It’s Friday the 13th, but you knew that, right?
Are you possibly just a little bit superstitious?
If you are, you aren’t alone. And according to an opinion piece by Mathew Hutson in last weekend’s Sunday Times, magical thinking might be viewed as part of the human condition. We all do it, though we may not recognize it, and we also may not term it superstition.
So what is superstition, exactly?
According to Merriam Webster, superstition is
a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation; [a] notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary
Fear, Control, Magical Thinking
Considering that definition of superstition, couldn’t we deem many of our beliefs as rising out of ignorance or fear? What about the habits we rely on for luck, clinging to them because they seem to work? And the routines we prefer not to disrupt before a presentation, a ball game, or a public performance?
Opening that email that promises to deliver the new job, the necessary loan, the next hot date?
At the very least, can we deny that we hold to personal convictions with or without evidence to support them? What about matters of faith, blind love, wishful thinking? Intuition?
As Mr. Hutson points out in the Times:
…some level of belief in the supernatural — often a subtle and unconscious belief — appears to be unavoidable, even among skeptics.
He goes on to say:
… superstitious thought, or “magical thinking,” even as it misrepresents reality… offers psychological benefits that logic and science can’t always provide… a sense of control and a sense of meaning.
Aren’t we all superstitious? Don’t we engage in private rituals, consciously or otherwise, that qualify as magical thinking – enabling us to feel in control even when we’re not?
As for some common superstitions, among them are:
- Friday the 13th is bad luck
- A rabbit’s foot is a good luck charm (a talisman of sorts)
- Finding a four-leaf clover is lucky, as is finding a penny in the street
- Walking under a ladder or breaking a mirror is bad luck
- The black cat crossing your path? Again, bad luck!
Personally, I don’t subscribe to the belief that we make our own luck – at least, not entirely – though I’m convinced we pave the way for opportunities with a positive approach, with preparation, and saying yes more often than no.
Yet I do believe in bad luck, which I generally think of as “just life” – and managing the consequences.
I also believe in hard work, in thoughtful analysis, in learning from our mistakes, in a healthy respect for taking precautions when warranted. I deal in what I can see and also, I trust my intuition. Yet wouldn’t some say that intuition is akin to superstition?
Miracles? Sci Fi? Il n’y a pas de hasard?
This week, when a friend’s son was taken seriously ill, she asked for my prayers.
And she got them.
I sent out a wave of positive thinking as powerful as I could muster, the prayers of a faith taught to me in childhood and rarely exercised, the entreaties to the universe from the depths of shared maternal spirit that would do anything to make a child well.
I was not alone in this. Others did the same, and a team of physicians, nurses, technicians and hospital staff all did their jobs – well.
My friend’s son is doing better.
My whispers were an act of desperation, of inspiration, of collaboration – a nod to whatever gods may exist in our hearts, of our own creation, or something more. Perhaps this is fear-driven magical thinking, with a delicate dose of fatalist il n’y a pas de hasard. To me, it hardly matters.
I will say it again, and with extraordinary gratitude: My friend’s son is doing better.
An Excellent Friday (13th or Not)
Today, I consider it an excellent Friday whatever the date. A young man is regaining his health. My own sons are doing well. (Yes, I’m making progress on those damnable forms for college aid.)
When I run my errands, though there is no special charm or talisman I turn to for good fortune, no image I envision when irrational belief is the most rational tool I may possess, I will nonetheless avoid the black cat, the obstructing ladder, and be pleased if I come upon a lucky penny.
- Your dusty faith?
- Your lucky charms?
- Your belief in powers we cannot see?