Tag Archives: superstition

Numbers revisited

I finally watched “The Number 23.”  I think it demonstrates a couple of important points about superstition and the human imagination.

First, we interpret.  From religious texts to emails to light conversation over coffee, we filter everything through our necessarily limited sensory perception.  Aldous Huxley’s book “The Doors of Perception” is a great illustration of the idea that humans must screen out almost all of the infinite amount of sensory stimulation coming at us at every second and focus on just the few details that have developed a particularly important meaning for us.  Being animals, we are programmed to watch for the glimpse of a tiger out of the corner of our eye and then spring into action.  Since there aren’t many tigers around in our modern world, perhaps we sometimes subconsciously invent danger signs, like superstitions, to give our systems a chance to rush with adrenaline.

Thus, having an infinite amount of material to filter through, we can always find what we are looking for, such as the number 23.

The other point the movie brought up at its conclusion, although stylistically I did not care for the end much, was the main character’s emphasis on choice.  We can choose our interpretation as well as our reaction to the meaning we have found.  Though we are animals and must deal with all our physical/instinctual programming, as humans we also have the right and responsibility to decide for ourselves.

I cannot argue with its star-and-a-half rating, but it was definitely an entertaining flick.

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Spooky Numbers

In the spirit of true confessions, I would like to discuss superstition and my personal battle against it.  If nothing thus far has convinced you of my neurotic tendencies, this here post’ll do the trick.

The earliest number neuroticism I can remember is the day I found eight four leaf clovers in my front yard.  From that day to this my favorite number has been 8, and this is what inspires my current discussion: August 8th is fast approaching.  Why is this significant?  It is 8-8-08.  That will have to be the luckiest day I am ever going to have in my entire life!  (Although 8-8-88 came and went and did not seem to have impacted my reality much.  And it had an extra 8!)  Should I hock all my possessions to buy a plane ticket to Vegas?  Should I spend the rent money on lottery tickets?  Should I cross the street without looking both ways? In short, how am I going to mark this embarrassingly momentous occasion?

As with most things in life, the situation was at its worst when I was a teenager.  At this time I had a digital clock beside my bed, and I could only function when the time ended with an even number.  7:13?  Doesn’t matter if the bus will be here in two minutes.  Gotta wait until it changes to 7:14.  11:57 at night?  Gotta stare at the clock until the last number I see before I fall asleep is 11:58.

I am over my clock issues except for one thing.  Years ago this superstitious part of my brain decided that, since my father owned a Porsche 914 when I was a kid, forever after when I see 9:14 on a clock, I am supposed to remember to be grateful for everything in my life.  For a while I would be mad if I looked and saw 9:15, having missed my chance.  Or if it were 9:12 and I had to sit there and wait like an idiot for the magic number.  Then, fortunately, something clicked and I realized that any time is a good time to be grateful, numbskull!  

It was a bit weird, too, in 2004 when my first niece was born on September 14 (9-14).  Will there be a special connection between us?  Perhaps there would have if I hadn’t moved across the continent.  (Perhaps on 8-8-08 I am supposed to hock everything to buy a plane ticket to go see HER!  Ah… it is all coming together!)

I do not know how I came to be under the spell of numbers.  Maybe it is because words I can make say whatever I want them to say, just by painting a bit of color here and shaving a corner off there, but numbers, they are who they are and no amount of manipulating is going to make a false sentence true.

I also don’t know how I came to have such extreme prejudice against odd numbers.  With other things I enjoy the freaky and the weird, but a number has to be smooth and even.  I was so worried that something would be horribly wrong with my son because he was going to be born in an odd year when everything else in my life, graduation, marriage, the births of myself, my kids, my husband, my sister and her kids, everything was in an even year.  Little dude was going to, literally, be the odd man out.  But, turns out, he’s just as wonderful as the rest!  And the continued lack of catastrophe (knock on wood!) associated with odd numbers is not inspiring any more confidence in them, poor little things.

Does everyone have a secret number paranoia?  Am I genuinely an oddball, and if so, how does one convert to an evenball?  And what, for the love of all things numerically tidy, am I supposed to do in a few weeks when the calendar announces that the fateful day of 8’s has arrived?  And even worse, should I be planning something special for the minute (two separate minutes, actually!) on that day when the clock shows 9:14?

All I know for sure is, the next time you happen to see 9:14 on your digital clock, take just a moment to be grateful that you don’t live in my head!

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