The Value of Superstition

Today, a black cat crossed my path (I live with three, so it happens pretty often), and a murder of crows called me outside to check the landscape for trouble. The wind was blowing from the west, so I checked the clouds for signs, but they seemed to be holding steady, with only the usual portents and omens. So I glanced over the leaves on the trees and the progress of the spiders, and wandered in for a cup of tea, where I stirred the cream clockwise and made sure to glance at the escaped tea leaves in the bottom of the cup. I throw salt over my shoulder when I spill it, knock on wood when I talk about good events in my life, and throw a kiss to the ceiling of my truck when I run a red light (which, of course, I never, ever do).

Many people feel they are above such archaic expressions of the desire to control the random fate of the universe. In an (supposedly) enlightened age of science and reason, they feel that to submit to a tradition such as superstition would be a flaw in their thinking, a piece of grit in a highly polished lens (to paraphrase Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). They traverse their days in an orderly manner, effect following cause in a seemingly predictable pattern. Until it doesn’t, and they must turn to probability to diagnose the pattern. This is all very well and good, but it denies a fundamental human need, that of mystery and meaning.

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