WOTD: superstition

There is superstition…the writing’s on the wall…

Today’s word is a noun, a concept really, defined as, “a belief or notion (not based on reason or knowledge) in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.” I find superstition as a concept to quite fascinating. The idea that certain objects or actions could possibly affect the outcome of random future events is something that occurs in every nation on earth. However, like art and literature and other things created by humans, superstitious beliefs are culturally specific. Things that considered bad or good luck in one country have no significance whatsoever in others.

In the United States for example, it’s said to be bad luck to open up an umbrella indoors. Certain numbers are considered good or bad luck. The most well-known of these is the number 13. I’m not sure if it’s really true or just an urban legend that certain tall buildings and sky scrapers deliberately leave out a thirteenth floor because of the ominous significance of that number. However, in Japan the number 13 has no significance and the number four is bad luck. This is because the Japanese character for the number four looks similar to the character for death, or something.

Anyway, what I find really interesting about superstitious belief is that even people who swear they aren’t superstitious nevertheless find themselves altering their behavior because something is considered good or back luck in their culture. When I was living in Japan I remember being at a department store picking out an umbrella. Several others were there and they were all opening and closing different umbrellas in order to try them out. I’d heard people say that opening an umbrella indoors was bad luck, though I never seriously believed it. Yet, I found myself reluctant and almost uncomfortable with the idea of opening the umbrella inside the store. It was weird. How can the action of opening an umbrella indoors possibly have any affect on anything? And yet, I hesitated.

Some of the most superstitious people are actors and sports people. They might have been wearing a particular pair of socks and had an unusually good game or performance, so they decide that those socks must have certain powers and if they wear them for every single performance or game then they’ll have a greater chance of succeeding. Of course it’s all bullshit, and often they realize it’s bullshit, yet they still don’t feel ready to perform unless they’re wearing their totemic item.

Enough for now…

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