The first three numbers of the winning $640 Mega Millions jackpot drawn last night read like the vital statistics of a porn star. They are 46-23-38. I missed the final combination of 46-23-38-4-2-23 by a few light years.
Greed was on display over the past few days as the frenzy to buy the lottery tickets for America’s highest jackpot built up. A local Indian-American owned grocery store in Naperville had people practically doing pooja on the lottery machine dispensing the tickets. Three people won the jackpot, one in Maryland, one in Kansas and one in Illinois. My only consolation is that one of the three lives in the same state as I.
I am pretty certain that lottery is a uniquely human pastime. I do not think lions or apes or hyenas or vultures or lemurs have their comparable Mega Millions. That could be because they have not perfected the drawing machine technology. If they had, they too would have their version of Mega Millions with the lions always drawing the numbers in the Serengeti and winning. Also, Nat Geo would have made a special about Mega Animillions.
At its heart lottery is about grabbing a fortune without breaking a sweat. There is primal attraction in attaining something without any effort. The idea that the simple act of spending a buck or two on a lottery ticket may hold the promise of millions and millions is irresistible. I have done it about a dozen times over the past 14 years. I never did that while in India. It is only after coming to America that I contracted the disease. I suppose one can argue that buying about one lottery ticket a year hardly rises to the level of a disease but still it says something about my vulnerability to greed.
I have heard stories about the lives of jackpot winners taking a turn for the worse in the aftermath. People cite these stories to underscore the myth that an undeserving windfall never does any good to anyone. I don’t think there is anything particularly destructive about an undeserving windfall. In the end, it all boils down to how intelligently one manages one’s fortune. It is true that wealth attracts many forgotten friends and relatives, not to mention non-existent ones. On balance though, how could a lot of money in one’s bank account be destructive in and of itself?
The only problem I see with a windfall like a jackpot of any scale is that more often than not those who win it do not have the imagination to employ it smartly. The luxury of never ever having to work to survive ought to open up so many fantastic creative possibilities.
There is nothing like too much wealth. There is, of course, something like too little imagination.
On a side note, people often ask me (Actually, no one does) whether I would let the world know if I ever win a big lottery. My answer is no because it is unseemly enough to win without working for it. To make it public is to make it even more vulgar.