On Science, Religion, Lucky Numbers, and our Need to Link Every Unassociated Thing

On Science, Religion, Lucky Numbers, and our Need to Link Every Unassociated Thing

It’s in human nature to subconsciously beat our brains out to make weird connections between unfamiliar people, things and unrelated events before trying to come up with a logical explanation to prove what our minds had falsely linked long before. We all do this as a means of gaining familiarity towards the unknown, as once we make connections that could allegedly explain the scary, the uncertain unknown in any way, our fear becomes beatable, bearable, predictable and later, even prone to manipulation for some to rule others.

When science was nonexistent or still taking its baby steps, we considered lightnings and thunderbolts to be the doings of an angry god punishing us and when we reacted in any meaningless way out of fear and sheer panic, we believed our actions were to take credit in stopping a meteorological event which would have ceased by doing nothing anyway. Soon after, we began performing meaningless rituals, like prayers, dancing and even appointed the first lightning banishers as shamans or wise men to protect our wellbeing in the times of danger. Centuries passed, and science gradually evolved to explain the mysteries of our world, but we still haven’t changed at our core. Most of us still believe a lucky shirt worn on a day expected to turn out bad would help us into changing it for the better. How else could the link between a piece of manmade fabric and a successful job interview be explained other than the shirt being a lucky shirt! The truth simply lies on ‘believing’ being the key that turns the bad day into a good one, but we also need a reference point to do so… to boost our self confidence… to feel smart… to have power upon others… And that’s where the shirt comes in and our logic goes out.

On second thought, don’t wear your lucky shirt to a job interview if it looks like this!

It’s not just lucky objects that dictate our actions in such ways. Sometimes, it’s lucky numbers that decide our fate from picking out a wedding day to jotting them down as the next hopefully winning powerball (lottery) number. How some numbers come to be lucky for us isn’t a mystery either; it has the same working principle as the lucky shirt. When we come across a formerly insignificant figure, and something good happens, the incoherent connection is already up and running in our minds. It’s no wonder that almost nobody’s lucky number is 0 as we don’t see it around much! There are no days in a month starting with a zero, nor there are house numbers we run into in our daily lives, etc. with just a plain old zero. The number ‘0’ is still lucky on its own account, as it’s not labeled as an ‘unlucky’ numeral like the unfortunate ’13’, where our malfunctioning reasoning skills took over once more! The clerical error of an early translator resulted in the omittance of the thirteenth line (law) in the Code of Hammurabi, was one of the incidents tagging the figure as ‘bad’, or ‘unlucky’. And, when two different dinner parties in ancient lore, included a thirteenth guest, the unjust link between the number and it being bad solidified: Judas betrayed Jesus after showing up as the thirteenth guest in the Last Supper and the appearance of Loki (he was evil) in Valhalla as the thirteenth entity at a dinner party, sealed the fate of the number 13. It is surprising how ancient lore still has a tight grip on our reasoning skills centuries later.

Sometimes one more is too much!

Speaking of lore, just think how religion evolved from worshipping multiple, more vicious gods derived from nature to its current form of believing in a single, invisible higher power! It’s just that our brains are wired to create links where there are none when we encounter things we can’t explain. One of the mysteries we would never be able to solve, which is what happens when we die is also explained by the concepts of heaven and hell. Do good deeds in life, and you’ll drink wine from the rivers of a breathtaking garden, do bad deeds and you’ll burn for eternity with no cable TV. Wait! Cable TV? There can’t be that in hell, or at least not according to the holy books. Heaven and hell were depicted centuries ago and their appearance seem to have not changed at all, even today. Not one bit. Why? Because the lore says so! And, this happens in the modern world where a five-year-old non-fiction book is deemed as outdated! For me, there’s no life after death, but death after life has been proven. However, it feels good, even for me, to fantasize about an immortal life in a beautiful garden upon retirement from life.

My heaven would be less wild animals, more books and a working wi-fi

Lastly, we love our built-in crooked reasoning so much that we started teaching our ‘linking the unrelated’ method to animals, such as monkeys pushing buttons to get food. Poor primates must be thinking hard to figure out the link between a magic button and a bunch of bananas! Or are they?

For the majority of us, most things we encounter in life are still mysteries. Let them be, unless we can explain the unknown by science.

Vampires: Why they are depicted as they are…

baris-vampire

In modern times, vampires are often portrayed as gorgeously attractive, blood-sucking, immortal creatures who have supernatural powers such as turning into bats, hypnosis and having super senses and ultra speed, to name just a few. Funny enough, as gorgeous creatures as they are, they do not have reflections in mirrors. And somehow, they can easily turn into dust under daylight and can be killed by a wooden stake, when stabbed right through their hearts. Let’s speculate a bit about these elements which have made the modern vampire:

1. Blood-sucking: Blood is what gives life to the living. Since vampires are undead, it’s perfectly normal for them to suck life from us, transferring it from their victim to their bodies. And since they cannot get their daily vitamin D intake from the sun, they drink blood which has at least trace amounts of the necessary vitamins.

