Superstitions – What makes us scream everytime a black cat crosses our path?

April 28, 2010 at 8:01 pm (Uncategorized)

“Mahhhruuukhhh!!!” my friend said reproachfully, her eyes wide open with alarm. She was seated across me on the computer chair while I was sprawled on my bed, cutting and filing my nails (which, in my case, is a very rare show of feminine-like nature).

“What?” I stared back at her with a blank expression. My mind immediately recounted the last few minutes; did I honor my time-old tradition of stupidity and commit another faux pas? Or did she suddenly remember that she had a report to submit, that too by the very next day, and thus wanted to embroil me in the chaotic mess that would inevitably follow of drafting it – ‘just for the sake of our friendship’? (and yes, that HAS happened)

“What did you just do?” the expression of incredulity had still not left her face. I looked around, trying to figure out what she was pointing at. “What did I do?” I answered, completely bewildered.

“You just threw your nail cuttings into the trash, didn’t you?” She replied, crossing her arms across her chest with now an expression typical of a strict schoolteacher. It bore such resemblance that I wouldn’t have been surprised if she took out a ruler and slapped my wrists a couple of times.

“Yeah, so?” I said, still trying to comprehend what had irked her so much.

Her eyes opened wider at my, obviously ignorant, reply. (I’d like to think that they resembled the eyes of Tweety Bird from the Sylvester & Tweety cartoons. I kept that observation to myself though). “So?? Don’t you know what that could do??” Her arms flailed wildly in the air at this statement, in an attempt to help me grasp the magnitude of my mistake.

“What?? They’re just a bunch of nail cuttings!” I replied, slightly miffed after realizing the cause for such fuss. If this was going to be one of her melodramatic ‘I-need-to-be-heard!” episodes, then that’s it, she’s not getting a piece of the Nando’s chocolate fudge cake my mom had kept for us in the fridge. (Whaat? She needs to lose weight anyway)

“Oh yeah, you wouldn’t be saying that if you knew the consequences of your actions!” she retorted. And then, her eyes gleamed as she said, “Your nails will go brittle and weak, they will develop a terrible fungus and soon die, leaving you with nail-less fingers!” She rounded off the argument with a gruesome picture of the possible results that would be brought about by my naivety, and then, having fulfilled her duty, settled back into her chair with a satisfied smile.

I looked at her for a long moment, then turned to look at the pile of nail cuttings I had just thrown into the trash, and then I looked back at her again. I wanted to ask her: How could something so trivial, so utterly mundane, have such far-reaching repercussions? I mean, its unfathomable! Unfortunately, my friend’s behavior is a reflection of the mindset of the general population. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, there’s no telling which particular action has the potential to invoke an outcry from the people around you. In fact, some of these superstitions have been naturally ingrained into us through our upbringing as children, only to be shattered to pieces once we finally reach adulthood. Imagine my shock when, after reading an article about certain medical myths, I found out that the white mark that normally appears on our nails is not a result of a lack of calcium but actually caused by some nail injury or undue pressure applied to the nail. (*Mother shrugs sheepishly*: “Well, there was no other way to get you to drink your glass of milk every morning!”) Not to mention the farce delivered to me whenever I made a face at something I didn’t like;

“If you keep making faces like that, someday you’re going to end up looking like that for the rest of your life!”

Not wanting to be stuck with possible disfigurement, I obliged. Only to find out later on in life that there was no such thing; the muscles on a human face do NOT get jammed when faced with certain twists and turns. (And to think, all the times I got pulled into doing things I didn’t like, I could have easily gotten out of them had I made my disdain for them apparent…hmph).

And of course, let’s not forget the oh-so-common story that has remained paramount throughout everybody’s childhoods — the ants-will-devour-your-teeth-if-you-don’t-brush-your-teeth-after-having-something-sweet story. The purpose could just as well be served by providing an explanation on the harmful effects of tooth decay, namely cavities and plaque, caused by a lack of brushing; but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. That wouldn’t be even half as interesting! Plus it wouldn’t have the necessary impact (which is basically scaring an innocent child half to death). Never mind if the child, out of sheer fright and being scared out of her wits, resolves to determinedly keep her mouth shut throughout the night so as to make sure that no ants enter her mouth without her knowing. (Did I mention that I was extremely gullible as a child?)

If truth be told, superstitions are actually perceptions created within the vestiges of the mind that hinder us from having life’s experiences. Some people have allowed such superstitions to dictate virtually every action they perform, even if it is a task as mundane as going to the local supermarket to buy groceries. Letting that happen is allowing yourself to be bound by things that probably wouldn’t affect you at all if you choose to not think about them. Mostly, the superstitions that we have become so accustomed to are actually the perceptions or random observations of people who wanted to gain attention or who had a lot of time on their hands. Having said that, there is a fine line between heresay and faith.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go burn green chillies in order to bless the arrival of our new car. =P

Until next time, ciao. 😉

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