Superstition is a funny thing isn’t it? Not the Stevie Wonder classic, which is an attack on superstition and only funny if, like me, you think that a blind man singing about graffiti is amusing. No I’m talking about the weird little things we still say and do even when, in the main, we don’t consider ourselves superstitious anymore. But we are aren’t we? Deep down in the places you don’t like to talk about at parties you still think that agency can be superimposed upon non-human and inanimate objects – go on admit it! For all our supposed sophistications we still act as if good luck and bad luck can be attracted to us through seemingly unrelated actions. How did that happen and why does it still happen?
Firstly, hats off to the guy or gal who, when told that a seagull had just taken a big liquid crap on them, thought on their feet and in a ballsy voice said
“Nah you’ve got it all wrong – THAT’S LUCKY THAT IS”
“Is it? It doesn’t appear to be very lucky, you have liquid white shit in your hair”
“I’m telling you – someone is smiling down on me today. Wow I feel so blessed”
Seriously 10 out of 10 for that person – that’s probably where the word gullible comes from. I applaud you, whoever you are – but I don’t believe you. I believe in the inherent malice of seagulls. Presumably they then trod in dogshit the following week and thought “Can I get away with this twice?” and to their credit they did. My mum once worked in a care home and one day an old man threw a poo at her. I can assure you she didn’t feel particularly lucky that day. She didn’t rush out and buy a scratch card. She rushed home and sat in a bath of hot bleach for an hour.
Horseshoes, rabbit’s feet, birdshit, crossing your fingers, the right number of magpies and mutant clover are all good. Black cats, the wrong number of magpies, crossing on the stairs, ladybirds, the number 13, ladyboys, going to Dover and walking under ladders are all considered bad luck (I made the one up about Dover, but seriously have you been there recently?). Planes miss out the 13th row, skyscrapers skip the 13th floor; clearly they’re still there but the airlines and builders think that they can outsmart the powers of fortune with the old “different label” trick – in your face destiny, we’ve circumvented your unguessable designs!
The truth is we can’t really deal with the random nature of the universe so we have to create “rules” which we can then mould our perception of reality around. Karma is a perfect example; I am not denying that the by-product of such a precept is beneficial to mankind but it struggles to explain itself more often than not and we tend to ignore the inconsistencies, the things that don’t fall in line with our beliefs. Witness the Sri Lankan fisherman who, on a whim, went out early and missed the Boxing Day Tsunami – this he might attribute to Karma or to supernatural powers or his lucky fishing rod. He will congratulate himself on being lucky never wondering what the 12,000 drowned children did that morning to deserve their fate.
Because of these inconsistencies I am not superstitious and I believe in no higher powers, so I cock a ribald snook at capricious fortune. You should too – there’s no-one watching.
If that’s too sobering a thought, don’t panic guys, we’re not alone in the universe – there are seven billion of us, each one a marvel of contradictions – it’s what will keep life interesting. Fingers crossed.