Fried and Luck

If you’ve read a previous post, I have a serious inner ear infection. Today I was electrocuted. Which brings up the subject of luck – good and bad.

I don’t believe in luck as a metaphysical principle where it is its own quantity that permeates everyday life. No. I’m not ontologically inflationary. But it is a useful concept to use at times. There are probabilities throughout our lives and sometimes we find ourselves on one side of a roll of a die rather than another through no real rational reason.

Success is in large part a matter of luck. This is especially true for a writer.

Take for example: Friedrich Nietzsche. The man was not a Nazi. He hated Nazis in fact. He disowned his sister over her leanings toward anti-Semitism and nationalism. His writings repeatedly rail against government, especially defining oneself through politics. But he was used by the Nazis extensively (because of his sister). Thus Spoke Zarathustra was everywhere and read by everyone in Germany. He saw no success in his own life and his works would likely never would have survived through the second world war. But because of Nazis everyone hated him and knew his name. And then Walter Kaufmann got it in his head to read it and discovered that Nietzsche was more of a humanist than anything. If Nietzsche had never used the term “blonde beast”, things might have been drastically different.

Luck. It was luck that Camus was the editor of Combat and gained wide exposure to France, mainly because everyone else was at the front and he was medically discharged due to TB. It was luck that he had that illness, that it probably saved his life during the war, that he was able to join the resistance, and then that he had an audience.

Sometimes, in my view a lot of the times, we don’t know what road to take and which one we take is luck. There’s no rationale, though we invent one for ourselves later. We just go because it strikes us a certain way, our brains just jumping to a path, and we go for it. Which idea to start a book on and which to not experiment is basically luck that one turns out for the best. Good ideas go stale as often as bad ideas get tweaked and made good.

But luck isn’t everything. And I don’t believe in “making one’s own luck”. I despise that phrase. It’s an assault on the concept of luck by saying it can be created. Luck is random. Nor do I think that people create opportunities.

I think that one pursues and keeps their eyes open. Taking a course of action opens opportunities and closes others. It’s impossible to act and leave all other courses of action open. And going further down one road makes it harder to go down another. Traveling down a road also means that new roads can be taken. But they were always there. Opportunities were not created, just made accessible. It’s a bad use of words, and a bad use of concepts. Studying philosophy has made me anal about making sure concepts align.

But this relates to writing too.

In my mind, clear thinking is necessary for clear creative content. It’s crucial to life in general, but clear thinking is what separates confused first novels from crystalized mature novels. Careful thought over what words are used and not used. When I read V. verses Gravity’s Rainbow, one of the crucial differences I see is clarity in purpose. The Crying of Lot 49 is a brilliant example of this that I wish to emulate some day. This is compared to the meandering that I always find in commercial literature where so much of it is episodic filler with vague concepts underpinning action and motivation. I struggle with clarity too, it’s hard to have a clear narrative voice for several hundred pages, but it’s doable. And I think that’s one of the main reasons why books stand the test of time – there’s something we can pin down, watch events unfold in contrast to it, and encourages a reread once the concept is revealed in full detail.

And this clarity of concepts, that helps one follow the right path, and make that path well defined so the reader can follow you through the maze of roads taken to get there. It helps minimize luck in the end.

Just some thoughts from an electrocuted mind. Not sure how well it plays.

James

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