Charlie's Blog: Pure Dumb Luck


Pure Dumb Luck

Ringo isn't even the best drummer in The Beatles.

When I think of someone who made it on pure dumb luck, Ringo Starr springs to mind. I like Ringo, and I think most people in the world like Ringo. He is the most likable Beatle. But his fame and fortune are due primarily to the Beatles firing Pete Best and hiring Ringo to replace him. Had that event not happened, the world would never have known Richard Starkey. He would have played in a few more bands and probably returned to his working class roots. Even as a Beatle, Ringo never felt secure in his job.

Ringo is humble which is why he is so likable. He played his role in the band and never let his ego create friction. The band already had three egos to contend with and a fourth would have blown it apart. Ringo Starr caught one of the luckiest breaks in musical history. His talents as a drummer are debatable which explains John Lennon's snarky quote about him. Paul McCartney was probably the best drummer and best musician in the band, but you can only play one instrument at a time. As for singing, Ringo is good as a singer and did some memorable songs with the Beatles.

The antithesis to the pure dumb luck of Ringo Starr was the pure bad luck of Pete Best. There is debate about Pete Best's drumming abilities, but he was the most solid of the Beatles eschewing drugs and grinding it out with the band for over two years. But seeing a picture of Best with the Beatles tells the real story. Pete Best was the best looking guy in the group. The girls swooned over him. But when you see a picture of Ringo with the band, you can see why he got the job after they fired Pete Best. Ringo wasn't so good looking.

My personal opinion is that Pete Best got the heave-ho for being pleasant to the female eye while Ringo got the job for being ugly. Normally, being good looking would be a stroke of good fortune but not for Pete Best. Best would return to his life of relative obscurity. People only know him today as the guy who got sacked by the Beatles.

The fact is that the rest of the Beatles owed much of their success to the same dumb luck that plucked Ringo Starr from obscurity and put Pete Best back into obscurity. What makes it harder to make that case is the undeniable talent of the band members as singers and songwriters. We feel that McCartney and Lennon are somehow deserving of the fame and fortune that came to them. The problem with that argument is the vast abundance of talent that exists in obscurity. If you doubt this, peruse the YouTube channel of this fellow. Thanks to the internet, we can witness people playing in their bedrooms or on the street in performances that are simply mind blowing. Why aren't these people megastars bringing down millions of dollars? Who can doubt that this guy playing his PVC pipe techno solo has more talent than Ringo Starr? Instead, the millions go to subpar talents producing hip hop albums.

The only real difference between Ringo and the other Beatles was that humility. Ringo knew he made it on dumb luck. The real agonizing thing is to decide which is better--talent or dumb luck? Is it better to be the best at what you do? Or, is it better merely to be lucky? The simple and undeniable fact is that dumb luck beats talent every time. That is a sobering reflection.

Moving to the world of art, we have the most potent example of the delinking of fame and talent in the artwork of Jackson Pollock. Pollock became a rockstar in the artworld for producing works that could be painted by any small child let loose with a bucket of paint. This period of drip painting as masterpiece shows that the artworld is akin to the emperor's new clothes. Here is a critical analysis of Pollock's work:
Pollock’s finest paintings… reveal that his all-over line does not give rise to positive or negative areas: we are not made to feel that one part of the canvas demands to be read as figure, whether abstract or representational, against another part of the canvas read as ground. There is not inside or outside to Pollock’s line or the space through which it moves…. Pollock has managed to free line not only from its function of representing objects in the world, but also from its task of describing or bounding shapes or figures, whether abstract or representational, on the surface of the canvas. (Hans Namuth)
Pollock had zero talent who lucked into a period of utter stupidity on the part of the artworld. In the world of pure dumb luck, Pollock's luck was the dumbest of all time. Pollock remains controversial to this day, and he suffered from a lingering doubt that he was just a phony. Let me end the debate now. Jackson Pollock was a complete phony. He deserved none of the fame and acclaim he garnered in life. I believe this drove him to drink harder and to kill himself in a drunken car crash.

It is not enough to have fame, fortune, honor, and glory. One must also believe that one is deserving of these things. That deserving part is what creates bitterness in the talented but obscure and self-loathing in the famous but untalented. This mismatch between what people receive and what they deserve leads to a profound sense of injustice in the world. Either God is unjust, or the world is governed by the same chaos you find in a Jackson Pollock painting.

The first myth we can dispense with is the idea that life really is just pure dumb luck. There is no such thing as pure dumb luck. What we call luck is really the collection of factors beyond our control or influence. The reality is that all things that happen are governed by the providence of Almighty God. This would include Ringo Starr and Jackson Pollock. Nothing happens to us or anyone else that isn't foreordained and determined by God. As Matthew 10:29 puts it, "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." If even the most insignificant things happen as a consequence of providence, you should believe that the fortunes of all people, nations, and the like are also foreordained and determined by Almighty God. Life is not the product of chaos.

The second myth we can dispense with is the idea that we are deserving of anything. The only thing any human being deserves from the hand of Almighty God is eternal damnation. The fact that any of us escapes this fate is completely as a consequence of God's mercy.

When we forget these two facts of life, pride comes into the picture. This pride is what produces arrogance in the fortunate and bitterness in the unfortunate. We believe we deserve good things from God. So, we look with envy on those who receive better things than us, and we look with disdain on those who have received worse things.

The antidote to these two poisonous myths is humility. We must acknowledge our sinfulness and utter dependence upon Almighty God. We must never forget these facts. Jesus Christ could have come as anyone in this world. He could have chosen to be the emperor or even the king of Israel when that would have been a glorious thing. But Jesus came as a humble carpenter and a suffering servant. He alone is worthy of all the honor and glory we think we deserve in our pride. Yet, Christ emptied Himself and humbled Himself even to the point of humiliation and death on a cross. It was not bad luck that put Christ on the cross. It was Providence. And Jesus accepted the Father's will for Him without bitterness or complaint.

For us, our cross is to accept where God has placed us and what God has planned for us. It matters not whether we have good fortune or bad fortune in our lives. What matters is that we accept both with humility and the knowledge that it all comes from God's hand. The proper response to these things is gratitude. God knows best, and the light of eternity will reveal this even if we see it only through the darkened looking glass of the present time. Life is not chaos, and God is not unjust. Trust in God.