The multi-state lottery is up to $112 million, so I bought a ticket. This, of course, is silliness in its rawest form. The odds are no different for a big pot or a small one. I doubt I would be any less happy winning a one million dollar pot versus a pot ten or hundred times that. So why am I so much more willing to throw my hard-earned money away when the prize gets up into the triple digits?
An old army buddy used to say that the lottery is a tax on those who are bad at math. Maybe. However, it is also a tax on those who allow delusional hope to blur the line between the rational and the irrational, between the possible and the impossible.
Sometimes I will build up an elaborate fantasy around what I would do if I won—how I would spend the money, how long before I quit my job, whether I would gloat and to whom, etc. Of course, when the winning numbers are announced, and I lose (which, considering the odds, is not that unexpected of an outcome); the fantasy bubble bursts, and I tear up the ticket and get on with my life. The hopeful fantasy is fun while it lasts, but there is little sense in dwelling on my loss when the odds were so significantly stacked against me.
The fantasy bubble does not always burst so easily. I have been carrying around a losing lottery ticket, so to speak, for far too long. When the prize-winning numbers were announced, I was devastated and have refused to accept the outcome. The sad reality is that the ticket was always without intrinsic value; I just did not realize it until I compared the numbers. Months later, though, the irrational is not just staring down the rational across a blurry line; the former is consuming the latter. The worthless ticket continues to fuel innumerable delusions, which once were a harmless distraction, but now are negatively impacting all aspects of my life—professional, personal, and spiritual. Fortunately, this has so far been a private struggle, hurting no one but myself; however, I fear that if I let it linger on, it may cause me to hurt and alienate those I care most about.
I even tried to tear the ticket up once, but quickly dug the pieces out of the trash and taped them back together. “Well,” I rationalized, “what if they announce all of a sudden that the drawing was in error, and they pick new numbers.” The cold, hard reality, though, is the drawing is past. I lost. I need to run that ticket through the shredder, and be done with it. I need to stop playing that particular lottery entirely and maybe try one with better odds. Unfortunately, I doubt that is something that I will be able to accomplish without help.