Last week, when the Mega Millions Lottery reached the largest amount in history, I bought a few tickets. I’d never bought a lottery ticket before, but this time I had to. First of all, I liked the camaraderie. There was a general buzz of excitement all around. This was probably nation wide, but I assume was even more scintillating in The South. When the idea of “what if”” infiltrates a small southern town people start scrambling around like ants after a single drop of honey…and frankly, it’s damned enjoyable.
There was an energy floating around in its purest form. It was salt of the Earth, fundamental hope. Somebody was going to win the pot, and for at least a day, that idea reminded people,vastly diverse people, that we’re all human. We like the idea of hope. We like the idea of maybe. We like the idea of dreams coming true. It is practically written into the human genome, but it’s one of those factors that doesn’t show up on the scientific map.
At first glance, winning the lottery doesn’t exactly appeal to deep thinkers as a vessel leading to some kind of universal truth about the human condition, but my single day of studying this matter proved the contrary. It doesn’t matter how seemingly superficial, not to mention unlikely, winning the lottery is. It was a reason to feed that place in the pit of our stomachs that whispers to us all the time. It gave us a reason for a “What if.” We need that…if we knew there was no possibility of an unknown greatness, slumbering somewhere in our lifelines begging to be woken up, why would we care to keep living? Hope, no matter how big or small, serious or playful takes up at least half of the substance flowing through our veins. Maybe it’s what makes our blood turn red when it meets oxygen, when it is released from our bodies into the world. It’s a red-hot excitement for what’s next. Even people who wallow in their own methods self-preservation, proclaiming hopelessness really have it deep down. They are just the ones who don’t tell anyone. It is innate to hope, wired in us to ask, with unrivaled yearning, “What if?”