2. Fetish for the neck: Picture a scene where a vampire is draining the blood of an attractive victim, which part of the body would the vampire go for? What makes a great scene even when feeding? Fangs penetrating the skin over the abdomen? Knee caps? Arm pits? Or the neck itself?
In Armenian mythology,  there is one queer vampire named Dakhanavar, who sucks the soles (Yes, “soles” of the feet, not “souls”) of its victims while they are sleeping. It surely does not look so cool visually, except for people with foot fetish. And maybe not even for them if the victim is a peasent grandma housing an ecosystem of blisters and bunions on her feet.
Another good reason for vampires choosing the neck is carotid arteries that can be found in each side of the neck. Why drink from an infrequently dripping tap when you can get access to a fountain. Right?

3. Turning into bats: Bats are nocturnal creatures just like vampires. Besides, vampires would not look so cool if they turned into hamsters or ponies, would they? (They would look cuter though). By turning into “vampire” bats, they also gain the ability to fly, which takes the problem of geography off the table: A vampire story would have no limits on the diversity of the locations that it took place at. Do not forget that we, humans have started as explorers as well, not settlers…
vamp-bat

4. Hypnosis, Altering or Erasing Memories: If you are still reading this, it means that you haven’t been killed by a vampire until now. Do not consider yourself lucky as it might be because most vampires would rather feed on their prey multiple times than kill it off instantly. There’s no need to annihilate the food supply at one go. It’s like eating out at your favorite place most nights, again and again. They know that, we, humans can compensate blood loss by generating more blood when needed. Here’s how the hunting process goes for a typical vampire:
Find a lively victim, lure it into a dark alleyway by hypnosis, prevent the prey from resisting (again by hypnosis), fang its neck, drink just the right amount of blood so the victim can survive, alter or erase the memories of the incident and let the victim blame the fang marks on the neck, on a twisted tree branch run into the previous night. Visit the victim again and repeat the process when the victim recuperates.
Now, let’s shed light on why vampires seem to have this ability, which is far less cooler than most other super powers (like being totally immortal or time travelling):
Hypnosis, altering or erasing memories add to the intellectual qualities of a vampire, meaning that they do not only have brawns, but also brains. Plus, it provides them with mysterious characteristics as nobody can know anything about them for sure. The victims’ memories could have easily been altered.

5. The Destructive Sun: Nobody has ever seen a tanned lord of the night. Right?  Vampires are all pale and turn into dust when exposed to direct sunlight. But, why? Well, first of all, the sun provides life to all living things on our planet. The sun and life are as closely related to each other as night and death. And vampires are dead…err…. undead, but I think you get my point.
But, what about the impact of this in modern culture?
Let’s go back about 60-70 years in history, when having a pale, white skin, unspoilt by a suntan used to be a sign of nobility. It was those times when peasents, workers and the poor had to work in fields under direct sunlight to earn a living while the noblemen stayed indoors, in their luxurious castles or dwellings and rarely put afoot outside. So, we can easily link pale skin to nobility and that may be why the vampires are susceptible to sunlight. When stripped out of their nobility (having a suntan), vampires become more ordinary, similar to the vast majority of people living in those times. Ordinary is far from being cool. Turning into dust under direct sunlight may also have reference to our origins: Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…

6. Being irresistibly gorgeous and immortal: No matter how good-looking we are, we, humans tend to find flaws with our physical appearance (All the women and most men). We are programmed that way. The physical qualities of a vampire, on the other hand, is exactly what we have been looking for since the beginning of time. It’s a spot-on representation of what we have been longing for, just like immortality. Perhaps, vampires are a mere representation of all our dreams: Being extremely good-looking, immortal and noble beings with super powers… And perhaps, that’s why they do not have reflections as they are perfect in every way and we are not. At least not in those countless selfies we take on a daily basis.

7. Death by wooden stakes: Mythologically speaking, vampires go way back in time, when adamantium rods, lightsabers or steel swords were pretty much non-existant and iron weapons scarce. However, wood was everywhere. Although it is still not clear why stabbing vampires through the heart kills them (a heart which does not beat or pump blood), it is good to know that wooden stakes do the job. Especially ones that are shapened from ash trees (Another reference to “Ashes to ashes”?). Ash trees were also referred to “Tree of Life” in Norse mythology. There!

8. Vampire Repellents: A blood-sucker shows up in your doorstep. What do you do? No worries! Just use one of the repellents below that are commonly found in nearly every household:
a) Garlic: It’s the vampire kryptonite! As humans we are, we can barely stand the stench of someone who has recently consumed garlic, how could a vampire with super senses endure it? These creatures of the night can allegedly smell the scent of blood from miles away just as they could be effectively disgusted by the sight and smell of garlic in face-to-face encounters. Besides, garlic is known to eradicate bacteria if we assume vampirism to be a contagious illness spread by bacteria.
b) The Cross or the Crucifix: Although overrated, religion seems to have some power after all. A newly turned vampire can remember his/her sins after turning and run away when confronted by such symbols, possibly succumbing into a temporary depression. When in depression, hunger just fades away… for a while…
It would surely be different symbols (repellents) for bloodsuckers following other religions: A crescent for Muslim vampires or the Star of David for Jewish vampires would work just the same. Just pray that you never meet a heretic vampire!
c) Bag of rice: While not a repellent, common rice has its own tricks up to its sleeves. Most vampires in mythology seems to have a weird case of OCD and they tend to count every grain of rice when they come accross them, thus losing valuable night time when counting every bit.
This OCD may have developed in vampires some time after immortality as when immortal for centuries, anyone tends to get bored of life and look for new… activities to kill time…
This is just a brief summary and speculation of why vampires are imagined as they are.
I hope you enjoyed it 🙂