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As connoisseurs of history, we sometimes find styles, trends and turns of phrase from the past that we wouldn’t mind bringing back to the present, Doc Brown-style. This time around, we’re dusting off superstition.

We’re usually fans of reason.

But while we trust science in 19 out of 20 occasions, there are a few places where the rational order of the universe breaks down and pure, tribal instinct is the only system that can adequately make sense of the world. The shortlist includes job interviews, sold-out concerts, public transportation, local elections, and professional sports.

It’s not exactly the modern thing to do, but it’s the honest human thing to do—and it’s a custom we’d like to dust off.

Allow us to elaborate…

Consider the high pop fly, hovering between fair and foul. There’s a whole web of micro-currents and localized pressure systems taking sides on where it lands, far more complex than we can lay a mental finger on. Coming to terms with it all on a rational level would bring you face-to-face with the incomprehensible nature of the universe—and, more importantly, ruin the game. Leaning to the right, on the other hand, is simple enough to put your back into.

And that’s just one hit in a game, one game in a season. When you get to the more weighty matters—starting with jobs, kids, and anything that happens in a courtroom—the random chance involved is enough to drive someone crazy. Reason and precaution can only take you so far. The rest of it is up to lucky shoelaces, dud coins and any other one-of-a-kind item you pick up in your travels. Keep at your superstition long enough and you’ll have a whole cohort of magical keepsakes, each with its own story and meaning.

So while eating the same meal in the same restaurant for weeks on end might seem like a pre-modern pastime, it’s one we like. In fact, we’ll cross our fingers for them.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom