109. We must master our good fortune, or it will master us.
Let’s recognize that back when this was written, 2,000 years ago during the early years of the Roman Empire, Fortune would referred to Fortuna, the goddess of fortune and luck. She ruled over human affairs, in many cases depicted blindfolded, and could bring good or bad luck. Fate was her domain, and she came to be associated with the rapid turns of fortune that happen in life.
Here Publius is advising us on how to deal with good fortune, should it come our way. Be sure to master our good fortune, or else we’ll find it mastering us.
Let’s look at fortune a little bit, and then make an attempt at understanding this saying at a deeper level.
Fortune, Cosmology, and Theoretical Physics
Many of us believe in predetermined destiny, the everything-happens-for-a-reason camp, it’s all part of a bigger plan for us by a higher power. Then there are those of us on the opposite end of the spectrum, who believe that nothing is predetermined and we all have free will and 100% autonomy over our actions.
To my mind, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
And let’s say that we do live in a multiverse, where there are literally infinite parallel universes in addition to ours. The possibilities are endless — there is a universe where you were born a woman, one where you were born a merman, one in which our eyes are swapped with our ears and we walk doing handstands, one in which you are assassinated as the President of the United States, and so on. The weirdest, wildest stuff you can come up with is taking place right now in alternate universes.
Add to this the ongoing research into string theory, and how it’s possible there are 10, 11, or 26 dimensions, of which we only experience 4, and it’s clear that should the science prove to be correct, there is a lot going on behind the scenes.
And there aren’t just physical dimensions — sure, we may think of the 4th, temporal dimension as a separate type of dimension, but we know that spacetime is actually an interwoven continuum of space plus time. Could it be that everything that has happened or will ever happen is already laid out in some other universe somewhere?
Fortune and Affirmations
So how do these possibilities square with our understanding of fortune?
Well, it could be related to affirmations. A lot has been written on affirmations. It goes something like this:
- Develop a vision for what you want to achieve
- Say it aloud or write it down 10, 15, however many times — everyday
- Rinse and repeat until your vision becomes reality
We’ll have a lot more to say on affirmations in a future post, but suffice it to say that there is some compelling evidence that they work. Or at least, that doing affirmations increases the likelihood one achieves their vision. What are some possible reasons?
- Helps to focus you, to view everything you do through the lens of is-this-helping-me-achieve-my-vision
- Adds clarity to what you choose to do in your day-to-day life
- Puts out positive vibes to the universe, for which you get positive vibes in return
This last one is the biggest source of controversy. But let’s say there are truly infinite possibilities, spread across an infinite number of dimensions which we cannot directly perceive — could it be that by getting our thoughts vibrating on the right wavelength, we can slowly but surely guide ourselves in the direction of universes and dimensions with realities more aligned with our vision?
It seems reasonable. And there could be holes in this line of thinking that a sceptic could pick apart. But as a heuristic, as a filter to help us achieve our vision and our goals, it is quite powerful.
What causes good fortune?
So perhaps good fortune is nothing more than us moving towards regions of spacetime that contain more positive or more negative realities.
There could be a block of universes / dimensions / spacetime out there that has an infinite multitude of possibilities of you becoming an opera singer. Or a professional golfer. Or a human trafficker. And by focusing your thoughts and actions on one of those outcomes, you have a hand in your present moments moving closer and closer towards that reality (spacetime).
Anyway, some food for thought.
Dealing with good fortune
So let’s continue with this interpretation of fortune, and what it would mean. It would follow that there are blocks of spacetime that have you losing the plot, going overboard in your self-love and aggrandizement, and “reading your own press clippings,” as they say. You are one of the best golfers in the world and everyone else is below you. But there are also universes in which you remain humble, where you keep a level head, where you stay true to your principles and values.
It then also follows that by living an honest and just life, by practicing humility, by keeping a mindset of learning and growth throughout life, that one can direct themselves to regions of spacetime more in line with this type of life. In this way, we can actively master our good fortune (which we may have had a hand in bringing about), instead of passively let it master us.
Some talk of theoretical physics and cosmology, and perhaps a helpful heuristic or two that we can use in our lives. As a frame through which to view our journey. As we work towards our vision, we can use affirmations with a belief (or at least with an open mind) that there is more going on beneath the surface, on which science will eventually shed more light.
And if we are so lucky (fortunate?) to achieve our dreams, remain humble. Do not give in to the baser desires of the ego. Do not let good fortune lord over us and enslave us to the trappings of fame and success. Stay grounded, live a life of integrity, and you will remain master of your good fortune.
Until next time,
If you enjoyed this post, you will enjoy this timeless collection of wisdom written by a Roman slave. Because science (I hate that meme but it seemed fitting here).