So Just Why Didn't You Take That Flight Which Later Crashed In the sea!

What’s a sophisticated generation like ours still doing with old-fashioned horoscopes, superstitions, apparitions, and Tarot cards? I’ll tell you what. Like our ancient tribal ancestors, we cling to whatever glints of meaning we can still find in an otherwise dark, random world. Call these glints fate, destiny, karma, science, or God, everyone needs some sense of meaning to their life. Otherwise everything and everyone is a pointless roll of the dice we can’t even hold.

If knocking-on-wood or grabbing our lucky charm embarrasses our rational selves, could it be doing anything for our non-rational selves? Of all people, scientists are lately saying: A lot! In his book “The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking” Matthew Hutson writes: “The good news is that superstitious thought, or magical thinking, even as it misrepresents reality, has its advantages. It offers psychological benefits that logic and science can’t always provide: namely a sense of control and meaning.”

Turn off your computer for a moment and give vent to your Santa-Claus-Days. Let your non-rational self [distinct from your irrational self ] scan current research studies into the realm of the superstitious:

*Psychologist Lysann Damisch of the University of Cologne reports: “Golfers using what they were told is a lucky ball sank 35% more putts.”

* Anthropologist Richard Sosis of the University of Connecticut found during Israel’s second intifada, “the women in the attacked town of Tzfat who recited psalms benefited with reduced anxiety from their increased sense of control…this so-called teleological reasoning finds intentions and goals behind even evidently purposeless events…and when lacking a visible author, we end up creating an invisible one: God, karma, destiny, whatever.”

* Psychologist Kenneth Pargament of Bowling Green University reports: “Students who viewed a negative event as part-of-God’s-plan showed more growth in its aftermath as they became more open to new perspectives, more intimate in relationships, more persistent in overcoming challenges.”

Matthew Hutson concludes: “This isn’t to say magical thinking has no downsides. At its worst, it can lead to obsession, fatalism, or psychosis. But without it, the existential angst of realizing we’re just impermanent clusters of molecules with no ultimate purpose would overwhelm us. So to believe in magic — as on some deep level we all do — does not make you stupid or crazy. It makes you human.”

Does anyone doubt their own humanity so much as to doubt this writer’s conclusion…?

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  • Either it is the placebo effect, or there is something to it.

    My mother said "if you want to sell you house, you have to bury St. Joseph upside down in the front yard." "Even if you are not Catholic?" "Especially."

    Anyway, after 3 weeks I did. Got an offer in 3 days.

    Even the guy in the Catholic bookshop said "you're selling your house, aren't you?"

    But now living in a condo, I don't see how that will work this time.

  • In reply to jack:

    Hey, Jack, seems like you've got the St Joe things down pat!

  • In reply to Jack Spatafora:

    At least my mother did.

    However, when my parents sold their house, they had to put it on the market again because the first buyer didn't meet the contingency. However, there are plenty of real estate agents in the right pane.

    BTW, wasn't St. Joseph on car dashboards? I guess having a magnetic icon went out when padded dashboards were required.

  • In reply to jack:

    With traditional Catholics, St Joe is everywhere

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