Climbing the Ladder of Superstition

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I can’t tell you what I was thinking that day when I climbed the ladder.  I can’t even tell you if I was thinking.  What I can tell you is that I was thinking about many things after I successfully fell off the ladder.  A lot of ideas have a way of entering your mind when you are lying on the ground, following a knock-the-wind-out-of-you back flop.  The first of which is usually, “Am I ever going to be able to breathe again?”

How much of our daily energy is wasted thinking about what might go wrong, while doing something that we heard about from the tale of some old wife?  I’m not superstitious, mostly.  I don’t, for example, have a problem walking in front of a black cat.  I do have a fear of walking in front of black skunks, but I don’t think that has anything to do with superstition. 

At kids birthday parties, I always root for the birthday boy or girl to blow out all of the candles on the first attempt.  The superstition is clear on blowing them out and keeping the wish a secret.  My family doesn’t put on as many birthday candles on my cake as they should, so I don’t worry too much about putting out the flames on my first energetic blow.  I’m usually more worried about what to wish for than blowing out the candles.  I wish I were a little faster with the wishes.  There has been more than one occasion when I’ve just blown without a wish – because, for the life of me, there was no wish that came to mind. 

When talking to a friend about some good prospects in my life, I have to hold back from saying, “Knock on wood.”  I’m not a true believer that the knocking on wood, or whatever solid object happens to be nearby, is really good for anything.  I think about it, but don’t hold out any hope that rapping my knuckles on a desk is going to encourage a greater power into bringing me any kind of encouraging news. 

And the whole salt thing, what’s that about?  Salt was never part of any superstition training in my family.  Are you supposed to spill it?  Are you supposed to throw it over one of your shoulders if you spill it?  I think there are a whole lot more reasons to limit salt intake in your diet than to waste time worrying about spilling salt on the floor.  I do hear that cooking with kosher salt makes dishes taste better, but I’d want to see some more scientific studies on that before I commit to an opinion either way.

I can’t remember if I walked under the ladder before climbing it.  I walk under ladders a lot, if only to reinforce my belief that it isn’t going to bring bad luck.  I must admit that I’m less likely to walk under a step ladder than an extension ladder, but that’s just me.  I’m a little less confident when it comes to broken mirrors.  I’ve broken a few mirrors in my time, but I don’t like to believe that the broken reflections carry with them seven years of bad luck. I’m pretty sure that it’s a shorter period of time than that. 

So, do I consider myself superstitious?  I suppose I would fall into the “mildly” category.  I don’t think there’s a way around not having thoughts come into your mind that occasionally ruffle up some fear.  I’ve told my kids multiple times not to open up umbrellas in the house (although, parenthetically, our big umbrella might have slowed down my fall from the ladder).  I don’t have any convincing reasons why they shouldn’t open them indoors.  What’s the worst that could happen?  Would it start raining?  And do those little cocktail umbrellas count, because if they do, then we’re in for about a pitcher of piƱa coladas worth of bad luck.


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