Thursday, April 24, 2014

in the guise of superstition


The world's trying to tell you something. Whether it's by coincidence, "that's weird, you're the third person to mention candied turnips today!" or something more dramatic like a broken shoelace which results in a missed traffic light, a passed accident en route to your destination--with a "that could've been me" exhale, superseding the mercy of timing.

Superstition in a so-called rational person's mind may rely more on reinforcement, than morbid mysticism, but it exists for everyone. Whether it's minding the idea that boasts could lead to failure, or avoiding that odd number at the gas pump, we must brace ourselves for the specks that divert our attention. We sweep or bury them. Before we're buried by consequences of actions we neglect.

I myself, have been missing texts by people I probably have no business talking to. The texts finally reaching my phone when I power it off and on again. Who are these people? I guess this is the question I'm supposed to ask myself--according to my phone and the complex network of satellites and towers connected to it--it's hilarious when people get angry about a slight delay in communication.

Instant gratification: people pay good money for it. Shorter lines, carpool lanes, high-speed everything. Even Tinder takes the middleman of dating out of the equation of the love/sex exchange. Who needs candlelight anything (aside from the occasional seance participant) when you've got women who swear by being equal in the lust game? We too are visualists. We too are not monogamous by default. Have we come too far to treat our mating habits like those of less sentient lemurs? According to the emphasis on folly in most romantic comedies, the answer is no.

But confusion spikes progress. We will never not be confused. We crave the challenge. We create chaos it if it's not there, to feel alive when complacency follows routine.

Once my mother, on the way to a live-music type Barbeque on a Memphis riverside, would not stop complaining about her meddling friend. I, who pride myself on giving great advice (because I know everything obviously) tried, with many failed attempts, to arm her with practical solutions. "Stop talking to the lady--tell her how you feel," I said, but my mother ignored the advice like a broke relative on payday. Finally, when I told her I was fed up with her wall of impenetrable problems, she looked at me, while driving, and with half-mocking look in her eyes said, "Haven't you ever thought I might LIKE to complain?"

And just like that, I was the dumb one sitting in the passenger seat. My mother, without missing a beat, continued to complain about her meddling friend for the rest of the drive, but by then all I could do was nod, alert with affirmation; interchanging seemingly dismissive quips like "Yes, that's terrible" with "That lady has problems," and for the first time in my life I felt an adult connection to the lady.

My mother could be one of the great complainers of our time and how would I know, since I'm obviously a shittier emotional listener than I could have ever imagined. But to this day, I try to recognize others like her, who complain for: sport, to vent, to socialize.

Without chaos, how do we explore our possibilities for advancement? We side-step ruts by which we have become accustomed. We set boundaries in the guise of superstition. Make rules for ourselves when there are no actual rules to keep us in check. Where would we be without our morning coffee? Ears perked at the fourth mention of Yatzee in an eight-hour day and then it's night again. We fall asleep and do it all over again until we die.

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