Paraskevidekatriaphobia

Friday13thI’m not a superstitious person. In fact, I enjoy taking long walks under ladders, hanging out with black cats, and am fascinated by the many ways a mirror can suddenly divide itself into a thousand different mini-portrait reflections.

However, I want to be sensitive to the millions or hundreds or perhaps tens of people who are paralyzed by paraskevidekatriaphobia. As I am sure you are already aware, paraskevidekatriaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th. Yes, there is a name for it.

Before you go spending hours on Wikipedia, I can go ahead and tell you that no one really knows where this day first acquired such a stigma. The bottom line is that people don’t like the number 6 or the number 13, so put them together on a calendar and it’s just too creepy.

I’m guessing that as a whole, humanity just can’t help being a little bit superstitious. It makes me wonder whether it really is possible to make any sense of the world using only natural, scientific, or mathematical explanations.

What does the world look like if our existence is only made up of chance and mathematics? Think of it. Fear becomes only a physiological defense mechanism, brought on by a survival instinct that has developed through evolution. Love becomes equally bland: our survival instincts have developed automatic chemical reactions whenever a potential mate (read: attractive to our unique DNA stamp) comes near us. Call it boring, but don’t call it destiny.

Yawn.

But just because I think it’s boring doesn’t mean it’s false. Perhaps our proclivity for the spiritual is just a desperate grasping in the face of a meaningless existence. Now we are on to something…

Solomon, forgetting proper etiquette in writing a book of the Bible, opens Ecclesiastes with this gloomy outlook:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”

says the Teacher.

“Utterly meaningless!

Everything is meaningless.”

“Ahem, excuse me, Solomon. We’re gonna need you to rework this first part of your book. I know you are in touch with the so-called struggles of life, but in the real world we have to sell books in the Christian bookstore. If we want something dismal, we’ll call the prophet Jeremiah.”

I like Solomon, mostly because he taught us that the meaninglessness of life is a great position from which to begin understanding life. We are created beings, so by default we seek to understand our origins, and we are born into a world shuffling its way through chaos. We look at all that chaos and say, “Meaningless!” Then we try and fill the vacuum with anything from ghost stories and Fridays the 13ths to golden Buddhas and prayers to dead saints.

Solomon’s ultimate response to meaninglessness was to “fear God and keep his commandments.” He discovered that those commandments were custom fit for how his Creator crafted his body, mind, and soul. So he tossed his lucky rabbit’s foot and began to face the chaos with more than just the luck of the draw.

By the way, wanna know the next time we have three Friday the 13ths in one year? 2012. Fortunately, we won’t need to stock up any canned food for that one, since it’s the end of the world (CREDIT: Ancient Mayan civilizations who loved to play practical jokes on future generations).

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