Every couple decades, I think we should all return to reading some of the great works of Mark Twain.
For the first time since I was like 10, I’m reading, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” No doubt Twain is argueably the greatest American writer, but one thing that struck me on this read through was just how different a young Tom Sawyer in the 1800s was from who Tom Sawyer might be in 2013. Kids are kids and they’ve always been kids, so I’m a little surprised I’ve never before heard anyone refer to Tom Sawyer as having A.D.D. Seriously, that kid jumped from one thing to the next faster than me!
But, one thing that was so surprising is how much of their lives revolved around superstition. Spunk water to cure warts, dreams as bad omens,belief in ghosts, witches, the whole nine yards. If there is anything that could be considered bad luck or good luck, those kids had it down.
So, I posed the question to The Hottness: Do kids today believe in superstition?
As a kid, I had a rabbit’s foot keychain. And a four leaf clover pressed into a dictionary. And I heard adults talk about how getting blackberry seeds stuck in your teeth is good luck. And how exiting a house through a door other than the one you entered is bad luck. And, of course, I knew about black cats and walking under ladders and breaking mirrors meant seven years of bad luck. I knew about these things, but I also knew they were total bunk. Like, if I stepped on a crack, my mom’s spine would still be in place. And, if my ears burned, it probably meant there was still chlorine water in there, not because someone was talking about me. Do kids today even know about these superstitions? Why or why not?
See, I knew of them, but any rational person knows they aren’t true. Yet, my grandparent’s generation wasn’t so sophisticated. I’m not sure any of my grandparents even graduated high school. And, living in a rural area with the communication forms that the early part of the 20th century held, it wasn’t like you could just flip on Myth Busters or look up where superstitions came from on google.
But, what still sticks with me about Tom Sawyer and Huck and Aunt Polly and the crew is how much they lived in eternal fear. Superstitions clouded their day to day life because they were afraid that if they looked in a puddle and didn’t see their reflection, they might die…not that the water may just have been too muddy. It seems like every step of every day was spent trying to avoid harm…what a way to live.
Ya know, I kinda miss some of the fun of superstitions. And, believe it or not, I may still perform some acts of superstition, even though I know it has no scientific bearing or relevance in today’s world. Right now, I’m in the process of helping my stepdaughter get into a new home. There’s every chance I’ll sprinkle a grain or two of salt in every corner, or burn a stick of incense, or carry a loaf of bread and a broom into the house (doing so brushes away bad energy and the bread equals prosperity…ya know, if ya believe that sort of thing)…s
Still, I’ll take 21st century knowledge and sophistication if it means we don’t live in eternal and irrational fear. In fact, I’ll choose not to live in fear at all…or, at least not to operate solely from a basis of fear. How about you?