Pair of dice or paradise?

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

Paradise, California, according to one story, was originally named Pair of Dice, after a prominent gambling place.

Whether this is true or not, it is true that the happiness associated with paradise is a wonderful reward of ruling chance out of your life. Happiness and true peace of mind have never been the result of a lucky throw of the dice.

In last fall's national elections, ballot initiatives for increased legalization of gambling were mostly successful. Debates on the issue highlighted statistics of the revenues and benefits generated by gambling. They also included figures on communities ravaged by the increased expenses of criminal activity - and on administering to the needs of people when "innocent" gambling turns to compulsion.

But the greatest damage, which has no recompense in tax revenues, is what happens to the human spirit when even a portion of one's experience is turned over to chance.

Prayers informed by the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament of Christianity, and many other religious teachings seek the blessing of a constant and consistent source of good, or God. Throughout the Holy Bible, God is often described as everlasting. The book of Psalms invites us to sing, "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.... You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing" (145:13, 16, New International Version).

Turning in prayer to God, instead of following what appear to be good odds, may itself seem like Russian roulette to those who don't know the meekness of seeking direction from Him. But prayer unites our thoughts with God. It naturally reveals a way of life that's free from strife and envy, and that blesses a wider circle than just ourselves. "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy" (James 3:17).

The contrast between this "easy to be entreated" wisdom, and frantic imploring for dice to come up with the right numbers, offers a worthwhile lesson. Wisdom may well be classified as paradisiacal.

Following God's unerring direction, we avoid the traps of luck and chance. Good luck has its counterpart. Bad luck and accidents go hand in hand with chance. "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy's textbook for the study of Christian Science, states, "Accidents are unknown to God, or immortal Mind, and we must leave the mortal basis of belief and unite with the one Mind, in order to change the notion of chance to the proper sense of God's unerring direction and thus bring out harmony" (pg. 424).

A belief in God coupled with a belief in chance - like crossing your fingers in prayer or knocking on wood to secure a divine blessing - suggests that good is iffy. It leaves open the possibility of accidents. But the peace and safety of acknowledging "God's unerring direction" cannot be overestimated.

I don't know where the term "Lady Luck" came from, but I can assure you that luck is no "lady," nor, for that matter, does it have the good qualities that characterize a gentleman.

One afternoon, my college roommate and I decided to play a game of chance at a corner store. Soon we'd lost the little bit of money we had with us and stopped playing. Walking back to the dorm, however, we figured out a scheme, so that with a little bit more money we could beat the odds and bring home a bundle. We bolted dinner and raided the money our parents had sent to pay a special fee.

After an hour of feverish playing, we'd lost all that money, too. I still remember the dismay as we returned to the dorm, and also the fatigue as we took on many jobs to earn back the money. We were too ashamed to tell our parents. While those memories may strike some as funny, they are not exactly happy - the really haunting one is the terrible feeling of compulsion to gamble some more, of being out of control.

Life is not a gamble. In its highest, purest sense, Life is God. At any moment - this moment right now - prayer can silence the demand for quick riches or entertainment, and bring peace. God truly "opens His hand" and "satisfies the desires."

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