next. Receiving, thanking, and releasing are at the heart of cultivating gratitude.

Want more? Read Rabbi Rami as he takes on spirituality and transcendence.

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