A confession: I used to be a person that rolled my eyes at the superstitious. When friends searched for wood to knock on, or kept a charm around their ankle, or pointed out the presence of a full moon, I’d puff my chest and poke holes in their mystic caution.
I might ask: Well, what exactly do you think will happen if you don’t touch wood? Why would that have any effect? I’ve never done that and nothing bad has happened to me, isn’t that weird, hm?
With the asphyxiating condescension of a true nerd, I’d insist on reason, logic, proof.
Later that weekend I would watch professional wrestling.
The next morning I’d bark to blank faces about the heart-rending rivalries between these athletes: years-long tales of kinship and betrayal, cowardice and grit, of heroes and heels scratching and clawing, inch by inch, setback after setback, toward the grand prize, the golden belt, the roaring fans, to immortality itself.
My friends reply: “Mm, yeah it’s fake, right?”
In that moment, I understood the meaning of a full moon:
Superstitions shine a light toward the limits of our understanding. They are a ritualized reminder that disconnected events can harm us (or help us) in ways we can’t predict. Take them literally, or don’t. Like pro wrestling, to challenge the reality of superstitions is to miss the idea entirely. In their unreality, they amplify our human truths.
In a scientific age, our superstitions form a lonely tribute to the weird, the wonderful, the dancing inexplicable.