I’m Not Going to Win Powerball. I’m Playing Anyway.

It’s a Tuesday in January, and I’m going to the liquor store tonight. Maybe I should buy something to pour, too, but yes, I’m buying a few Powerball tickets, in hopes of winning the $1.5 Billion jackpot in Wednesday’s night’s drawing.

Well, it’s not really “hope,” exactly. I know that, rationally speaking, I have no business with hope. As Daniel Victor drily pointed out in The New York Times, my paltry 1 in 292.2 million odds of winning make me 246 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to win the Powerball drawing this week.

No matter. Sometimes it’s not about statistics, but just about joining in a collective experience. Right now, no matter how you see America and its politics, we can probably agree that too much of our national news and even our personal Facebook feeds is weighted with conflict and disagreement and frightening developments.

Realistically, I don’t have much hope of doing anything about these unpleasant things either. Even my vote in a national presidential election is practically useless, considering the odds that my vote will be the one that actually swings a tied election to the winning candidate. I don’t know what the odds of that actual circumstance are, but I’ll bet you a Powerball ticket that they’re probably worse than your or my chances of winning this lottery. Yet, most of us opt into elections anyway and cast our one measly vote, because believing that the individual matters is as American as Thanksgiving turkey.

It’s more, too, than believing that this time, it could be lucky little me cashing the check. A jackpot like this, the kind that gets the office and Facebook chatting and folks lining up to buy, is a bit of shared optimism in action. It’s not really about the big drawing itself so much as the spirit of possibility and camaraderie that leads up to it. Maybe it’s even proof that we grown-ups still know how to play a sportsmanlike game together once in a while, just because.

If you wish, you can keep your $2 and your (reasonable, but utterly joyless) pessimism. I’m opting into the fun.

And, yes, I’m sure I’ll be joining you at work on Thursday.

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