Categories
Psychology

Bad Luck Bamboo and the Magical Indifference of Nature

I got myself some lucky bamboo a few weeks ago, just before the scattered tapestry of our world began rapidly unravelling under the weight of a viral pandemic. It makes me wonder about luck – not because I really believe in anything fundamentally magical or, at least, “lucky” but because superstition and unfounded belief are so widespread that it seems as though these psychological and cultural entities and artefacts may in many ways (and inadvertently) actually create what we might recognise as “bad luck”.

Assertions of meaning and value are commonly made to various facts in this world that would otherwise pass us by like any other trivial item of general insignificance. Human cognition is foundationally structured around pattern recognition and construction; we revel in the production of labyrinthine webs of interconnection, seeking to bask there under the light and warmth of these aspirationally intelligent discoveries and creations. While there are certainly significant patterns, regularities and principles (e.g. the laws of physics) in nature, our cognitive assertions of meaning and significance are more often the consequences of our cultural existence.

The dusty half-truths of magical thinking are what lead us into all kind of mystical errors of thought. In many ways, the cultural production of superstition is a function of information system self-propagation – information and energy-processing systems are autonomously-oriented (as properties of physics, mathematics and logic) towards their own optimal self-propagation; they seek continuity through us as much as we do through them.

The introduction of semantic overlays of value-attribution and meaning create a systemic dissonance and uncertainty that is crucial for the cultivation of novelty, innovation and resilient cognitive or cultural responses to change. However, an enduring presence of entropy as potential disorder leads us to grasp at the lowest-hanging fruit of meaning. Assertions of good or bad luck are precisely such median simplicities. There is no luck, there are only patterns and the more complicated the systems of explanation we build upon them, the more rapidly they collapse – leaving behind them a vacuum into which we assert more superstition.

There is mystery in this world, and there is complexity bordering upon an infinite and boundless wonder – but there is no magic, and there is no luck. Nature is indifferent to all of our aspirations and we are blind to our own ignorance and magical thinking.

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