Gambling with Reality

Ah, the thrill of winning! You just know it's not random chance. It's your own magic, bending reality in your favor. The jackpot comes to you, not just anybody.

But then, there's losing. How cruel of reality to withhold its favors. How unjust! The game must be rigged.

That's life for those who live by luck: way up when reality does them the favors they deserve; way down when reality is rigged against them.

That's also life for subjectivists—those who live by making demands. When their demands are met, it's because of their charisma and moral force. When their demands are not met, it's because things are rigged against them.

The theory behind living by demands is the theory behind gambling. It is the subjective theory that life consists not of you conforming to reality, but of reality conforming to you. Whenever it happens to conform, you win. When it does not happen to conform, you lose.

If you don't buy insurance, and your house burns down, you could demand help from your neighbors. If you get it, that's a win. If you don't get it, that's a social injustice. You gambled twice: once on the safety of your house, once on the generosity of your neighbors.

If you're in the wrong lane on the freeway, you could wait for an opening, or just cut in at random. That would be gambling on the alertness of drivers. An angry gesture is a win. A broken bumper is a loss.

If you neglect study, and get a bad grade, you could protest and demand a grade change. That would make learning your lesson a loss, and proceeding in ignorance a win.

To judge if this is a practical way to live, ask if there are more rich gamblers, or more rich casino owners. When life is winning or losing by luck, it's mostly losing.

Subjectivists do not think of themselves as gamblers, but as victims struggling to get correct conformity from a stubborn and unjust reality. Gamblers think of themselves that way also. Intellectually, they tell themselves that reality will not do their bidding. Emotionally, they are back home ordering their parents around.

Gambling as a way of life is like guessing as a way of knowledge—a feeble stab at the real thing. For certainty that you know what you're doing, it substitutes hope that things will turn out. If they don't, you can always try reason.

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