I've thought long and hard lately about luck. Being lucky or admitting that you've been lucky is slightly out of fashion these days. We're all masters of our own destiny it seems, ever more so in the results-driven world we labour in. You can do this, you can be that. Increasingly, we make ourselves the centre of all things. I believe we wield a great deal of control over stuff that happens to us. But I also think it's rather soulless to discount completley a notion of the presence of a 'guiding hand' or of plain old luck. Now, before the atheists splutter and spill their black coffees, I'm referring to 'guiding hand' in a poetical sense. I don't actually think there's a real hand, a 'could-be-you' Lottery finger pushing me about like a subbuteo man. It's just a language or an alphabet that more easily describes a feeling of, well, of smallness compared to the mysteries of the Universe, the twists and turns of the winding track. Blind corners a lot of them.
One of my favourite poems is The Fly by William Blake. It's a summer's day and Blake carelessly brushes away a fly from his hand. But then he thinks to himself, 'Am not I a fly like thee?'.
For I dance
And drink, and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.
Being a victim of fate and circumstance can be a terrible thing. You can't tell Tsunami victims or war refugees to 'think outside the box', to 're-imagine your life in a more positive way'. You could try: 'Live in the now!' or Seize the day!'. But that leaves little room for compassion. Bad things happen to people and it's often through no fault of their own.
But then again, imagining yourself a victim when you do have some control, some say over things, well that's a different thing. If you think like that you re-imagine the world through your own cracked and muddy specs and so everything's bound to look bleak.
I'm reading a book at the minute. I usually have two books on the go: one sort of serious or slightly more 'intellectual' for the morning commute; and either poetry or something a bit lighter for the bedtime lamp. One of my favourite of all musicians is Ronnie Wood and I recently bought his autobiography, Ronnie. I don't know what it is exactly about Ronnie I love so much. He's certainly not the best musician or artist in the world, far from it. But he seems to have a genius for cheerfulness. He seems to represent in an extreme sort of way the philosophy of having fun, of not taking yourself or life too seriously, and of making other people feel good. Despite a certain notoriety one would of course expect from a Rolling Stone, he also comes across as a very decent person. I've had the odd story percolate back to me down the years from folk who've had real contact with the man - I sadly haven't yet but we live in hope! - and no one has a bad word to say about him.
Before he joined the Rolling Stones he was Rod Stewart's sidekick in The Faces, arguably Britain's greatest musical exponents of 'having a good time all of the time'. They were the first band to have a fully functional bar on stage complete with waiters serving them drinks for the whole duration of their live performance, oftne in front of thousands of people. They also used to literally invite the crowd back to their hotel for a party. Hundreds would turn up and The Faces became incredibly unpopular with major hotel chains across the USA. Not surprising really.
Anyway, dear old Ronnie came in to this life the offspring of a family of water gypsies; he was actually the first person in his family to have been born on land near Heathrow airport. From a very loving family, Ronnie was allowed to express himself the way he wanted and he always seemed to exude an infectious cheerfulness. He also had a knack of forever being in the right place at the right time. From The Faces to The Rolling Stones, Ronnie's life lurched from unimaginable highs to some pretty grim lows. Too much partying and 'cheerfulness' is bound to take its toll.
Ronnie Wood has lived a charmed life. He's certainly helped along Lady Luck with her decision making by always being the person that raised the general morale quotient of everybody else. In a sense, you might argue that he's made his own luck. People really loved and still do love Ronnie Wood and that can't hurt in life. But I would argue that he's also just been plain lucky as well; to have the parents he had who encouraged his early creative efforts, to be married to Jo his wife of many years standing who has been loyal to him and nursed him through all the bad times. He himself thinks that he's just been lucky. I actually feel quite lucky to be reading his book.
I'm not so sure that I believe in God the man almighty upstairs in the clouds. But I love the phrase 'God-willing' and I say it a lot. It reminds me that while I may be captain of my little boat, it's only that - panning out Google Earth-style - a little boat in a vast, shifting sea. For the journey ahead, I try and be cheerful and optimistic. But I also hope that I'm lucky. I hope you are too.