The X-Factor has many meanings, including those to do with mathematics, blood and genes. I’ll confine myself to the quality of surprise in circumstance or person that has a strong, unpredictable influence on an outcome and then explore the innate power some people have which can be a source of happiness, or the reverse.
In scenario one, imagine a perfect crime, planned to the second. The gang plan to rob a bank at night. They’ve gone over and over the details with precision, studied the guard’s nightly routine, found someone on the inside to feed them information and smooth the way, obtained numbers, computer details and codes of the security systems, examined the building layout and dimensions, decided on an entry point through the roof from a back lane, tested equipment – albeit in another location – every action’s been rehearsed over and over. They’re ready. All that remains is a moonless night with cloud cover, so they won’t be seen climbing onto the roof. What could possibly go wrong?
On the night in question, a truck overturns outside the bank, traffic’s diverted, streets closed, firemen and police swarming everywhere …
The second sort of x-factor we’ll ponder is an accident of birth, that mixture of charm, intelligence, self-confidence, sex appeal and personality that, in the thirties, used to be called it, an indefinable ability of certain individuals to mesmerize and fascinate, often stars of stage and screen. Those with this gift delight, amaze and intrigue. It’s a luminosity, a shining, the power to enrapture, which lesser mortals do not have, and cannot cultivate, however long they strive. Actors like Alec Guiness and Noel Coward had it, as did Marilyn Monroe and the late Princess Diana.
It can’t be bought or bartered. No lip injections of Botox, face-lifts, boob or butt enhancement operations can manufacture it: all too often, those who tread this path end up looking ridiculous.
On reading the celebrity pages, newspapers or watching TV, it’s plain that even the rich and beautiful lead less than perfect lives. The one thing they most ardently desire – happiness- often eludes them in a merry-go-round of changing partners, travel, gambling or building bigger and better mansions.
In the real world, most of us learn to be content with so-so looks, less than perfect bodies, and modest homes, leading quiet lives, knowing the ability to love and be loved is the most important of all. Noel Coward thought this obvious. There’s a richness of intellectual life available outside schools and universities. Einstein declared the first thing he did in adult life was to forget what he’d learned in school, so all’s not lost if you’ve had little formal education.
Books, libraries, U3A, WEA, the internet and dozens of other places provide stimulating courses, having nothing to do with the quest for money or power – unless you happen to be studying stocks and shares. Journeys of the mind, poetry, literature, discoveries in every field, enrich and inform, offering a lifetime of joy, excitement and satisfaction.
Whether you reside in city, suburb or on some remote farm – unless you plan to rob a bank – forget the X or it factor: find your passion and just do it. Modern technology has brought technology to our fingertips.