The beauty of earth changes. Enjoy it but never think to trust it (II, iii, p. 37).
As the conversation continues, Lady Philosophy explains the relationship between Fortune, the personification of luck, and happiness. Many people think that the relationship between luck and one’s happiness is proportional, but Boethius believes that they do not correlate with one another. He presents a threefold analysis of the relationship based on our sense of entitlement, our confusion about the nature of luck, and the idea that bad luck can be better for us than good luck.
Entitlement. Those who continuously have good luck are most susceptible to developing a sense of entitlement, for they often mistake their own good fortune for a right. Fortune says, “I spoiled you and that is why you are now so angry with me. I gave you all kinds of affluence and luxury, whatever was in my power, and you took it as if it were your right” (II, ii, p. 31). Lady Philosophy believes that when happiness relies on what Fortune can give or take, people have false expectations and set themselves up for failure. Lady Philosophy states that we have no right to our “things”. Instead, they are Fortune’s own to give or take away, and we “ought to thank Fortune for the use of what was always hers anyway rather than complain of the loss of what was never ours” (II, ii, p. 31).
Nature of Luck. Lady Philosophy tells the prisoner that he “can also take comfort in the likelihood that what is now making you miserable will also pass away” (II, iii, p. 36). The mutability of Fortune can be considered both good and bad; regardless, good or bad aspects of life will be mutable. Lady Philosophy further comforts the prisoner, stating, “But a part of you always knew that there is no constancy in human affairs, and that time brings change inevitably” (II, iii, p. 36). Although luck is unpredictable, it remains consistent in its inconsistency. As Boethius says, “She was always whimsical, and she remains constant to her inconstancy” (II, i, p. 28).
Bad Fortune is Better than Good. Boethius argues that bad luck is often more beneficial to a person than good luck. The prisoner exemplifies this fact when he learns an important truth about Fortune through his own misfortune. The prisoner finds that “Fortune beguiles us to think that bodily pleasure can bring happiness” (II, iv, p. 42). The truth to be learned through ill fortune is this: “Fortune opens men’s eyes to how fragile the happiness of mortals really is. The man who enjoys good fortune is driven frantic, running this way and that and trying to maintain what he has…Good fortune can lead men astray, deceiving them about what to expect from life…When Fortune is unkind, she draws men back to an understanding of what the world is like, and who their friends are” (II, viii, p. 57).
Boethius’ diagnosis is still applicable today in many instances. A simple example is the practice of assigning group projects, which every college student encounters at least once. Sometimes a student gets put in a diligent, intelligent group and at other times is put with a group of lazy and apathetic fellow students. Realistically, no one is entitled to be put in either. There is little predictability in if the group projects will be self-chosen, random, or assigned. Whatever one gets is “just the luck of the draw.” And in some instances, a bad group may be better for a person than a good group since the bad groups have the opportunity to teach a person important skills—getting along with people, organization, and/or leadership. As Boethius says, sometimes bad fortune is better for us than good.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License .