“Once upon a time a young lad left his home and went out to see the world and seek his fortune…”
So many stories start like that, but people don’t seem to do that anymore. What does it mean to ‘seek your fortune’? Is it the same as ‘following your bliss’? Becoming an entrepreneur? What is your fortune, and how do you know when you find it?
I don’t think many of us have any ambition to marry a princess and become a king, although I have met people of both (main) genders who’ve expressed the idea that “it’s as easy to fall in love with a rich person as a poor one”. Family money (and connections) is certainly a great resource to have as a fall back’, but all those folk heroes tended to have the advantage of having an independent way of looking at a problem. They were kind to those who didn’t seem to have much to pay them back, the old, the poor, animals…
There’s a quote I love about fairy tales: by G.K. Chesterton”: “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” Fairy (or folk) tales don’t tell children how to win a kingdom so much as they tell children (especially the children who are feeling neglected, unappreciated, or deprived) how to succeed at life. Be polite and kind to the old people, those weaker than them, anyone who needed help. If you do that, you are more likely to receive help, and pretty much, have better luck than the fellows who start out with a horse, and gold, and servants, and tend to be jerks (in the stories, at least).
Some of this could be attitude. Another story tells of a priest who had two different couples moving from their small town to the city, and who came to ask what people would be like in the city. He asked the first couple: “What are the people like here?” The first couple said “They’re mean, and selfish. They never help when we need it, and it’s hard to make friends here.” and the minister told them sadly, “I regret to tell you that the people in the city are just the same.” When the second couple wanted to know the same thing, he asked them the same question. They said “People here are wonderful, we hate to leave them! They are warm, generous, and friendly. We don’t know if we’ll be able to make as many friends there as we’re leaving behind.” And he told the second couple not to worry. “The people in the city are just the same as they are here.” So much of what we experience is filtered through our expectations. (Personally, if I’d been the minister, I’d have been tempted to tell the first couple that the people in the city were much nicer, and tried to change their expectations.)
At every stage of life our “fortunes” change, we start a new adventure. It is important to step into the future, like the Fool, open to all the myriad experiences. Some will be pleasant, some will be unpleasant, some will be boring, some confusing, but if we welcome them all as “learning experiences”, we can weather them all, and if we don’t win a kingdom, we’ll still come out the wealthier for it.