by Amelia Wyatt
LUCK - defined by Merriam Webster as “a force that brings good fortune or adversity.” It’s something that’s formative in all our lives, whether we intend it to be or not. March, with its emphasis on luck during such holidays as St. Patrick’s Day, is one of the seldom times of the year we as a people tend to look at luck, asking ourselves - what is luck, and how does it affect me?
The answer to these questions might be closer than you’d think. Davidson resident Avery Caswell explored just these topics in her book:
Luck: A Collection of Facts, Fiction, Incantations & Verse. Luck takes on many new forms within the 144-page book, each page providing new, differing and nuanced perspectives on luck in the form of art and stories. Dozens of artists collaborated on this title, including many in the Davidson area. Namely, Betsey Hazelton, David Wilgus, Dick Cook, and Jane Ellithorpe all provided content for the book, whether it be in the form of lovely paintings of flowers, stories about superstition in baseball, or fearsome watercolors of dragons and white horses. Insights from artists like these provide a new narrative about luck that emerges from the book, perhaps even one you may not suspect.
Specifically, while luck may be seen as an exterior force in our culture, author Avery Caswell came to understand luck as more of an interior force, something that is affected by our minds and beliefs. “If you feel you are lucky, you are. If you feel you are unlucky, you are,” she explained.
This conclusion was bolstered by a handful of psychological studies cited in the book, including one specific study that hit home with Avery Caswell. The experiment in a nut shell had participants flip through a newspaper and count the number of photos in it, knowing that if they counted the correct number of photos, they would receive a reward. One part of it that seemed unimportant to some of the people partaking in the experiment - the number at the top of the newspaper, which told exactly how many photos were in it - was actually the most important part of the whole study, testing the participants’ trust of the outside world. Some participants, of the more skeptical nature, ignored the number given on the top and chose to work harder by trying to count all of the many photos for themselves. Others, more positive and trusting, used the number given at the top immediately, believing in the good fortune that was sure to come their way, as they trusted the world around them. Both received their reward by the end of the test. “People don’t want to believe that things can be easy”, Avery Caswell noted, furthering her discussion on luck and why certain people seem to have more of it.
Another experiment involved interviews of those in the aftermath of a car crash, showing that the more positive ones, that is to say, those who saw the incident as a lucky ordeal, were better off in the long run than their negative counterparts, who blamed their bad fortune for a mother-load of trauma.
Even depending on culture, luck can be warped and shaped by our perception of it. For example, a common folklore in the Americas is that black cats are a sign of bad fortune. However, in England, they are believed to bring about good luck, most English people saying that if you see a black cat, you are about to get married. This, alongside the art, facts and fiction in the book, led Avery Caswell to a far more expanded perspective on luck after finishing the book. Ultimately, luck is a state of mind, according to Avery Caswell. And that’s the interesting thing about luck. Despite the common conception of the erratic nature of luck, like almost all other characteristics of life, luck is about belief: belief in good fortune, belief in the world around you - belief in yourself.
But perhaps the most important thing about luck is not only in having it, but also giving it away as well. “Oh I do [believe in luck]. I always pick up a penny when I see it, and I pass it on, because that’s the other key – you have to share it. You can’t hoard [luck], you’ve got to share it. Share your good fortune. And then you just get more… It just comes back to you 100 fold. I truly believe that.”
If you are interested in purchasing this title, the book is available on amazon.com, lorimerpress.com, barnesandnobles.com, or at Main Street Books.