It’s better to be lucky than to be smart
My father was known to sprinkle his conversation with colorful chunks of wisdom. He never swore, but he did make liberal use of such conversation pepper-uppers as “Great Caesar’s ghost” and “In a pig’s eye.”
While some of these zingers added zest to the exchange of ideas, others served as a summary of his philosophy of life – a grab bag of ideas that helped us understand the un-understandable. Hence, my father’s frequent use of the adage: “It is better to be lucky than smart.”
In my travels around the world, I kept running into variations on this “luck” theme. Yet at home, my father, the college professor, expected us to attack our studies with determination and persistence. We were supposed to work hard and rely on our good grades to open doors for us. Surely, no one in our family ever was encouraged to “skip the homework.”
Perhaps the Chinese have it right. We might as well cover all the bases. Consider Hong Kong – a hot bed of gods, lucky numbers, fortune telling and innumerable superstitions. Posted on the small bridge at Repulse Bay in Hong Kong Harbor is a sign that clearly states “Your life will be extended by three extra days for each time you cross.” Looks like we will be returning to the United States comforted in knowing we had added 15 days to our lives.
No matter what the Brits used to say, we soon discovered that Hong Kong is Chinese to the core. The area is home to more than 600 temples and monasteries. The pragmatic Chinese believe in mixing Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian religions, not to mention a whole raft of ancestors.
On the corner of Hollywood and Ladder streets, we found the heart and soul of this ancient Chinese community. Dark, mysterious, smoky and redolent with incense, Mann Mo Temple was bristling with activity. Worshipers scurried to and fro, lighting joss sticks and sticking them into gigantic urns. Supplicants were bowing, praying in stage whispers and, from time to time, striking a large bronze bell to alert the gods to pay attention. No wonder the Chinese are so busy. If someone promises to add an extra three days on your life, they’ll cross and re-cross any number of bridges, just in case. Besides, it’s good exercise.
It’s hard to outdo the Irish when it comes to eternal optimism.
“Your lucky day,” I said to a woman picking up a coin on the street. She stopped, told me what she would do with her unexpected windfall (buy a lottery ticket) and gave me her entire lottery history, which didn’t take long.
“But maybe this time,” she said, eyes sparkle.
And then there was the scrawny chicken cooked without heat in Abidjan (Africa), Brazil’s complicated voodoo worship, the lucky investors who bought land before Norman was a lake and, finally, the casino on board a cruise ship somewhere in the Mediterranean. I loved the sound of quarters raining into my bucket. I took my stash back to my cabin, laid it all out in neat piles. $38.25! Enough to pay the water bill.
I was a clear winner.
Dad would have been proud. I think.
Diana and Bill Gleasner have lived in Denver for more than 30 years. In addition to travel journalism, they have written and published two books on the Lake Norman area. Diana writes about the quirks of lake living, family and being married to a man who can skin a muskrat in less than 60 seconds.