Sunday, January 24, 2016

a lucky rabbit's foot

I haven't seen one in a long time, but for some reason, the good luck conferred by carrying a literal rabbit's foot seeps into memory. What an odd oddment it seems, vaguely grotesque on the one hand and yet perfectly understandable in a world where talismans still hold a wispy sway. What is this need for good luck ... or bad luck either, for that matter? A crucifix, a coin, a rabbit's foot ... all of them and more like them can act as touchstones that suggest a rebalancing the scales of good luck and bad. What's that about?

Wikipedia says among other things:
In some cultures, the foot of a rabbit is carried as an amulet believed to bring good luck. This belief is held by individuals in a great number of places around the world, including Europe, China, Africa, and North and South America. It is likely that this belief has existed in Europe since 600 BC amongst Celtic people. In variations of this superstition, the donor rabbit must possess certain attributes, have been killed in a particular place, killed by a particular method, or by a person possessing particular attributes (e.g., by a cross-eyed man)....
Humorist R. E. Shay is credited with the witticism, "Depend on the rabbit's foot if you will, but remember it didn't work for the rabbit."
Unless I've got it wrong, there is no proving that a talisman confers positive good luck. But the important part seems to be that there is no proof that such talismans do not. So ... "what the hell" seems to be the order of the day: Carrying a talisman may not help, but it doesn't seem to hurt either, so why not? No one can prove that there's life after death, but they can't prove that there isn't either, so why not carry and be faithful to, for example, a crucifix? Why life after death might be unquestioningly thought of as somehow "good luck" is not a topic for investigation.

In nosing around this subject, I am not inclined towards the narrowed and superior eyes of the brilliant onlooker who can do no better than to say, "superstitious piffle!" The brilliant too have their talismans, but there are agreements not to mention the talismanic facets of their brilliance.

Talismans ... what would you do without them? On the other hand, what would you do with them? If the talismans dropped away, would my ass fall off? If they didn't fall away, would my ass be any more surely affixed?

I guess what brought this to mind was that an interest in spiritual life has talismanic components ... or at least at the beginning it seems that way. But over time, and with investigation, if religion is seen as a talismanic warding off of death's incomprehensible reaches, there are at least two possibilities: As death nears, grasp the talisman more tightly for good luck; or, as death nears, feel the talisman slipping away ... did you ever really need it? Is there really a demarcation between good luck and bad?

What the hell -- incomprehensible things deserve a place in a sunshine that does not attempt to interfere with something called "good luck" or "bad."