Sunday, November 1, 2009

Rabbit, Rabbit: The Superstitious Project

I've decided to take up a new project, and therefore I must begin by saying: rabbit, rabbit. If you know why I just invoked our furry friends twice, then you may be aware of the many odd superstitions that humans have come up with over the years. Saying, “rabbit, rabbit,” or even better, “Rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit,” upon waking at the start of each month is supposed to bring good luck for the duration of the month.

Alas, there it is; this is the solution to all of our problems. Car broke down? Stubbed your toe? Had a cold? Bought a losing lottery ticket? Well, you couldn't have been all that careful. You must not have paid proper homage to the Leporidae. The Leporids love all of us, and formed us all in THEIR (followers of the Leporidae capitalize all letters of all holy pronouns) own image, which explains our love for carrot cake. All we have to do is accept this love, and offer ourselves up to the Leporidae by chanting the sacred chant every month. Oh, and believe that King Leporid sent to us HIS son, who was sort of a king but also a prince. HIS son, Baby H. Leporid, ate all of the slices of the other kinds of cake, so that we wouldn't have to. Then HE died of a massive heart attack, but three-ish days later HE rose from the dead. Well, actually, HE sort of rolled from the dead, because of all the weight HE put on from the cake. You had to be there. But then, King Leporid sent the Holy Crane, which scooped up Baby H. Leporid and brought HIM over to Rabbit Den, where HE lived on forever. Now, if we eat any other slice of cake, we must ask forgiveness and partake of the Holy Carrot Cake. Thus, the true meaning of Thanksgiving (United Statesians being the only true followers of the Leporidae). Of course, everyone else co-opted the holiday, and brought in traditions of eating other unLeporidly cakes.

Okay, so superstitions are not that bad. Or are they? I am making a not-so-subtle point, and clearly preaching to the converted, for lack of a better phrase. It seems odd to me that religious folk make a very clear delineation in their minds between what they perceive to be frivolous foolishness, and what they deem holy and sacred. As far as I am concerned, it is just as silly to say grace over a meal as it is to avoid opening an umbrella inside. After all, there is basis for all, if not most, of the superstitions people hold- just check this out.

In actuality, I accept rote behavior due to superstition to a point. When I was a teenager, for some incredibly strange reason that I can't hope to ever remember, I felt a sense of foreboding one night while looking at a digital clock at 10:35. An hour later, I happened to glance at the clock again. I got the same feeling from 11:35, though less intense. I know, you don't have to tell me how crazy that is. Anyway, I decided then and there, mostly for fun, that I would never look at a digital clock at those times, AM or PM, again. If I did, surely something bad would happen. I very much understood that I was making up a superstition, and that nothing would truly happen. However, simultaneously my mind began building up evidence for my superstition. I would attribute bad things that had happened to the occasions I would happen to catch one of those times on the clock. Whether as a result of my “evidence” or because I wanted to develop a silly habit, for years I avoided looking at a clock at those times. To this day, I experience displeasure when I see those two combinations of numbers. What I intended to cultivate as a quirk ended up actually staining my psyche.

I believe that most of the people reading this prize their ability to think critically and tbelieve that they could never let something as silly happen to them. As I said, I accept rote repetitions of superstition to a point, the point being that they are still considered merely a quirk by the participant, have not crossed over into belief, and do not interfere with others. However, my imaginative mind managed to turn quirk into belief. I will admit that I did not sincerely believe it, but I did let if affect my opinion of a random display of numbers. Is it possible that others do the same? Is it possible that some religious folk have turned their quirks into beliefs? I honestly don't think that is the case for most, but I am interested in discovering whether there is a little bit of truth to this idea. Jesus never says grace in the King James Bible, so where does this come from? Is this a superstition that Christians follow? What about non-theists? Are there things you do that are superstitious, and do you believe in their validity? Are there things that you do that are superstitiously based, but you know they hold no validity and do them for other reasons? I have rational friends who kiss their hands and lift them to the roof of the car when they pass through yellow lights. Is there any personal validity to something like that?

As an ex-Christian, I find myself wanting to pray when I am in stressful situations. At first I was ashamed by this behavior. I thought it meant that I secretly believed in a god. I have come to accept it, however. It is a superstitious ritual that has no meaning, and as long as I accept it as meaningless, there is no harm to it. In fact, if I accept it as a means of becoming more personally attuned, then it is helpful. Now when I “pray”, I turn “Dear God,” into “Dear Self.” When I talk about personal validity, I am referring to something like this.

I am not sure exactly how this is going to work yet, but I intend to embark upon a new project. I'd like to live according to certain superstitions for an extended period of time. I'm not sure yet what my point is, other than to demonstrate the silliness of it all. The most I could hope for would be to demonstrate this to theists, and how similar it is to what they believe. Perhaps I could include a saying of grace in the project, demonstrating how silly I feel it is. I hope to explore if there are any personally or socially valid reasons for following these superstitions without belief, like my need to “pray.” I'd also like to explore the dangers of following superstitions with belief, and how close these can be to religious rituals. Please comment with your ideas, especially superstitions you think it might be interesting for me to follow. My current guidelines are:

1. I would like to follow superstitions that affect my daily life, as opposed to ones I'd only encounter during certain occasions, like weddings or funerals. I'm not against including those also, but I'd like to focus on more interfering ones.

2. Though I would like them to affect my daily life, I will not follow ones that seriously impede my ability to function normally. If they interfere with my work in any way, they will not be accepted. However, I am a writer, so it is not too difficult to work around my work. My family and social lives, on the other hand, are totally fair game.

3. They must have some sort of established and documented historical tradition to them. Nothing like my 10:35 superstition will be included.

4. I will ultimately decide on which will be followed, which won't, when I can make a legitimate and necessary exception to a followed superstition, and the length of time. I will liken this to the cherry-picking many religious folk do.

5. If any superstitions directly conflict with The Teachings of the Leporidae, they will be rejected and sentenced to life as Devil's Food Cake. Yes, that's right. Superstition as a cake. It is real, and it is terrible.

Please spread the word, especially to anyone who knows of or follows superstitions. Thanks for reading, and I'll keep everyone updated. In the meantime, rabbit, rabbit.

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to suggest you consider the superstitious beliefs related to Chinese numbers.

    1-3 = lucky numbers
    4 = unlucky (death)
    6 = lucky, good for business
    7 = lucky, good for relationships
    8 = lucky, good for economy

    I don't know how you would use these beliefs in a practical way, but you could figure something out?