Looking back on all the adventures in my life, I realize that I have been extraordinarily lucky much of the time. I have, through the years, developed a theory – an intuition about the fundamentals of what we subscribe as luck. I call it “the baitfish theory.” It’s a philosophy that I have instinctively practiced since I was a young man: When out for a day’s fishing, I have always taken one or two of the minnows from the bait bucket and thrown them back – set them free – because I believe that action makes me an integral part of the great Universal Infrastructure of Fortuitousness. And because I like the way it makes me feel, and that’s essential also. I believe we’re all really minnows in the bait bucket of life. Occasionally, given the right circumstances, the gods throw one or two of us back.
Almost all of us have encountered some traumatic, nearly impossible situation that we somehow, miraculously passed through unscathed – while some of those around us didn’t. Afterwards we asked ourselves, “Why me? Why did I survive?” There are, of course, no guarantees, but I believe in order to increase your chances of being one of the surviving minnows in the traumas of life, you need to establish yourself as a card-carrying member in the Universal Infrastructure of Fortuitousness. When everything is at its bleakest point, you have to have reason to believe that the impossible is possible. Luck may be nothing more than seizing the moment with an illogical confidence.
Periodically I will go out of my way to preserve some lowly creature that is most certainly doomed without my intervention. I stop and move turtles out of the road, or I’ll catch the wasp that found his way into the house and carefully release him outside, because I like the sense of being in tune with that universal tapestry. It’s a feeling of not simply living in this world, but being an innate part of the great weave, and, of course, because I understand the baitfish theory. The honest truth is, more than once in my life I have been one of the minnows the gods set free. I know what it feels like, and I am so grateful.
A week ago just at sunset, I saw that my cat had captured a huge green and gray moth with mottled, translucent wings. The cat held that poor, exquisite creature captured in its paws, pinning it against the ground. He would release it just enough to let it struggle a few inches, then pounce on it again. I couldn’t help myself. I went over, grasped the cat by the scruff of the neck and gently took the moth away. It appeared battered and exhausted – probably past the point of survival. But to my surprise, as I opened my fingers the brilliant creature arched into the air, spinning upward in a dizzying spiral. His wings widened as he gathered control, and he became cool and magnificent. He headed outward toward the trees at the edge of the yard, then abruptly turned back at me, and circled my head, before dashing away. For a moment, for just an infinitesimal slick of time, I felt a wondrous revelation – a fleeting, brilliant epiphany. Suddenly I sensed the cosmos open up and I was engulfed by the spirit that binds all things together in this great weave. I suddenly, unequivocally, knew that no gift is ever forgotten in the records of life.
Who knows? Maybe the baitfish theory is just another definition for faith – perhaps all those minnows I set free simply had more faith than their companions in the potential of divine intervention. Maybe, when they saw their opportunity, they struggled more valiantly to put themselves in my hands – who knows? All I know for sure is they were given a chance to swim on, and so was I.
“It’s hard to detect good luck – it looks so much like something you’ve earned.”
– Frank A. Clark