Archive for the 'superstition' Category

What we agree is reality

April 8, 2012

There was a piece about “superstition” in the NYTimes, ostensibly defending it.  On the one hand, this is an improvement over Lucretius, who I think is against it (I once got tripped up trying to use a passage from his De Rerum Natura as a Latin invocation I was asked to do, because the lines subsequent to what I was planning to read (something about “Up with the intellect”) said something like “Down with religio,” and while religio meant something like superstition, the dean at the university was taking no chances, and we settled on some nice pastoral Virgil for me to read instead).  I was thinking, though, as I read this tepid support for some ways of interpreting the world (not all of which I subscribe to, by any stretch), that “When correctly viewed” (that’s from a Tom Lehrer lyric: “When correctly viewed, Everything is lewd”), most of what we accept without much thought as adults as being “real” is a product of convention, vast and deep and over many centuries, but convention still — it is our consensus reality, and viewed from afar, most of it can look as idiosyncratic as what many people in our current culture categorize as superstition.