On a lark, I borrowed a book called Book of Superstitious Stuff: Weird Happenings, Wacky Rites, Frightening Fears, Mysterious Myths, & Other Bizarre Beliefs by Joanne O’Sullivan. As may be inferred, the author does not take any of the contents terribly seriously, although at the very least, her blanket dismissal appears to apply equally to all culture’s beliefs. Consistency may be a minor virtue, but it is still a virtue.
(This is to say that my point of view includes some gray zones, where I don’t actually have a position on the validity of a particular phenomenon, because I lack the experience and information necessary for renderring judgment.)
That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to talk about today, however. I’ll pick a random topic from the book: colors. The symbolism and power ascribed to a specific color varies greatly from group to group. A color may symbolize sexual purity for one culture and death for another. Another color can mean prosperity and celebration for one people group and passion for another. Wealth, luck, life, death, faithfulness, lust, hope , friendship, religious devotion, and much more- we see what we are raised to see, and often, we may think that these associations are more universal than they truly are.
At the very least, purusing the contents of this book has reinforced for me that there are many points of view available. Why does that matter? It’s pretty simple.
For the bulk of my life, I have seen only one point of view for most issues revolving around myself. I failed one course, so I am a failure. I did not get to spend this day with friends, so I don’t have any friends who care about me. My effort did not yield the desired results, so I don’t have what it takes. And so on.
A very large part of my growth process has been freeing myself from the trap of a single perspective. To that end, I read things, I talk to people that I respect, and I stretch my horizons, checking to see what actually is possible for me, and what is impossible. It has been very good for me overall. So why did I bring up the superstitions book? Isn’t this a very different topic? Well, yes it is.
For myself, I believe that the practices and beliefs in the book are either ture or false- either fairies really exist and we should take them seriously, or they don’t and we shouldn’t (and so on for every topic in the book.) But even so, someone out there will find something that predicts bad luck and grow wary and someone else will look at that same thing and grow excited about their imminent good luck.
Perception affects action, and that holds true for a great many things.