I have always been fascinated with superstitions. As a kid I wanted to open up a superstition collection agency, but I became a magician instead. It could be argued that the two interests are similarly related. Perhaps this blog or a Skeptologists program could take a closer look at superstitions? By that I don’t mean all the walk-under-a-ladder and throw-salt-over-your-shoulder superstitions we already know about and probably practice even though we think we know better, being skeptics and all that. I mean the really brain hard-wired day to day things we do without thinking because something intangible might have been handed down to us through generations of just doing it and we went ahead and tacitly accepted it for some unknown reason. Particular interest to me are the newer things that may have come around to being accpeted and believed in today’s “more enlightened” society. I remember there was once an agency like this for collecting and verifying predictions that someone in New York City kept for some odd reason, but I think they eventually went out of business. I doubt they predicted that.
There’s probably a million websites that handle the standard run of black cat type superstitions, but what’s new in the world or woo when it comes to modern fear and dread? What do we avoid saying or doing that has absolutely no rational reason to exist? All the countless urban legends out there certainly must have sprouted a few tentacles that reach into this area of the mass subconscious, but which are the beliefs that have managed to trickle down to our semi-conscious minds and how exactly did they get there? Forget about religion or spirituality, that’s just too big an issue for one program or blog. It’s those little crazy twitchy things like knocking on wood – but contemporary non-grammatical physical idioms (from the root word idiot?) that I’m after.
I once pitched an idea for a quick two minute spot for radio using this concept; a kind of Paul-Harvey-of the-Bizarre segment, only covering a daily superstition by talking about the where, when and how it originated. I was told by the station manager at the time that there were strict FCC laws against promulgating such thoughts and my pet project was quickly shot down despite the fact that the same syndicated radio station ran a live psychic call-in show seven nights a week. Go figure. I know this is true because I covered the Saturday night shift, but that’s another story…
Suggestion, pseudo-mesmesrism, hallucinations, hypnotism, suspended animation, subliminal advertising and all manner of Coast to Coast weirdness could conceivably fall into this catagory and that’s the problem. Where would we draw the line? I’m not that interested in Big Foot’s shoe size or whether or not Elvis liked peanut butter and banana sandwiches and its relationship to his sex life. That’s conjecture. I would like to hear about and investigate those unsubstantiated knee-jerk reflex-based behaviors that reflect what’s going on in today’s mixed up world.
Take for example: why do we need to know that “objects in mirror are closer than they appear” on our rearview mirrors? Yes, I know there’s a perfectly solid scientific reason having to do with the fish-eye quality of the mirror and I appreciate the warning on some level, but stuff like that just makes me needlessly paranoid. Where did that come from and where is it going? Or like the whole “lather rinse and repeat” instructions on shampoo bottles – Why? What’s the superstition behind that or is there one? Or was it just a maketing decision to sell more shampoo? I expect it was the latter, but you get my drift.
Any ideas on this? What do YOU do that makes no sense whatsoever on a daily or consistant basis?