Thursday, January 2, 2014
Was 2013 an unlucky year? Triskaidekaphobia might be the answer
It’s that time again. A brand new year, 2014; 2013 is officially behind us.
Not that I’m superstitious, but 13 is considered by many to be an unlucky number. Many buildings don’t have a 13th floor.
The year 2013 just happens to be the year I had two sons going through puberty, but surely that’s a coincidence.
According to estimates by Otis Elevators, the world’s largest manufacturer of elevators, 85 percent of buildings do not have a 13th floor.
Builders say they avoid the floor because many people refuse to live on it or buy a condo on the floor.
Triskaidekaphobia, according to Wikipedia, is the superstition related to the number 13. The word comes from the Greek tris meaning “3,” kai meaning “and,” deka meaning “10” and phobos meaning “fear” or “morbid fear.”
The origin of it is obscured in mystery. Some myths relate it back to Babylonian days when the 13th Code of Hammurabi was omitted.
There are other theories as to why 13 is considered unlucky:
There were 13 people at the Last Supper. It’s said that Judas Iscariot — the one who betrayed Jesus — was the 13th man to take his place at the table. Some people believe the crucifixion took place on the 13th and even that Eve tempted Adam on the 13th.
Similarly, there’s a Norse legend that has 12 gods sitting down to a banquet when the 13th (uninvited) god, Loki, shows up. Loki killed one of the other gods, which led to events that eventually resulted in Ragnarok — the death of a bunch of gods, a slew of natural disasters, and the eradication of everything on earth save for two human survivors.
One of the earliest concrete taboos associated with the number 13 is said to have originated in the East with the Hindus, who believed, for reasons I haven’t been able to ascertain, that it is always unlucky for 13 people to gather in one place.
Of course, we all know about the ill-fated Apollo 13 space expedition.
Another significant piece of the legend is a particularly bad Friday the 13th that occurred in the Middle Ages.
On this day in 1306, King Philip of France arrested the revered Knights Templar and began torturing them, marking the occasion as a day of evil. Both Friday and the number 13 were once closely associated with capital punishment.
Another theory associates the number 13 with a witches coven — 12 witches plus the devil.
There are many other theories: The 13th Tarot Card is the death card. There are 13 steps to the gallows. A guillotine blade falls 13 feet. Children officially begin their teenage years at age 13.
Was 2013 an unlucky year? Hard to say for the world as a whole. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines was a huge disaster. There was also Typhoon Phailin in India and hurricanes Manuel and Ingrid in Mexico. There were two bad earthquakes in Central Visayas and the Philippines. America suffered several major tornadoes. Then of course the U.S. debt crisis and the rollout of Obamacare. No hurricanes down South.
When I asked the Great Google if 2013 was worse than other years, I got pretty weak search results.
No matter -- 2013 is past. We can’t blame our troubles in the coming year on bad luck.
Now it’s time to move on to our New Year’s resolutions. Oh boy! The top 10 New Year’s resolutions are 1) spend more time with my family, 2) get fit, 3) lose weight, 4) quit smoking, 5) enjoy life more, 6) quit drinking, 7) get out of debt, 8) learn something new, 9) help others and 10) get organized.
Seems to me number five conflicts with several of the others. I am partial to number five.
Most of us want to do better. Why does our resolve so easily fade?
St. Paul said it best in Romans 7:15-20:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
I will admit that some of that is way over my head, but I get the basic idea: The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
New Year’s resolutions are hard to keep. If St. Paul failed to conquer his weakness, then at least I am in good company.
That being so, I shall tee it up again and set forth through the new year. I will try to be patient. I will try to be kind. I will try to turn the other cheek. I will try to be good and faithful and humble and forgiving. I will try to extol the good in others and minimize the bad.
I will try to eat right, drink less and exercise more, knowing that my body is a gift to sanctify, not a party barge to sink.
I will try to listen to others with the same interest with which I listen to myself talk. I will try to be grateful for what I have, rather than envy what I have not. I will try not to let those nasty birds make a nest in my hair.
Instead of getting angry when things don’t go my way, I will try to laugh instead.
I will try to find the good in each situation instead of the frustration. When I tell my stories, they will be stories of love, peace and joy instead of anger, frustration and misery.
I will work hard but not obsessively, knowing that the ultimate task has already been achieved and I have nothing more to add other than to enjoy a good meal and a glass of wine with friends and family. Wise words from King Solomon.
So Happy New Year!
If you find a way to follow through on your resolutions, please share. Many would be most appreciative for the insight.
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