Understanding gambling can help us navigate the treacherous currents of desire, risk, and reward that define our relationship with this capricious world.
The enigmatic nature of gambling captivates our imagination, drawing us towards the hypnotic dance of fortune and chance. From ancient Mesopotamian ‘knucklebones’ to the neon-lit casinos of Las Vegas, its allure permeates human history. Together we’ll weave through the gambler’s psyche to unveil the psychospiritual underpinnings that draw us toward Lady Luck.
A mythological landscape shapes our experience of gambling. Chance is imbued with a divine quality as an archetype, conferring an air of mystique and awe. In Greek mythology, the Moirai, or the Fates, held the threads of destiny, determining the course of human lives with the snip of their shears. Fortuna, the Roman goddess of luck, stood as a reminder of fortune’s transient and fickle nature. The I Ching, an ancient Chinese divination text, offers wisdom in deciphering the patterns of chance, guiding seekers through the uncertainties of life. Mythological frameworks provide a symbolic language through which we can approach its complexities.
Enigmatic and protean, the Gambler is a chameleon-like figure who straddles conscious and unconscious boundaries, the mundane and the divine. We find him in various guises in literature and folklore: the cunning trickster, the desperate dreamer, and the risk-taking adventurer. He carries our innate desire to transcend the confines of the known. At the heart of this drive lies the tension between control and surrender, a dialectic that reflects our perpetual struggle to strike a balance between the security of the familiar and the thrill of the new.
Eros and Thanatos propel the world of chance. According to Freud, these twin instincts represent the poles of life and death, creation and destruction, that govern our desires and motivations –they intertwine in a delicate pas de deux. The seduction of infinite possibilities constellates Eros in the gambler’s soul. In its grip, the inflated ego feels omniscient and blessed, easily disregarding vulnerabilities—the ever-present specter of loss, humiliation, and ruin paces in the shadow. Primal dread of the unknown and fear of uncontrollable forces that govern our existence mingle with desire, creating a volatile cocktail. He temporarily escapes this by submitting to the exaltations of chance. In the tension of these opposites, he feels truly alive.
The unpredictable Goddess Fortuna, the Roman deity of luck, fortune, and fate, presides over the realm of chance, wielding her power with capricious whimsy. Her iconic symbol is the Wheel of Fortune, a cyclical motif that signifies the perpetual rise and fall of life’s fortunes. It serves as a metaphor for the gambler’s journey, a perpetual cycle of highs and lows, victories and defeats, that mirrors the vicissitudes of life itself.
Fortuna embodies a duality in her various guises that reflects the dialectical tensions inherent in the gambler’s psyche. On one hand, she is portrayed as Fortuna Bona, the benevolent dispenser of blessings, gracing her devotees with abundance and prosperity. On the other hand, she is depicted as Fortuna Mala, the harbinger of misfortune, wreaking havoc upon the unsuspecting and the unprepared. The gambler’s attraction to Fortuna lies in his willingness to court both her benevolence and her wrath. As an expression of Self, Fortuna challenges the ego to confront the limitations of its control and mastery, forcing it to reckon with the unpredictable and the unknown. If approached with respect, Fortuna introduces us to life’s uncertainties and demands that we accept the limitations of our understanding. If we’re lucky, this encounter will forge a more resilient and authentic character.
The Greek Goddess Tyche, a counterpart to the Roman Goddess Fortuna, offers more promising rewards. Cradling a cornucopia, she offers bountiful gifts to those risk-tolerant heroes who brave failure as they pursue visions of success. Tyche is often depicted wearing a mural crown and holding a rudder, symbolizing her ability to shape the course of human affairs and steer the destiny of individuals and cities alike. Yet, despite her power to guide and influence, she remains a mercurial and elusive figure, her blessings and favors subject to the vagaries of chance.
In the end, the gambler’s relationship with chance is a mirror that reflects the essential human condition, for we are all, in a sense, gamblers, poised on the precipice of the unknown. As we journey through life, we must learn to embrace the uncertainties and risks that define our existence, for it is in the very act of embracing the gamble that we find the courage to forge our destinies.
~ Joseph R. Lee
HERE’S THE DREAM WE ANALYZE:
“I was sitting in the kitchen of my paternal grandmother’s house. I was planning to steal money from her. I was with a female acquaintance urgently helping me plan this. We needed to get things sorted before my grandmother got home. I looked out the kitchen window; it was a fairly grey day outside. All of a sudden, there was a loud explosion, and there was a fire somewhere in the house. A huge sense of fear and panic occurred, so the female acquaintance and I ran outside through the front of the house; we made it out safely. To my surprise, my grandmother also came out the front door, she looked more overweight than I remembered, and her hair was more grey and unkempt. She looked disgusting, and her skin, in particular, was blotchy, scarred, and had patches of skin with holes in it. I did not feel any concern for her wellbeing, only disgust when I saw the state of her skin.”
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