Science v. Superstition

I like science. I don’t know if it’s a natural inclination or a learned one, because it’s just always been there. My dad is a semi-retired physics teacher and even when I was very small, he has always taken the time to explain the science in everything to me. Saturday mornings as a kid always started with cartoons and pop-tarts, but we didn’t go play outside until after Beakman’s World. This wasn’t an enforced rule, or anything. I just liked the kooky science show and Dad encouraged it. Bill Nye the Science Guy was good, but anyone who thinks it’s more entertaining than Beakman’s World is trippin’.

Even with all the science in my upbringing, I can’t shake a little superstition. I’ve experienced things that I can’t quite explain with science, but I’m not ready to go into that here. I know my superstitions are illogical, but I think even the most rationally minded among us have a few superstitions. And if they don’t hurt anyone, why not?

I don’t hold with the most common, stereotypical superstitions. (“Stereotypical superstitions” sounds like either a punk band or a great tongue twister.) Black cats are just cats. The only bad luck with one crossing your path is that “crossing” implies the cat didn’t stop for you to pet it. The number 7 isn’t any better or worse than 13, and if lucky and unlucky numbers are a thing (I’m not saying they are, but if they were), it makes more sense to me that the numbers, both good and bad, would vary person to person. The only bad luck about walking under a ladder is the risk of getting something dropped on you or accidentally knocking the ladder out from under someone. Similarly, the only bad luck in breaking a mirror is glass shards and the risk of going out with your hair looking stupid or with something in your teeth. Hopefully, you have friends who can help you with that, and they probably will, unless the mirror is broken because you hit your friend with it. In that case, you deserve to walk around with your hair looking stupid.

In fact, I suspect that most superstitions started with the loosest grasp of science. People experienced bad things and just mistook correlation for causation, and if the outcome was bad enough, they didn’t want to risk testing whether the experiment could be repeated. If George walks under a ladder and in doing so, Herbert falls from the ladder onto George, killing them both, onlookers aren’t going to be keen to test that out again, lest the village quickly becomes a ghost town.

Most of my superstitions fall into what my dad classifies as the Natural Orneriness of Things, which is a lot like Murphy’s law. For example, we had a very rainy spring. After unsuccessfully checking local nurseries and greenhouses for coffee cup elephant ears, I gave in and bought bulbs, and knowing that the cupped foliage is best enjoyed in rainy conditions, the Natural Orneriness of Things will ensure that we have no more rain (or perhaps that it only rains when we are not home to watch the coffee cups pour out the water).

I like to play with my superstitions and try to manipulate the Natural Orneriness to my benefit. It’s not really scientific, but not quite as harmful as pseudoscience, and I don’t think this is uncommon when the stakes are low. I think we’ve all said to ourselves, “If I don’t take my umbrella, it will certainly rain on me. I’d better take my umbrella so it doesn’t rain.”

My plan with the coffee cup bulbs seems to have worked: it has been hot and dry now for a couple of weeks. The Natural Orneriness, though, displeased with being manipulated, threw me a curveball. Because it was so hot, we took Pippin to walk around the Blue Store for a bit, where the concrete floor is cool and shoppers and employees alike give lots of pets, and what did I spy in the garden center? That’s right, coffee cup elephant ears, already big and happy. They haven’t stocked them for three years, and I have two bulbs at home, hopefully establishing roots before putting up stalks and leaves within a few more weeks. I bought two of the established plants anyway.

Counterclockwise, starting at the back: coffee cup elephant ear, unsprouted coffee cup bulb, mojito, and black magic elephant ears.

I also decided to take advantage of the dry forecast and get the cushions for the patio furniture back out. I’m testing the Natural Orneriness. Will it keep things dry so that my plants are less enjoyable or will it rain, forcing me to either scramble to bring in the cushions or risk a soggy bottom next time I sit outside?

I decided to wash the cushion covers to relieve them of last summer’s bird poop and spring spiderwebs acquired in storage in the garage. I could wash them more often, but I’m lazy, and the cushions are very full and dense, so it’s a job to get the covers on and off them, and as such, they only get really cleaned about once a year. After Kalen and I had wrestled the cushions back into the clean cases, we put the cushions out and sat down for a moment. Less than two minutes after we sat down on the nice, clean cushions, Natural Orneriness started to tease us with a big, wet bird poop right next to where we sat.

“Well played, Natural Orneriness,” I thought. “Well played.” Natural Orneriness is a clever opponent. It didn’t want to break the no rain rule, but that doesn’t mean the patio furniture is safe. Quite the warning shot. I’m still contemplating my next move, but rest assured I will keep you apprised.

Do you have any pet superstitions or amusing encounters with the Natural Orneriness of Things? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments. Or just drop a note to say hello! Thanks for stopping by!

14 thoughts on “Science v. Superstition

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  1. Unsure of the plot, but a great title for your first children’s book should be “The Natural Orneriness of Things.” It is a title that hasn’t been taken – at least, not according to Dr. Google.

    1. Now every time I have one of those superstitions creep up I will remember Natural Orneriness!😁. You have made my morning filled with insight and laughter!😃

    1. Ooh, yes, the NOOT frequently affects automobiles. Wash the car, NOOT makes rain, Leave the windows down, NOOT makes rain, take the car to the mechanic for a weird clunking noise, NOOT silences the clunking noise.

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