The world today is built around two ideas:
- We have CONTROL over things in our life; and
- Our control is a result of our FREE WILL.
Most marketing and advertising campaigns are built around these ideas. And most of us don’t think twice about these premises; we believe them. The curious thing, though, is that these ideas are wrong.
In my family, gambling is viewed very negatively. I’m not a gambler; I grew up believing not in luck, but in the virtue of hard work. Ten years ago, however, my world turned upside-down. I was accepted into the Work & Travel USA summer exchange program, which promotes intercultural understanding through Study Abroad and Work Exchange programs.
During that summer, I earned almost five times my mother’s annual salary. As a 19-year-old, my mind was blown. My ideas about what opportunities the world has to offer changed radically. Even better, after working at two jobs for the summer, my group of fellow program members and I bought a van and hit the road, visiting America from coast to coast. Including, of course, Las Vegas.
This experience was so surreal, for me. It wasn’t anything I’d ever dreamed of. Did I earn this incredible privilege thanks to my hard work? I don’t think so. The only thing I’ve earned through hard work, I guess, is good luck. I felt so lucky, that summer. so when I found this object at a souvenir shop in Las Vegas — a fake $5 poker, costing a mere $1 — of course I purchased it. What a deal! I’ve carried it everywhere I go, in my pocket, ever since then.
Whenever I look at the poker chip, I am reminded: Everything doesn’t depend on me exercising free will and controlling my life. The majority of my fellow Russians will never see Las Vegas, or half the other things I saw during four months in 2011. Perhaps they don’t want to see these things, but the point is: Many of my countrymen, not to mention people in Italy, France, Argentina, Egypt, India, and elsewhere, don’t believe that they have choices. They believe in hard work, but they don’t have much hope for prosperity.
What I now understand is that hard work is only part of the equation. Sometimes your hard work will pay off, other times it won’t. Sometimes we may win — through no particular virtue of our own. We may not even know why we’ve been so lucky. Life, I now understand, is a game of chance… one that we’re playing all the time, even if we don’t want to.
Semioticians’ stories: Josh Glenn on MONKEY WHIMSEY | Malcolm Evans on QUEEN MARY FOB | Ramona Lyons on RABBIT BOX | Matthew De Abaitua on HATCHET | Chris Arning on INKSTONE BROOM | Hamsini Shivakumar on SOUL MOTHER SAREES | Lucia Laurent-Neva on SPONGEBOB BUS | Samuel Grange on SALT & PEPPER HOLDER | Ximena Tobi on VASALISA | Luca Marchetti on TEAPOT | Charles Leech on ORNAMENT | Brian McIntyre on BONE & FLINT NECKLACE | Gabriela Pedranti on MAFALDA DOLL | Sarah Johnson on JOAN OF ARC FIGURINE | Vijay Parthasarathy on BINGO | Aiyana Gunjan on WEDDING DUCKS | Serdar Paktin on NEY | Paulina Goch-Kenawy on VASE | Daria Arkhipova on POKER CHIP | Iván Islas on THERMOS | Sónia Marques on CABBAGE TUREEN | Thierry Mortier on BICYCLE BELL | Louise Jolly on CHALICES | Wei Fen Lee on CURRY PUFF POT | Mariane Cara on MINI WINDSOCK | Malex Salamanques Amiel on MARIA LIONZA | Seema Khanwalkar on THANJAVUR DOLL | Maria Papanthymou on KITCHEN WHISK | Martha Arango on ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA | Max Matus on WOODEN ROBOT | Rasika Batra on PRAYER BEADS | Anastasia Kārkliņa on CHESTNUTS | Maciej Biedziński on HAUNTED SPOON | Shirsha Ganguly on TINTIN FIGURINE | Clio Meurer on GLOW-IN-THE-DARK ROSARY | Marta Pellegrini on ELEPHANT PIN.