Taking Chances

As I’ve noted here before, in 1969, when I was 17 years old, I went to Europe on a backpacking trip. My main destination was the island of Crete in Greece. I went back a few years ago to do research for my book Street Song and while there, came upon a book called Winds of Crete by David MacNeil Doren. Doren was an American who, with his Swedish wife, spent several years living in small villages around the island. His time in Crete began in late 1960, and Crete then was very much the same as I found it nine years later.  Globalization has brought drastic changes to the place, so I was happy to find something that would help me remember the way it was when I was there.

I was looking through the book again last night and found an interesting passage. Doren was talking about how he and his wife, while in their 30s, became thoroughly fed up with the modern world. They wanted to get away to a place like Crete, which was inexpensive and not as crazed as the societies in which they grew up. They longed for peace and quiet in order to think over the direction they wanted their lives to take. The problem was that, as cheap as Crete was then, they didn’t have enough money between them to last much more than a month. But they went anyway and hoped for the best. Doren writes:

Common sense was all against our making such a move, but I remembered the words of Thoreau: “…if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

This sums up for me what is lacking in our lives nowadays: We no longer take chances. Taking a chance is limited to the stock market. But the universe wants us to take chances and it supports us whenever we do—so long as the chance taken leads us toward an understanding of the heart. I don’t see this as a metaphor. It really happens.


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10 Responses to “Taking Chances”

  1. Andrew Brindle Says:

    Hello Mark,

    I’m just writing to say that I wholeheartedly agree with what you have written here. Sometimes we must be patient for the mountain mist to clear, but it always does.

    I appreciated the quote from Thoreau, do you, or anybody else, have a reference for it?

    Thank you,


  2. Brad Says:

    Well said, Mark. As you said, Globalization has taken away the “magic” of life. But, myself being a conservative, you make my arguement for me……Life is about taking chances, making the most of yourself. There will always be winners and losers when we take chances, but we should never deny help to those less fortunate.

    • markbittner Says:

      I disagree. Whenever you have a set-up where there are losers and winners, things have gone wrong. Globalization is evil because it’s stripped everything of its natural character. I don’t agree per se that life is about making the most of yourself. It’s more like making yourself fit enough to contribute to the well-being of the whole. We’ve gone way off the tracks with our belief in hyper-individualism. I used to believe in it. Not anymore. Magic comes about only through the well-being of the whole. This is not my own personal opinion. It’s old news—basic Mahayana Buddhism 101, basic Taoism, the only two religious schools I’m willing to sign my name to.

  3. cmv Says:

    Yes. I see this so clearly now. The ultimate goal of religion is the well-being of the whole; Spirit supports that which leads to wholeness; our wholeness as individuals depends on the expression of our soul’s purpose—what Mattie J. T. Stepanek called “heartsong.” When we take steps toward that purpose, magic follows.

  4. David Says:

    Thoreau a timeless figure, whose writings always make you think. He was on the fringe of his society and also a part of it as a surveyor and neighbour, a walker across boundaries. His notebooks such a grab bag of practical observations on the land and weather and people and also philosphical stuff.He spent time with RW Emerson, our ancestor.

    Finding the balance of the individual and the group is the eternal human question, requiring a sort of “middle way” as Buddha finally saw. We evolved as tribal beings needing to work together and yet defining ourselves as separate from other groups (competition). This need to define ourselves as different from and better than seems to be very deep.

    Just saw Jane Goodall saying how we are so like chimpanzees in both our higher and lower qualities. Chimps laugh and also fight over nothing, as we do.

  5. Sylvia Cooley Says:

    I love the combination of “taking chances” and finding something simpler and more basic in life. This is not what most people would expect from someone these days who is willing to take chances. I totally agree with you.

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