Friday, 13 September 2013

The Odd One Out

Diverting off the curb and walking along the edge of the road in order to avoid rusted iron scaffolding or an old, rickety ladder with a gnarled and gerontic workman at the top, blowing as a leaf in the bitter winds - ever a symbol of nature's fought retreat against progress.
            Throwing the salt over your left shoulder in an act of appeasement to an innate order riven through with yet another inequity, an inequity caused by casual heavy-handedness or simple disregard for one's surroundings.
            Seeing a penny on the ground and picking it up, hearing the soft melody: "Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck!" drift through your thoughts.
            Superstition is a strange feeling. Just look at the first ingredient of the word, "super"; when I think of superstition, I immediately think of the word "supernatural", too. The extension, manifestation, product, of a power beyond what science and general consensus have determined physiologically achievable on Earth.
            My next thought from "supernatural" is Stephen King's Carrie, a tragic story about a girl blessed, or cursed (cue the dark and eerie horror music and the low rising fog) with telekinesis.
            Carrie's supernatural power is the leveller of her story. She has no real friends, is bashful and naive. She is manipulated by those around her and, as a reader, I saw her ability as her way of responding in an environment where everything was difficult to articulate for Carrie.
            Superstition is not a gift, nor, necessarily, a blessing or curse. What it might be is a state of insecurity and disharmony. Next time you see a scaffolding site, stop close by and observe how many people don't walk underneath. Listen out for conversations about breaking mirrors or kicking a black cat. What do all of these actions prescribe?
            Bad luck.
            When we lose at a game, be it chess or football, somebody we are close to might intone, "Oh! Unlucky!". If we fail at an interview, or don't make the cut for gifted and talented, we are again met with "Unlucky pal, wasn't your year." or similar.
            For some people, the separated negatives will always outweigh the separated positives. Is this a form of perfectionist thinking? I don't think so. Perfectionist mindsets, I believe, are mindsets that are ever aware that no matter how positive an achievement, within it there have been moments of slight or error. A perfectionist musician might come off stage and feel himself itching with disgust at the single wrong note he played halfway through a three hour show. A sporting perfectionist might come away from a team-based game with a pass completion of 97% and, despite this and the team's victory, feel he or she could have contributed more. These errors are rarely attributed to bad luck, because to believe you can achieve the best is to see yourself as the sole conduit between your own ability and your goals. You must harness that ability, clench your teeth and wade in through the quagmire of toil until you come through. You smile momentarily, but those flecks of mud on your clothes you've just noticed, they are the imperfections haunting you.
            Now see the person who finds a note of money, perhaps ten pounds, and picks it up. Whether they spend it or save it, I imagine the concomitant "How about that?" or "It's about time something good happened." that comes from certain people.
            And later, see that same person miss their bus home, and hear them curse "Just my luck!".
            How about that, huh?
            Now, why superstition, why bad luck? Well, today is Friday 13th, of course. What better day to be out crossing roads and riding public transport and walking high bridges with loose stones and whatever other perilous activities we could name that only become perilous because of this insidious day. A day where many people truly won't go about their diurnal businesses for fear of the myth. Today, people will die of natural deaths, there will be horrid murders, domestic abuse will continue and all manner of broken bones, shattered relationships, lost fortunes and trodden feelings will be accrued by the end of this perceived haunt. For people who believe they have bad luck, the atrocities of the world will be met with a blind eye and a deaf ear (but never the full pair, these people have their bad luck to worry about...), for today will be a day for cementing positions in the Pantheon of the Afflicted, for rousing the world's patient eyes towards the bad luck of such people. Bad luck that has been epitomized by the happenings of Friday 13th.
            DUN DUN DUNNNN!
            Perhaps we could name these people imperfectionists.
            Go back to finding a penny and let us recall the other half of the canorous melody, "Pass it on, to a friend, and your luck will never end!" - read it once more. Again we have these commanding directives to act. Find a penny, pass it on to a friend. How does one simply discover money, and then find the will to share such a symbol of serendipity? That would make employment and working seem a little redundant, don't you think? Yet of course, a penny is the smallest token of currency, and the message is in the actions. First, to act, and thus shy away from inactivity, is not to be granted, but to have earned luck for a day. To share this goodness is to anneal your good luck into something perpetual. What is the message there? You make your own luck! Sounds like meritocracy has come a-calling.
Now let us ride the winds of nature back to bad luck, and allow me to ask you, why are negative happenings and pernicious circumstances filed in the bad luck category, and yet success is usually met with a politician's confidence, or a derisive snort preceding a muttered "It's about time..."?
            Friday 13th is, for many intents and purposes, a scapegoat; a time when the indolent can justify inactivity and attribute their malingerer's behaviour to survival instincts; a day when those who feel that the world and Nature herself continue to accost them with arbitrary effrontery can raise a fist to the air, and curse their plights.
            And yet, on this most malefic day, I've found a penny!
            Now if only I could find a friend to pass it on to...
            Are you there, Carrie?

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