Be sure to thank chance (Fortuna) for what you have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. We tend to overlook the role that chance plays when things go well for us. The Greeks and Romans did not. Back in the days of polytheism, chance was separated out as a goddess in her own right. Fortuna was her name.
Chance has been secularized as Lady Luck, but this is in situations, like gambling, where we know that chance or luck are at play. Even though people superstitiously try to influence chance (cross my fingers, knock on wood) there is no way to do that.
Many people in a monotheistic belief system operate as if there were no meaningful chance. When good things drop in their lap, they thank God, when they should be thanking Fortuna. When misfortune happens, they get conflicted about God, when God has nothing to do with it. No, Professor Einstein, God does not roll dice, Fortuna rolls dice.
One might wonder why a creator God would have things operate by chance or probability rather than merit. For Christians, there is the Parable of the Sower. Jesus told about the farmer who cast his seeds randomly, so seeds fell on good soil and bad. We can see this as a parable about Fortuna, who does things blindly or randomly. Some statues of Fortuna show her blindfolded as riches spill out of her cornucopia. Consistent with that, Jesus said that rain falls on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:45) This is important to remember. Why? Chance may be as fair as it gets.
For people who operate outside monotheism, they can easily say that “shit happens,” and that’s that. It happens to good people and bad. Nothing to get hung up about.
So, we can look at ways we’ve been unlucky this year, like living in a place that had historically devastating weather or getting COVID despite being very cautious. But Thanksgiving is the time to identify how luck has come down in our favor, however that might be, big or small. This is important so we don’t think that we have somehow deserved the good fortune that has come our way. This makes us more considerate toward those whose luck has not been so good.
Some think chance is unfair, that what happens in life should be based on merit. Some believe that everything is based on merit, like karma would suggest, that we somehow deserve whatever we get in life, good or bad. But this ignores the huge role chance plays, even in the circumstances we were born into and the opportunities that follow from that. And it sets us up to treat others unjustly.
So, let’s not forget Fortuna and notice where good luck is operating.
We don’t want to be like the person Coach Barry Switzer described, the one who was born on third base and goes through life thinking they hit a triple.
Thank you, Fortuna, for whatever good luck has come my way!