Friday, 2 December 2011

Superstition and embarrassing throwbacks.

Superstition; it’s a little bit like an appendix. When we used to roam the land in prehistoric times, and the weight of what we didn’t know about the world around us threatened to overwhelm us, we created explanations; rituals and routines to stave off this fear. But nowadays, it’s no longer needed. It’s a little like that fear people have for spiders. They aren’t going to hurt us but our brain is wired for that shape of creature to be a threat, because there was a time when it was. That little element of the brain and psyche which makes people throw salt over their shoulder and create a mess is anachronistic now; we do understand the world better.

Communication, technology and science have allowed the doubt to fade, but that little pillock superstition continues to make fools of us all. Yes I avoid ladders. I can’t help myself. Yes I hate the number 13. But it’s my brain playing games with me, I know it is. Religions are both a result of this and exploitative of it. Superstitions, like any social construct, have changed over hundreds of years. People used to think in the 19th century that if they dropped a cloth it meant someone would visit, or if they saw a new moon over their left shoulder that bad luck would befall them. Logically we know this is nonsense, but something draws us into our own bizarre little rituals.

There are some folk with a heightened presence of this little pillock, and it causes them to go up and down the stairs again if they missed counting a step (yes I’ve done this). It causes them to wash their hands too frequently because of a fear of germs. It causes them to touch their furniture in a certain order before leaving the house and if they miss it, it means the world is going to end. We think these people have an illness, OCD. But it’s seemingly ok to touch a piece of wood whenever we believe we have been presumptuous or expecting a lot. So, superstition. I know it’s there, and I keep doing odd stuff in its name. But I know that it is just a bit of my brain which was useful once, when the world was too big for a human to comprehend properly, and is a relic. Not to be taken too seriously. That’s easier said than done though. When’s the next Friday the 13th?


Ashley R Lister said...

The next Friday 13th is January 2012.

I'm surprised that, as a group of rational adults on this blog, we all share so many of these superstitions.

I'm tempted to make a joke and say they really must be 'super' but the truth is - regardless of whether we're rational or not - this stuff really does have a hold over us.


vicky ellis said...

The step from superstition to OCD is scary isn't it? Part of the same beast. I hadn't thought of it that way before. Interesting angle, thank you :)

Lara Clayton said...

I almost wrote about OCD on Tuesday!
Great post Lindsay, that really gets us thinking.