I mentioned awhile back that I find superstitions fascinating, and I still do. There is, after all, something fairly amazing about the extents people will go to in order to try and bring some kind of order to the unknown. Even if that something is putting a mandrake root in fresh milk, and stashing it under your bed. Apparently this chases away evil spirits, since, as is well known to all who have perused the evil spirit textbooks, there is nothing evil detests more than roots and milk.
So, I thought it high time I dug in to the subject of superstitions. I happen to have read up a great deal on the subject already, and that information might as well be useful somewhere.
I make a lot of jokes about superstitions, but know that I am not immune to them. Yes, I am aware that it is completely nonsensical to think that something like the way you tie your shoelaces, for example, might bring good luck, but the thoughts do still occasionally cross my mind.
My personal superstitions come in the form of making mental deals with Lady Luck. I promise Lady Luck I will go jogging the following day, if she sees fit (see what I did there?) to grant me victory on my poker hand. She sometimes accepts the deal, and sometimes doesn’t. I guess she’s just a fickle, heartless lady that way.
The Gambler’s Paradox
The Gambler’s Paradox speaks of a belief that luck can be recreated by following the steps that led up to a particularly big win, or notable winning streak. So, if a person forgets to wash their hands on a day where a particularly big pot was won, the logic is that not washing ones hands is a way to retrigger, and recreate, the circumstances around the lucky moment. Lady Luck, after all, is not satisfied unless she is approached by one with unclean hands.
In some cases people are known to become obsessively invested in such superstitions, so much so that the superstition all but takes on the form of OCD; obsessive compulsive disorder. I read about a Las Vegas based old man who has a list of requirements, over a page long, that he will tick off before heading to the casino to play slots games.
I’m not sure what exactly was on his list, but the article said it took him nearly half an hour to leave the house. He insisted that if the list was completed correctly, he would experience good luck. In his case Lady Luck apparently took on the form of a seriously demanding lunatic. I guess I got off easy, since jogging at is at least achievable while still seeming sane.
There are, of course, far more minor and socially acceptable superstitions. My grandmother will not accept dice if handed to her when playing board games. She demands they are placed on the table, where she will pick them up herself. It’s a small, silly superstition, but one that must have apparently worked for her. She used to destroy me at Monopoly.
Some other gambling superstitions I’ve read about include; not whistling while gambling, not playing on a polished table, not counting money while playing, not crossing ones legs at the table, and not lending money to other players. That last one was added by people wanting to avoid coming across as tight fisted, I’m thinking.
When you get right down to it the human mind seems to be a thing that is heavily invested in nonsense. Or at least; heavily invested in trying to make the unknown a bit more tangible.
Most logical people are well aware that a roulette wheel cannot be tricked into giving positive results; the physical world just doesn’t work like that. Every spin of the wheel is random, and every result entirely up to chance. But, regardless of knowing this, people will still have their little superstitions, even if they scoff and laugh it off. It appears to just be the way our minds work on a primal level.
You might well be thinking right now that you’re a completely sound minded and logical person, and would never spend your energy on such silly things as superstitions. But, I bet you still repeat the word “please” in your head when waiting for an unknown outcome, or perhaps even say the word out loud. When watching sports games, perhaps, and rooting for a favourite team?
You do, don’t you? Who are exactly are you pleading with, if I may ask? A higher power, or the infamous Lady Luck, whose name I can type here with capital letters, and it not seem strange? Hey, I don’t judge. She and I have a good thing going on. I’m jogging a great deal more since running became the subject of our deals.