Superstition is Alive and Well!

By Theodore T. Hodge


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

October 21, 2003

Author's Note: This is a fictional story, which is not necessarily a description of the circumstances surrounding my up-bringing or my experiences.

I was born in a village In Liberia called Zoe-town. Actually it was a town, but I like to think of it as a kingdom; a very powerful kingdom, so to speak. I was lucky enough to be born in the most powerful family in Zoe-town. My father was lord of all the zoes and my mother was the queen-mother. My uncles and aunties, both maternal and paternal, held very powerful positions in the hierarchy in Zoe kingdom. Their children, my siblings, nephews, nieces, cousins and others were given the assurance of a good life... We were told never to worry about anything because our collective fate would be controlled by living spirits. We were taught to place our faith in dark forces, magic, voodoo...

Zoe, as used here, refers to a witchdoctor, a high priest or practitioner of witchcraft; someone highly skilled and respected in the use of the craft of black magic or voodoo.

We were led to believe that a lot of people outside our kingdom believed in the powers of dark magic; that as long as these people demanded magical craft, our people would supply it. Later on I came to learn that this theory is called “supply and demand”.

Nobody from our town ever went to school, the western version, that is, until I reached the age of ten. When I first told my mother that I was interested in going to school to study western ways, the entire family was shocked: they thought I was nuts.

I will not bore you with the details. But suffice it to say that it was agreed that I go to school but only up to the high school level at which time I would return to become the chief translator or ambassador, the link to the world of Zoes and the outside culture.

After high school graduation, I told them I was going to Monrovia to spend some time with friends. To everyone’s surprise, but with the secret support of my mother, I began to study at the university. Eventually, I got a scholarship to matriculate to an American university.

Zoe-town had a big and elaborate ceremony for me. I was “bathed” in mysterious, magical stuff for about two weeks. Every imaginable spirit was invoked to ensure my success. I was given certain talismans to protect me from evil and harm. The bad spirits were ordered to stay away and the good spirits were asked to perpetually protect and guide me.

Upon arriving here (America), I was confronted by a new reality. I was told by everyone in every class that it was a backward idea to believe in voodoo or witchcraft or whatever name one would prefer to call it.

In science classes I was taught how to derive conclusions through painstaking observations and experimentations. I was taught and convinced that everything could be proved or disproved using stringent scientific methods.

In philosophy, I was told to apply logic and reasoning systematically. I was told to stay away from “unexplained” sciences such as voodoo and witchcraft

In various other modern subjects, there was a variation of the same theme. I was taught how to become a new man through new thinking. I was shown how to become a good public speaker through practice, and how to become a rich man through the proven principles of finance and money management… I listened, but I had my doubts.

It should come as no surprise that my original feeling of joy turned into sadness. “Change” is always a very difficult thing to deal with. Some people experience physiological problems, such as weight loss because of the change of diet. Some people suffer immensely from the climate/weather change. Coming from a tropical climate to the United States in the middle of winter, for example, can be a trying experience.

My problem was a psychological conflict – a problem within myself. How was I to cope with this new environment? I was giving up something comfortable for something less clear and scary – giving up familiar surroundings and ways of coping and acting, and replacing them with new ones. I certainly longed for times past and experienced great sadness. On the other hand I found this new environment very promising; positive.

It wasn’t too long before I made my decision. What did I do? I threw away all my good stuff that the good people of Zoe-town had given me. I threw away the talisman that was supposed to protect me for the rest of my life. I have hence live as an “enlightened” man believing in science, philosophy, and religion and the practice of western styled politics and economics, etc, etc, etc.

I have since considered myself lucky to have left the backward village of Zoe-town. I have sent money back from time to time, but I have not gone back, neither have I had an inclination to do so. I have since been convinced that my parents and relatives and other citizens of Zoe-town were all wrong about the powers of the supernatural. I was convinced that believing in curses, genies, spirits, ghosts and other such things was simply a useless exercise. At least so I thought until the last few weeks.

During the last few weeks, the baseball playoffs made me re-think. We have been told that the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox have not won any championships for a very long time because the teams are cursed. That I found quite shocking!

I thought it was an idea held by an ignorant reporter who has never studied science, logic or statistics. I began to tell myself that in baseball all that counts is the statistics produced by the pitching, the batting averages and the speed and smartness in running the bases. I dismissed this guy as a lunatic.

However, to my utmost surprise, the entire country has been caught up in this frenzy of believing that those two teams are actually cursed; that until the curses are lifted, they can’t win. The major networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and all the others have all expressed the same idea of a curse hanging over the teams.

I began to listen and pay attention. There were soothsayers telling us that the time had come for the curse to be lifted from at least one of these teams – Chicago or Boston. Well, Chicago seemed to be on its way, when the Cubs took a 3-1 lead of their series against the Florida Marlins. To the dismay of the many, Florida slowly came back to win the series and sent the Chicago Cubs home again!

Well, not only did the Cubs lose, but their loss featured a dramatic (traumatic) incident. A Cubs fan reached out and snatched the ball when a Cubs player was about to make a catch. The Florida Marlins from there on scored one run after another, to put the Cubs away.

This fan was said to have “snatched defeat out of the mouth of victory”. That’s a powerful statement to make. After all, the game was played for over three hours, how could they attribute an incident that lasted for only a split second to the outcome of the game? Aren’t these superstars paid mega bucks to win games? Many were however, convinced that this fan was possessed by the devil. It was reasoned that the “curse” had to live on and this poor fan was simply the vehicle used to deliver the message. Now, all agree the “curse” must live on in Chicago for at least another year!

What’s about Boston? They went on to win game six and tie the series against their arch rivals, the New York Yankees. In game seven, they had a seemingly comfortable 4-0 lead. All indications were that this terrible curse would be broken. Or would it?

New York tied the score at 5-5 and a great deal hung in the balance. All of a sudden it was reported that a popular Yankee player reminded his teammates that he “sensed” the presence of the ghosts of past players. These “ghosts” came to remind the team that the “curse” must live on. And as the powerful, unexplained superstitious message enveloped the environment, the Yankees were revitalized while the Red Sox sunk in disbelief.

The Yankees had mysteriously come from behind to beat the Red Sox. This morning, and for the next few weeks, anybody who has ears will hear that Chicago and Boston lost despite excellent performances. They simply lost because of a “curse”, because evil spirits and ghosts magically control their fate, we are told. Oh, really?

Now, I’m damn mad because these people made me throw away my good stuff I brought from home. They told me to believe in science, philosophy, religion and all that other stuff and forget the spirits of the dead. They told me dead spirits don’t influence our lives. Oh yes? Then how come they believe in all this ghost stuff?

I’m mad as hell. I’m going back to Zoe-town to apologize to my people. I’m going to ask them to bring my good spirits back and keep the evil spirits away. If the spirits in Chicago and Boston and the ghosts of New York live, so must the spirits of Zoe-town. I can feel them already.

I hate to think ahead to try to predict the future. But it occurs to me to wonder: Will my people ever forgive me? Will they ever trust and understand me? Will I be able to understand them as I did before? Will I be forever a man of two worlds, one moment believing in spirits, and another moment not believing? I must go now, I feel the spirit!