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The International Writers Magazine
: Remember it's bad luck to believe in susperstitions!
Reverend Father Antonio Hernández, O.M.D., A.B.F.
Founder of the Independent Order of American Buddhist Fathers


Birds and rodents are exquisite hoarders, and thieves. It is something of a mystery why they steal/collect shiny objects. Even archeologists can attest to the fact, as they suffer horrifying moments when they find a video game token in a dig. This happens often, thanks to the hoarding creatures.

Once my mother and I watched a crow ingeniously untie a complicated sailor's knot with its beak. The bird wanted the thin rope for nesting material, my mother said. "And when they need something, animals are smarter than humans", she said. We had a conversation about the superiority of engineering in birds' nests. My mother mentioned something about rats' nests, though she cringed with all her might.

It occurred to me then that we were discussing the possible roots of human superstitions. Collecting can shade into superstition, so I will avoid that fond topic. Superstition- which I call "stupidstition"- is my target here. Thomas Jefferson once called Christianity "our (meaning Westerners) own peculiar superstition", and said he found no distinction between it and any other superstition. It amounted to silly, magical beliefs, hoarding and irrational imbuing of objects with some sort of 'life'.

Perhaps superstition is a remnant survival instinct of some sort, but I doubt this. Many bar fights have ensued over the cigarette-bumming pal who commits the grievous sin of taking the "lucky cigarette". For those who do not know, the lucky cigarette is the first to be removed from a new pack. It is turned upside down and returned to the pack. It must be the last cigarette of the pack to be smoked. Reason? Explanation? Not the slightest hint.

Many people have lucky charms (I don't mean the cereal). They rub them, talk to them, some even 'pray' to these inanimate objects. Several of our people in Iraq have made headlines which dealt with their lucky charms (a miniature Barbie doll and a teddy bear among them). When we're not at war, it's the lucky charms of famous athletes that are discussed with scholarly intensity. Many people have lucky underwear. I myself do not.

People have inordinate fears that amount to superstition. Some people avoid numbers, locations, colors, and days of the week. "Unlucky", I've been told when I've asked folks to explain their aversions. We all know about hotels not having 13th floors, going instead from 12 to 14. We know of the intense hatred for Mondays. Anyone care to volunteer the words "DUMB ASS" yet?

Superstition may take the place of religion. Religion itself being no more than terrifically organized superstitions, there seems to be no qualm about allowing individual eccentricities. Catholics do weird things with statues of the saints; Jews spit all over everything; Buddhists want to keep a death grip on their "Lucky Buddha"; I have no idea what the Muslims and Zoroastrians do. Perhaps they throw lucky darts at pictures of Westerners.

Well, after all this ranting (superstitiously?), I find no harm in the charm. Dumb, yes, but harmless. We need our totems, charms, talismans. A rabbit's foot will not change destiny, but it could help people change their minds. Telling a string of prayer beads will not tell the future, but it can help keep us noble. And that family heirloom charm bracelet is a respectable token by any standard- even if we are rendered agoraphobic without it.

The only two things I personally wish, not being at all superstitious, is, firstly, that people should stop laying beer bottles across each others' heads over the lucky cigarette. Secondly, I'd love not to be pelted with salt some idiot at the next table has spilled, then hurled over the left shoulder, directly at me. Then, who knows? Perhaps war will eventually stop, too.

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