Lent 14: Very Superstitious…

… Writin’s on the wall…Very superstitious… ladder’s ’bout to fall…

Who likes Stevie Wonder? So good. Let’s enjoy that for a sec.

OK. Here we go, then.

Long ago, in Waywaybackland, my girlfriends and I used to play a “who will be my boyfriend” game with the apples in our lunches. We held onto the stem and twisted the apple. The number of twists it took was proportional to the first initial of your boyfriend. Then, you took the broken off stem and stabbed at the apple. The number of stabs it took to break through the peel corresponded to the last initial of your boyfriend. Of course, there were girls who would crank on that apple and stab like they were slaying a dragon to get the initials they were hoping for. And kudos for taking the reins on the matchmaking, I guess. I don’t remember being invested in the results of the game. I still played it, of course. We had other skipping games that would prophesy our future suitors, too. We may or may not have been a little obsessed.

I’ve been with my gentleman associate for 25 years now, married for 22. My apple-stabbing days are long over. We’re at the Nuts for the Nutty stage of life. I’ve replaced apple-divining with the glorious tradition of the Love Nut.

And full disclosure. When I spill salt, I toss some over my shoulder. On New Year’s Eve, I’ve been known to stand on the threshold to my house and bang a pot. I don’t really think there’s a demon to blind with the salt or scare off with the noise of my midnight kitchenware drum solo. But I still do it. I’m less dug in about walking under ladders or broken mirrors, in fact, i have an increasingly small piece of a mirror that lives in my desk. It started as a regular compact size, and got broken once, twice, thrice. Now, the piece is hardly bigger than one joint of my finger. I never worried about stepping on cracks in the sidewalk. Although now that I say that, my mom does have degenerative disk disease and spinal stenosis. Maybe I have more to answer for than I thought. So sorry, Ma.

There are things we believe will help or hinder the smooth path of our lives. Lucky underpants can help you ace an interview; taping your hockey stick in a particular way will help shake loose the goals; wearing the cornetto will ward of the malocchio, the playoff beard will help your team to victory; taking off your snow tires too early ensures a late season blizzard (here in Canada anyway). These are all pretty irrational, but there’s no convincing anyone who believes this stuff of that. And really, who’s it hurting?

So where am I going with all this? This week was a perfect storm, wasn’t it? Good granny! The full moon week, book-ended by the end of Daylight Savings Time on one side and Friday the 13th on the other.

Yikes.

Let’s start unpacking that whole kettle of luck with the calendar. The ominous nature of Friday the 13th seems to have come from 2 places. Firstly, the 13th apostle, Judas, wasn’t the bellwether of good things. Secondly, the King of France issued his edict to arrest and burn all the Knights Templar on Friday the 13th. As he and his brethren burned, the lead of the Knights was said to have cursed those who orchestrated the whole ordeal from charges to sentencing them to death. Certainly, cultures without Christian origin stories don’t have the same number aversion to 13. In China, the number 4 is unlucky because it’s a near-homonym to death. That seems to be a better reason to attach luck (or not) to a number than because of a now-debunked story of a group of people killed because the king didn’t want to pay the money he owe them. Sure, the fella burned alive with his friends might have had uncharitable things to say about the King of France and anyone else who got them there.

So, it’s been 700ish years since that, and the superstition persists. But I’m not sure how we make the 700 year jump from that to high-rise buildings skipping from floor 12 to floor 14 so that no one has to live on the unfortunate 13th floor. I mean, do we really believe that one floor above 12 *isn’t* the 13th, no matter what the elevator button says?

This past week was unprecedented in the development of PlagueWatch2020, with people getting all kinds of information from all kinds of places. If someone reads Huffington Post, they’re going to “know” different things than someone who watches Fox News or CNN or reads Slate or the CBC. Or reads and shares citizen journalism on social media. Earlier in the week, I started noticing how often conversations churned with “I heard…”. It sounds like you’re listening to gossip, in hushed tones. Today was manicure day for me, and the studio I visit is small. There are two stations, so there’s always lively conversation between the two nail techs and the two clients. Today, the whole time I was there, we talked about nothing but Covid-19, and what everyone heard – at work, at home, from friends and spouses and family. It’s easy to believe something because someone else said it, and someone else corroborated it.

Anyone played telephone when they were kids? I’m just sayin’. That’s how things like the curse of Friday the 13th persist for 700 years and how people end up rioting for want of toilet paper.

This Lent, may I question whether what looks true is actually true. May I share judiciously, and may what I share not contribute to fearmongering.

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