Rebirth of Reason

Sense of Life

Untying the Gordian Knot
by W Chase

Sitting in my room on a sunny summer day, surrounded by vertiginous stacks of Casper the Friendly Ghost, Archie, and Richie Rich comic books, and still more books, I read with an intense fascination, as if I'm on the verge of discovering the secrets of reality, the hacks of existence, the Cheat Codes of Life. One may wonder how such a feat could possibly be gleaned off of children's comics, but I'm not entertaining myself with Casper, Archie, or Richie. No, I'm immersing myself in something much less pedestrian and much more dangerous. Drowning my intellect in a miasma of fallacies, I instead satiate my naiveté-stricken appetite for knowledge with encyclopedias of superstitions, stories of the supernatural, and what would otherwise be the peddling of a snake oil salesman in lesser civilized countries.

"1,000 Superstitions", one book was titled. This particular item was a favorite of my collection; it was essentially a gluttonous catalogue from which I could cherry pick just the superstitious solution to serve whatever need I had. Having bad dreams? Hang a horseshoe in the room. Need some good luck? Bring a frog in the house. Want to avoid bad luck? Avoid clipping fingernails on a Friday or Sunday. So many to choose from, so many ways to tie my mind into a Gordian knot of fallacies. With my simple-minded gullibility, my faithfulness to these artifacts of arbitrariness was further supported by the common knowledge of "superstitious people" and their conventional fabrications, e.g. the bad luck accompanied by black cats, the good fortune associated with four-leaved clovers, and so on. "Other people do it, so it must work!" my reasoning went.

In exacerbation, my gullibility was galvanized by the mild brainwashing of Christian propaganda. The tainting of my worldview with colorful strokes of imagination from the occasional Jehovah's witnesses, televangelists, and biblical lore created upon me the impressions of a magical existence, whose rules were bent to the will of those who pulled the right strings. Have a life-crippling disability? Go on late night TV, write out a check to God, get touched on the forehead, and hallelujah, you'll be healed! Wide-eyed with imagination, I fantasized the possibilities - one guy even managed to split the Red Sea! Clearly, the only true way around this world was through magical thinking, and so I gleefully dived nose-first into the shallow contents of my deep collection of books; each superstition, each token of insanity fueling my slippery notion of reality as a place where causality is reduced to sorcery.

Yet, with each addition to my intricate, complex web of erroneous thinking, my worldview became all the more precarious. Obsessively worrying about whatever disaster lurked around the corner, waiting to be unleashed by the release of my neurotic grip on little, inane details - where I step on sidewalks, what metal poles might come between me and walking companions, which words were or were not uttered - I slowly became racked with paranoia. Rather than empowering myself with an instrument of clarity and precision, I enslaved myself to a convoluted mess, stifled by inefficient thinking; in essence, instead of being in control, my superstitions were controlling me.

But it wasn't long before the silent, accumulating doubt as to the efficacy of such nonessential thinking erupted into the rueful realization that, in terms of general auspiciousness or hardship, life before and after the discovery of superstition was indistinguishable. With or without amphibious friends, I had no more or less to show for my efforts. "Yet," besieging myself in the dementia of circular reasoning, "what if unseen disasters still lurk, kept at bay only with my crossed fingers, my magic crystals, my mystical incantations?" Desperate for the salve of my mind, I began to seek comfort in facts - "The fact is that plenty of people aren't into this stuff, and they're just fine!" I reassured myself. In irony, the world that I was discontent with as a kid, the world that operates on immutable laws of existence, where magic is reduced to the imaginary, where objectivity and reason is the true way to gain any semblance of control, became the very refuge which I sought from the nightmare of my own creation.

In realizing the indifferent lawfulness of existence, I freed myself from the neurosis of exploiting imaginary lawlessness; I reason with confidence, I comfortably march the sidewalks, and I sleep at night in blissful carelessness.
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