The frightened ignorant playing safe

POR VIDA - Archie Modequillo (The Freeman) - October 3, 2015 - 10:00am

Stories abound of scheduled marriages that don’t push through because the prospective bride fitted her wedding dress before the set day of the wedding. Many people are very careful about such things as sweeping the floor at night or taking a bath on Good Friday. They believe these simple acts could bring illness or misfortune.

Superstition are beliefs or practices not supported by logical or scientific explanation. These often result from ignorance or fear of the unknown, and a blind belief in indeterminate forces that can be influenced by certain objects and rituals. Hence, superstitious people equip themselves with all kinds of amulets and engage in various rites.

There are, of course, no factual bases for superstitious beliefs; otherwise it won’t be superstition anymore. But the unfounded beliefs persist, nevertheless. Experts opine that the fear that lies beneath every superstitious idea springs from lack of knowledge or lack of interest to know the truth.

Many cultures the world over are unanimous in their belief that bad luck will strike the person in front of whom a black cat passes or that some tragedy will befall a person on whom a black butterfly sets down. Different good-luck charms are kept or worn and various rituals performed to ward off evil or to bring good fortune.

Magic or sorcery, witchcraft, and the occult are examples of superstitions. Some people even perversely incorporate religious faith into their superstitious beliefs. There are Catholic Christians that burn black candles before images of saints, to seek revenge against their enemies. Many gamblers discreetly wear religious scapulars as lucky charms.

Superstitious practices and beliefs are most common in situations involving a high degree of risk, chance, and uncertainty, when events seem to be beyond human control. This is especially so during times of personal or social distress or crisis. Others practice superstition simply as a way of playing safe. They believe it is safe to follow superstitious practices even if they’re doubtful about its veracity. Hence, the saying: Better to be safe than sorry.

Curiously, after a while of espousing superstition, events in a person’s life tend to support his beliefs. His superstitious concepts begin to become real to him – life unfolds exactly as he thought. What he believes to be true becomes his own reality. And then, the more superstitious he becomes.

Some psychologists say that the mere power of suggestion sometimes makes reality out of a person’s intense beliefs or intentions. Jesus once told a sick man, “Go home, your faith has healed you.” Or, it may just be simply one’s innate desire for self-validation that makes him see connections – no matter how vague or distant – between his beliefs and his life realities.

Yet the soundest prescription for a good life and the best antidote to bad luck is simple – to be knowledgeable, careful and responsible. A person who earnestly seeks to know the truth about things, who uses this knowledge as his guide, and who assumes responsibility for his own life conditions is most likely to be okay.

The person who is well-informed and conscientious will not need to be superstitious. What eventually brings flood is not necessarily the cutting of the balete trees but the cutting of trees in general. It might help to believe in a divine power that allows good things for those who deserve the blessing. But, still, the surer way to deserve good luck is to work for it.

In the end, the question of what is or is not superstitious is relative. One person’s beliefs can be another’s superstitions. Unbelievers may view all religious beliefs and practices as superstition. On the other hand, the pious may condemn unorthodox popular practices as a superstitious parody of true faith.

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