Core Decorum: Fortuna

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Illustration courtesy of Cecilia Lang.

The absurdity of life’s inequality is one of the most baffling counterpoints to the power of reason in the world. Often the things born first from luck, like our various talents, end up defining us to others, despite the fact that they are not attached to us but are merely layers superimposed upon ourselves.

As students at the University of Dallas, we are lucky to live in America, lucky to go to college and still more lucky every day as technological and scientific advancements make
life easier and more comfortable. Though we may express tremendous gratitude to our parents or anyone else who has supported us physically, emotionally or otherwise, they
cannot be traced as the ultimate source of our good fortune; we did not actively choose them as our parents, nor did they choose us. The guiding principle through all of it was chance, not any deliberate decision-making.

“Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas,” Virgil famously wrote, or “lucky is he who is able to know the causes of things.” But who is he that can explain himself, or why he has been given excess abundance?

It seems that it is not enough simply for God to give, rather he must lavish us to the point of absurdity.

There is seemingly no reason at all why we should be born into families that are supportive and allow us to thrive in our talents and explore our interests. When we win competitions or receive academic awards, hard work is a large part of it. But inborn talent also has an influence on the outcome.

And while some people take advantage of talents they possess or work hard to achieve
goals, sometimes things work out for people simply because they are lucky. Perhaps it is just another aspect of God’s mysterious love, reflected in the kaleidoscopic fractures of our divided humanity.

On the other hand, the biblical figure of Job is one of the most famous examples of bad luck befalling an upright person. But perhaps the idea that we deserve luck of any kind is misguided.

To say that the quality of our luck, good or bad, on earth will be directly influenced by the good or bad quality of our actions seems observably false and naive to believe. It seems that it would be just if it were so, but either reality is inherently unjust or that view of justice is flawed. When we wonder how our good actions have influenced the world, we should first look at ourselves.

Even though the world may continue to seem rife with injustice, and perhaps always will be, we can create justice and virtue within ourselves. Good actions are reflected in your character and bring peace of mind, but they may not reflect in the outside world’s reaction to you.

The nature of luck is chaos, and with this knowledge it is difficult for the fickle promise of good fortune to motivate us to act. But even if all we can preside over is the small kingdom of self over which we have control, let us be firm and just rulers.

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