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The Luck We Make
Finding a four-leaf clover is just part of our eternal searching
It was a sunny afternoon with a sweet cool breeze and the park was empty. The wide-open breadth of the acre of land stretched toward the trees, the two of us, sitting together in the soft grassy field.
“Let’s look for a four-leaf clover,” I said to my granddaughter.
At just under two-years old, she was unsure of what her grandfather was suggesting, but still, she tilted her head in curiosity and watched as I began to sift my fingers through patches of clover. It had been decades since I had considered the possibilities what might be there.
This was our regular Thursday afternoon get together, just the two of us out to the swings and slides at the park, to the pool, or a stop for ice cream.
“There’s plenty of clover here, young lady, and maybe we can find a bit of luck.”
My granddaughter’s attention quickly wavered. She soon had other interests—a bird singing in a tree, the colorful small stones surrounding the playground, a dog barking in the distance across the road. While keeping an eye on her, I continued my search.
“If we’re going to find one, we have to take our time, go slowly, really look.”
After about an hour of searching, stopping, and searching again, there it was.
In a large path of clover, entwined along with blades of grass and dandelion stems, was the elusive clover of good fortune. I carefully plucked it from the ground and placed it in the palm of my hand.
“How about that?”
My granddaughter smiled and reached to touch it. She looked at me, as if realizing, although certainly unaware of the significance, that she was seeing something special.
We took it home and her mother pressed it tightly between the pages of a book and would later laminate it for safekeeping.
“I want her to have it,” I said. “Maybe she can keep it always.”
Since that discovery, not much luck has been had. In the days afterward our lives had some tough moments. Not monumental and not life-altering, but certainly not what one would call a stretch of “good luck.” The downside of life’s ups.
I found myself questioning that silly superstition.
Finding a four-leaf clover is a rare thing, but not impossible. Those who consider these kinds of discoveries say there’s about a 1-in-10,000 chance of locating one in a half-acre field. Our discovery then was certainly unusual. And, as legend tells us, it would offer us a bit of the Midas touch. So far, the evidence of significant good fortune has yet to show itself.
We make our own good luck, it has been said. There’s some truth to that, but it’s not always the case, of course. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of happenstance. Random dumb luck, they call it. Philosophers say that much of life is ruled by two forces: timing and luck. And the sooner we accept this, the saner, even happier, we'll be. Epictetus said, “Pursue the good ardently. But if your efforts fall short, accept the result and move on." Learn to look past the bad times. They are forever expected.
Beautiful thought. Easier said than done.
A blog post at the website The Philosophy of Everything, suggests that we must, no matter what, seek out the good that Epictetus spoke about because in the end, we can do our best and still fail. We can be qualified and not get the job. We can do everything right and still be wronged. The blog post put it simply: “Understanding that much of life is out of our control frees us from arrogance when things go rightly, and from total self-deprecation when they don’t.”
Take the good with the bad. We’ve all heard that 1000 times over. It seems an oversimplification, but it is the extension of that philosophy that ultimately matters. Through all of life, we must pursue the good in ourselves and the good in others. Timing and luck be damned. We at least have control over the pursuit of goodness. It’s about the quality of the journey, not the outcome. Are we searching out the good? Are we searching out our best self and how we fit in, as the blog post put it, the big “jigsaw puzzle of humanity?” Experiencing life is what matters—the good, the bad, the lucky, and unlucky. But it is the expedition toward goodness that matters.
And so, on that afternoon in the park, with the four-leaf clover now wrapped in a tissue, and after searching Google on my phone about the likelihood of the discovery, I uncovered another fact.
“Little girl,” I said to my granddaughter as I again examined the ground around me, “we might find more. We should keep searching in the same area. Four-leaf clovers are genetic and that means where there is one, there may be others.”
But when I looked up, my granddaughter was no longer beside me, she had stepped a few feet away to a small tree where a white butterfly had landed on its bark.
“Bug,” she said, smiling at me.
Luck was no longer being considered. It was the searching that mattered.