I think superstitions are silly. And I know I’ve had a few in my life. Mostly they revolved around my golf game. My skill level has always rested upon a precarious perch somewhere between bad and truly horrible.
My best 18-hole score is 75. I’d scored in the 70’s quite a bit when I was young and played all the time. But I could never crack that threshold of 75. Most of the time I scored in the low to mid 80’s and, now that I’m old and rarely play, I consider a score in the low 90’s a good round.
But when one’s skills—and I’m speaking mostly of myself, here—are tenuous, it’s easy to fall into the trap of superstition. Of course, it stems from trying to find something outside of yourself that is causing your string of bad luck.
And superstitions can accompany a run of good luck, too. Baseball players will, for example, wear the same pair of socks if they’re on a hitting streak. Or, if their team is winning, they’ll not change their hats. There was a big story in 1996 when New York Yankees closer, John Wetteland, wore the same hat in the World Series that he’d worn all year. For that season, and the previous four, he’d worn for the entire season the hat he was first issued in spring training. He said he wasn’t superstitious, but it was “just something he did” each year. The players get new hats throughout the year and, in the playoffs and World Series, they’re issued hats with the series logo sewn to the side. Wetteland had them sew the label d’ jour onto his dirty and sweat-stained hat, refusing to wear a new one.
For me, it was red tees. Sometime during my high school golf team days, red tees became bad luck. And, to this day, I have only used a red tee once; and it was on a practice range to see if I could make myself do it; sort of to prove to myself how silly was my superstition. But, I’ve never, with that one exception, since I was about 15 or 16 years old, used a red golf tee. I have a friend who used to toss them near to my ball when I was about to tee off. I’d spit at the tee while holding up two crossed fingers—as if warding off Dracula or something—before I’d hit my shot. Mostly I did it for the chuckle from the group. But, one can’t be too careful.
The other weird thing I do—I’m not sure if it is superstition or just OCD—is that, at a bowl or with a bag of candy or snack crackers, I will only take an even number. If I have a small bag of M&M’s or Cheeze-Its, I will place two or four in my mouth at a time. It’s gotta be even-steven. And I chew evenly on both sides. And, if you’re asking what I do if there is an odd number left in the bag, I leave the odd one in the bottom of the bag, and then I bite it in half before I chew it.
Perhaps a return to intense therapy is worthy of consideration…
Some superstitions stem from practicality. Walking under a ladder is one that comes to mind. Obviously, if someone is working upon the ladder, and you walk under it, you stand a greater chance of receiving a knot on your cranium by some object’s interaction with gravity.
But they all don’t stem from common sense. As for breaking a mirror bringing you seven years of bad luck, one story is that it goes all the way back to the Romans, who invented the glass mirror. The Romans believed—as did some Africans, Chinese, Greeks and Indians—that the mirror could somehow confiscate part of your soul. If the mirror became warped or disfigured in any way, your soul would be warped. If you broke it, then your soul would be broken and would not be able to ward off evil spirits. The Romans believed you got an entirely new soul every seven years so, after that length of time, your soul would be back to full strength.
I’ve broken a few mirrors in my day. I found myself never really believing in that one so it never bothered me. Wait. Maybe my lifelong streak of back luck had its origins in shattered mirrors… Nah. I don’t buy that one.
And moonlight shining on your bed is considered by some to be back luck. But, before I ever heard that, I always enjoyed having moonlight on my bed. Since I was a little kid I thought it was cool that I was getting that carom shot of sunlight off the moon that was still so bright that it illuminated my room. So I had always thought it was good luck and wasn’t swayed by someone else’s superstition.
I have always avoided stepping on sidewalk cracks. My youngest son, however, once lost his temper at his mother while on the Orlando Death March—I mean Disneyworld—and I noticed him stomping on a few sidewalk cracks. He was about seven-years-old and, when I realized what he was doing, I laughed to myself and then took him aside, quietly explaining that I was on to him and, unless he wanted to go back to the room, he’d better get his temper under control.
As I stated earlier, I believe superstitions are just another way of placing the responsibility for our lives onto something outside of ourselves. It’s a human trait to want to point to some exterior force for our fate; good, but mostly bad. Investigate any ancient culture and you’ll find them rife with gods and demons and superstitions. Life is hard. And then you die. So, these people did everything they could to make sure the gods would be benevolent.
And we still do it today. We blame “society” or our upbringing under strict parents. Or indulgent parents! It doesn’t take much effort to find something on which to blame our lot in life. And I am keenly aware of this. Yet I find myself continuing to harbor these tiny, long-held superstitions; even if they’re simply little nagging thoughts in the back of my mind. Like the red tees. If I find myself on a golf course, I know I’m going to play terribly. But I still don’t use them.
And I still avoid sidewalk cracks to protect my dear little mother. I just would rather not risk it.
It’s curious how these little ideas stay with us.
Once a friend of mine asked how I was doing. I told him my current plan was to sell my soul to the Devil for a 130 MPH fastball. He immediately said, “With control!” Reminding me that, before I offered my soul to Beelzebub, I’d better make sure I asked for and received exactly what I needed. The odds were quite long against my entering into my version of a Faustian bargain with Mephistopheles, but my friend was quick to make sure that, if the opportunity arose, I’d be certain to be specific.
So, silly or not, these little, antiquated beliefs are still contained within my subconscious. I wonder how often they actually influence an important decision. I once had a client sign a very lucrative contract. When driving to the meeting, I was listening to a Tony Bennett CD. So, for months after, I listened to Tony Bennett as I approached any sales meeting. I have no idea how many deals I made or didn’t make. But it’s obvious that Mr. Bennett wasn’t the key to my success.
Superstitions are silly. That’s a fact. Nothing outside of yourself will control your life. And if you’re praying to a god that is outside of you, I suggest to you that you are a part of our Creator and, therefore, he is within you. And within you, lie all the answers and Love you require. Listen for the still, small voice that is within you. I happen to know mine doesn’t like red tees.