On Superstitions by A.G. Gardiner
In the essay On Superstitions by A.G. Gardiner we have the theme of fear, control, superstition, logic, tradition, insecurity and escape. Taken from his Alpha of the Plough Second Series collection the reader realises after reading the essay that Gardiner may be exploring the theme of fear. Man has a fear of the unknown and to alleviate this fear he creates superstitions which may or may not calm his mind. The walking of an individual around a ladder in the street rather than underneath the ladder is one of these fears or superstitions. The reality is that it is highly unlikely for someone to be injured by walking underneath the ladder. However people prefer to walk around it. It is possible that Gardiner is suggesting that many superstitions or fears are illogical. Take the number thirteen for example. Many people consider it to be a bad omen. Yet there is no reason for it to be. It is after all just another number. As Gardiner himself knows by travelling on the bus. If anything man appears to wish to escape through superstition rather than risk facing a reality he may or may not be sure of. It simply isn’t practical, as Gardiner suggests, to hold up the House of Commons due to thunder. A case that occurred during Cato’s election in Rome.
In reality it is an individual’s unwillingness to challenge their fear that gives rise to the continuation of superstitions in modern times. Also on many occasions people do not know why they are superstitious. It is something that has always been there or taught to them by their elders. Who also may not know why it is unlucky to walk underneath a ladder. Tradition plays a large part in superstitions and it is by word of mouth that superstitions are prevalent in society today. Nobody has a reasonable explanation for most superstitions apart from the fact that by not adhering to a superstition an individual gets uncomfortable. Rather than deal with the discomfort or fear an individual decides instead to pay observance to the superstition. It may also be a case that the individual who adheres to superstition is in fact insecure within themselves. Knowing that should they not follow the superstition something wrong might occur. This in itself is illogical as man does not have the power to determine whether a number thirteen bus is unlucky.
Adherence to superstitions can also cause problems for people. They will not only become afraid but they will become irrational. Say for example a man does not wish to travel on the number thirteen bus. His only option is to find another bus (most likely at a different bus stop too) which will safely carry him home. By doing so the individual is allowing for superstition to take control of his life. Yet he may not be prepared to admit to it. It is one thing being superstitious but telling another person is a different matter as they may view the individual as being foolish or old-fashioned in their beliefs. Particularly when the individual can provide no evidence as to why they are superstitious. It is better for a person to live their life free of superstition. Life will be less cumbersome and annoying should a person do so. There is no advantage to living one’s life superstitious and if anything it will only create more problems for an individual. It is easier to dismiss superstition and to be more scientific in approach. Something that those who came before were unable to do.
It is for this reason that Gardiner may be suggesting that an individual, due to the advancements in science, has no reason to be superstitious. The number thirteen is just another number. The sound of thunder is just that a sound of thunder and does not dictate the course of an election. In modern times man has to be more sensible in his approach to superstitions. To be logical when he can and cast aside any fear he may have based on information from his elders. Who as mentioned may not necessarily know why one should be superstitious. Life will be easier for the individual who carries on with their life without hindering themselves with the nonsensical superstitions that society teaches us. A man who enjoys a life free of superstition will be happier than the man who believes in superstition. He will walk under a ladder without thinking. Choose the number thirteen bus should it be purposeful to him and disregard any signs in weather that superstition dictates is a bad omen. If anything life is simpler for the man who can think for himself without allowing for superstition to overcrowd him. A free mind is a powerful mind and one that will not allow itself to be hindered by superstition.