The Lottery

This post from Scary Mommy cycled through my Facebook feed in August, and my comment on the thread was, The meant-to-be people: I want to punch them in the throat every time. Save for my devout Christian friends who maintain faith in God’s plan (and with whom I respectfully disagree) I suspect you, gentle reader, can empathize. I’ll spare you my rant on the gargantuan pair of huevos it requires to look in the eyes of someone battling a disease, a failure of the physical body that reeks havoc on quality of life and crushes dreams, and declare their suffering is “meant to be.” Even the most extreme consequences? Dead babies, failed adoptions in which desperately longed-for children are ripped grievously from happy homes by the same capricious women who couldn’t manage simple contraception – these atrocities are calculated and deliberate events? If you believe that in earnest, then I suggest some deep reflection on the alleged benevolence of your source is in order. No, Don Draper said it best:

There is no system; the universe is indifferent.

Or as Stephen Hawking put it,

We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star.

And the bodies of some of those monkeys fail in various ways some of the time, so it’s arrogant and callous to suggest, particularly when you’re blissfully spared from the misfortunes of the statistical margin, that this occurs as a consequences of some grand design.

I discovered yesterday that a friend from ‘the old neighborhood’ is now battling cancer, oddly, in his arm. He sought medical attention for what, at first glance, appeared to be an infection and, upon further investigation, turned out to be “very bad.” His doctors are recommending they “take the whole arm and hope that’s all of it” but there’s no telling. He has children and a wife who can’t possibly provide for them on her income alone. He is poised to lose his dominant arm, so, lacking education and white-collar credentials as he does, supporting his family in the best-case scenario of total recovery will prove a life-long strain.

I am reading The House on Mango Street with my sophomores right now, and the vignette “Born Bad” has been reverberating through the antechamber of my ruminations as I grope around in the pitch black for a door. Here’s a little piece:

I don’t know who decides who deserves to go bad. There was no evil in her birth. No wicked curse. One day I believe she was swimming, and the next day she was sick…Maybe the sky didn’t look the day she fell down. Maybe God was busy…But I think diseases have no eyes. They pick with a dizzy finger anyone, just anyone. Like my aunt who happened to be walking down the street one day in her Joan Crawford dress, in her funny felt hat with the black feather, cousin Totchy in one hand, baby Frank in the other” (Cisneros 59).

The old Greek legend says that the wheel of fate spins and spins, but three witches look on, clipping threads with a mechanical detachment to determine matters of life and death. It’s not that life is cruel so much as it is unconscious in its distribution of both fortune and catastrophe, so concepts of justice and entitlement are moot.

19 thoughts on “The Lottery

  1. Umm…I literally JUST finished a draft of a blog titled “The Lottery” and thought I accidentally published…wow…the coincidence. I don’t have to tell you how much I agree with you regarding the “meant-to-be” people…punch them in the throat is right. The passage from The House on Mango Street, Born Bad is interesting. I remember reading that book a while back…”diseases have no eyes…they pick with a dizzy finger, anyone…just anyone.” I guess that is about as good of an explanation anyone can get….since it truly makes no sense. You can do all the “right” things and still get the short end of the stick. Always thinking of you…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh the meant-to-be people: I say if throat punches result in them shutting the fuck up, then ends justify means 😉 Thinking of you always as well, even when I’m quiet.


  2. I think (in my kinder moments) the “meant-to-be” people HAVE to believe it to make sense of the bad that hits all of us at one point or another. Because sometimes in the middle of it all, there’s nothing left to believe other than there is some reason that will eventually come clear.

    But what I don’t get is where people think it’s ok to tell someone else that, so callously and matter-of-fact. Maybe it’s all random, maybe there is a reason, maybe we make up reasons later in our head to convince ourselves it’s ok because if not for bad-thing-X, good-thing-Y wouldn’t be. But respect and compassion pretty much always need to be there … and rarely are.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ohmygawd… This. Forever. One of the many things I have struggled with in the past year is the idea that sometimes things just don’t “work out.” Sometimes things are aggressively unfair, sometimes you just get a shit sandwich and that’s that. There is no leveling of the scales, because sometimes there is nothing on earth that will make up for this kind of pain.

    Of course, I also don’t think that we have to become the saddest versions of ourselves in the process. But for ONCE, it would be nice to be allowed to honor the bad in our lives as well as the good, publicly without suggestions to find Jesus or medication.


    • I think it’s an American thing, being drunk on positivity and pressuring others to censor reality and conform. I think pain is in need of draining, catharsis, acknowledgement, which sort of explains the existence of my blog in the first place. Can’t go around being this sad and pissed off IRL because, yeah, medication, Jesus, silver linings, fucking stab me.


  4. Life can be so random. Which technically is fair, but not on the level of the poor individual that happens to get the nasty end on the stick.
    I wish I had something encouraging to say, because I remember being in a similar place. Hugs.


    • I might have written this just to keep my head in the rational place. Being on the wrong side of the stats this many times, I have to remind myself there’s no cosmic vendetta. If there is no God to turn his back on me, then it’s all just random and I’m merely unlucky. Blah. The latter is easier to believe, esp when it’s compounded by bad things happening to other good people.


  5. Amen! “Meant to be” is only ever a comfort in distant hindsight in cases where things actually work out. To say that to someone who is in the midst of deep suffering is such an insult. That saying and the concept of “God’s will” are worse than fingernails on chalkboards to me.


    • I just think it’s rationally flawed to talk about God’s will like it’s all so simple as ‘the plan.’ Elie Wiesel struggled with the idea when his brethren were being starved, publicly executed, and burned in ovens. He rages against God, abstains from worship on Yom Kippur. In his later interviews he comes to a different place with faith in which he restores his belief in God but no longer believes he exerts this control over the affairs of men. To think that is…silly…because if we hold him responsible for some stuff, we have to credit him with all stuff, Sandy Hook Elementary, childhood cancer and ALS, world hunger, etc.


  6. Throat-punch them, and then tell them it was god’s plan? How can they argue?? I understand that some people find comfort in believing that a Great Someone has control and that everything is heading to some glorious denouement of happiness, and I truly believe that they are entitled to that belief and any comfort they take in being a character in that Someone’s sick play, but WHY do these people have to share their beliefs with the rest of us? Your simpering devotion to a Lord and Savior who starves babies to death grosses me out. Fuck off.


  7. Pingback: When Life is Overwhelming and Therapists Don’t Get It | Dr. Gerald Stein - Blogging About Psychotherapy from Chicago

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s