As human beings in search of various successes in life, we have the choice of how we are going to go about seeking success. Are we going to seek our success through the work of consistent behavior and labor, with steady gains, or are we going to base our happiness on the turn of a friendly card? To be sure, there are strong temptations to prefer some solutions to others, but what is the best for us? Not just the best for us in the short term, or the most exciting, but what is the best long term? What sort of risks are the best off for us, and how are we to know which solution is better over the course of our lives?
We need to understand that sometimes risk is necessary. There are times in life where if we take no risk we will not get any sort of positive rewards at all. Often, and somewhat paradoxically, the wide gulf between the fate of the majority and the privileged life of a few (such as, for example, tenure track positions in universities) encourages the most desperate and reckless sort of behavior because the rewards are so great even if the likelihood of failure is also great, failure meaning a lifetime as a low-paid adjunct professor grading papers while tenure track professors get all the grants and research money, or doing buffalo work in someone’s farm hoping for the lucky lottery numbers to escape the traps that life has set for us.
If we do not understand that risk is necessary, we may live our lives in such a fashion that we never venture anything, never leave our comfort zone, and stay stuck in an unexciting rut for our entire lives. But if we take too many foolish risks, we may ruin our chances for success in life because we lose the resources to build up and try again, resources of time that we will not get back, matters of particular difficulty. In some areas, like love and romance, or even jobs, there is always risk involved. How to manage those risks is a matter that is considerably difficult for some of us, so that we avoid digging too a deep a hole for ourselves.
Shortly before I was born, one of my favorite progressive rock bands, the Alan Parsons Project, made an album, not coincidentally titled “The Turn Of A Friendly Card,” that dealt with the subject of gambling loosely connected to the high-stakes gambling of one middle-aged man. A couple of the songs, “Time” and “Games People Play,” became moderate hits on the radio, and the album itself was reasonably popular. For all of the touching beauty of the album, though, there was a sense of sadness in the unsuccessful nature of the gambling of the main character, and the reminder that even if we do the best we can and manage the risks and danger of our lives as best as we can, sometimes there is no friendly card that turns up, as much as we might wish it to be otherwise.