First James Brown, then Gerald Ford, and now Saddam Hussein. At first this post was going to be about their deaths, but everyone is doing that, and I’m not one to follow crowds (unless they’re heading for a shoe sale!). Besides, I became very morbidly curious about this idea / superstition / belief that death comes in threes. It seems a silly concept if taken too literally, I mean how many thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people die each day? But when people say it, they tend to mean in a family or community or (more and more often these days) celebrities, the famous and infamous.
A while back Bert blogged about President Ford’s death, and both Amber and I immediately thought of this “death comes in threes” thing and posted it, wondering who’d be next. Well, we know who was next. So as I’m listening to a very sincere and not a little angry Iraqi saying “Saddam, go to hell!” on the news this morning, I got to thinking about three deaths. Though I could not find (immediately–I get bored with researching some topics, this being one) the origin of the death comes in threes saying, I did find a lot of very interesting information about the number three.
But the most intriguing thing I found was an article entitled “The Science of Superstitions” by Dr. Sam Vatknin. In it, he makes some very interesting distinctions between the motivations (fear, ignorance) of people believing in various superstitions and the science that actually supports many superstitions themselves. I love this, actually, because there is nothing more annoying to my mind than anyone asserting their greater intelligence and enlightenment over another. I’ve seen this with atheists, smugly thinking they’re superior (not online, I mean in real life discussions), and I’ve seen it with certain religions, smugly asserting their special place with their version of God. Now, Vatknin doesn’t even mention the death comes in threes thing, nor do I think that there could possibly be any science to back it up. I ramble. Bear with me.
Because superstitions often rely on a belief in the interconnectedness of all things, as in a Wiccan or other earth- / nature- based religions, they are often dismissed as “pagan” or “old wives [witches] tales.” Maybe they are. Probably they are. To me that doesn’t make them any less (or more) valid. Patterns exist in both science and nature (who thought to separate these? Seems bizarre to me, but hey, I study literature, what do I know?). And where patterns don’t exist, human beings are all too able and ready to impose them. Chaos is anathema to us, so we reign it in, we label it, and whether we give it a superstitious or a scientific label seems secondary to that first impulse, an impulse I would argue is based in fear and ignorance for all of us, scientists and laypeople, superstitious and “rational,” alike.
Maybe we see that in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s execution? The chaos reigning in Iraq has remained, the gruesome order he achieved has long evaporated, and no one knows what to do. Trying to please all of the people all of the time, our own government pleases no one. Chaos still prevails, and instead of dealing with it, our politicians analyze it, label it, organize it into two columns (who’s right, who’s wrong), and then ponder their own findings. Is anyone looking at Iraq as it is now? At all that chaos? Doesn’t seem so to me. But hey, I’m just an old Christian with a neo-pagan streak, right?
The picture above was pilfered from Mavis; she was kind enough to give me permission to use her pics any time I want, and I’m not one to pass up such a deal! Wink.