The Guru and the Cat
Once upon a time, there was a certain guru. During meditation, the temple’s resident Cat would wind around amongst the meditators, meowing loudly and making it hard to concentrate on anything other than her. So, the guru ordered that the Cat be tied up outside the the meditation hall. In due course, the guru departed the physical realm for more ethereal pursuits, and the students continued to tie the Cat up outside the hall, although few had been with the temple long enough at that point to remember why. Time passed, and the Cat eventually joined the guru. So…the students procured a new Cat, who they duly tied up outside the meditation hall, while they were sitting. Centuries later, scholars would write learned treatises on the importance of having a Cat tied up outside the room in which one is meditating.
-Source unknown, but possibly fictional…
Kind of a silly story, and a trap which, in these enlightened times, none of us would ever fall into. Or…would we? How many of us have habits which we adopted so long ago that we have forgotten why we do them? How many of those habits were consciously adopted, long ago, and now are so far from consciousness that we would deny doing them if asked? How many of those habits have stories wrapped around them to justify their existence, even though they don’t make sense? How many of us make a habit of questioning those habits, when they show up, or even of seeking them out, when they don’t? For instance…how many of us refer to making an auditory duplicate of an event as “taping” it? How long has it been since that term made sense? How about the ring or wristwatch (remember wristwatches?) you no longer wear, but keep adjusting, anyway?
So, to, with Superstitions. Some make sense, sometimes called “constructive paranoia”. In other words, the behaviors do not objectively make sense, but, given the life history of the individual, not only make sense, but their life without them wouldn’t make sense. Habits like going back to check the stove, even if you know you didn’t turn it on, which drive your friends and relatives crazy, might make sense in someone who had lived in a situation where stoves were routinely left on when housemate(s!) had left for work. Others, like a dread of the number 13, might have historic or cultural roots that simply don’t make sense in the current age.
There are also funny ones, like a practice which had become Superstition, bleeding Humans with Leeches, and which, for a long time, was synonymous with barbaric medicinal practices, is now recognized to have valid medical applications. Superstitions around certain Plants being poisonous or medicinal, which turn out not to be (The Milkweed Effect).
What Superstitions are active in your life? Why do you believe them? Are they constructive, destructive, neutral? Do they make sense to you, but to nobody else? Are they cultural? Familial? Personal? Do you remember the moment you were taught one, or when you started to believe one? Is it only a Superstition if it is active in the life of someone who is not you?
Superstitions, at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday, 13 April. We often go to dinner afterwards, maybe we will this week, too.