When I realized this was my thirteenth essay for On the Wings of Dreams, it somehow seemed particularly meaningful. What is it about the number 13? What inspiration was lurking in my subconscious just waiting for the right trigger to release it?
The immediate, prevalent thought was that in our culture, at least, 13 is considered unlucky – so much so that many buildings skip from the 12th floor to the 14th! And we all know the superstitions about Fridays that fall on the 13th of the month.
My muse often works in tricky, subversive ways, so it is no surprise that contemplating the number 13 would lead me into rebellious thinking. I began to think about assumptions and how dangerous they can be.
It is true that much of our experience of reality is shaped by what we expect. As an example, if you buy into the belief that any 13th of the month that falls on a Friday is going to be an unlucky day, a bad day, you will be primed to notice unlucky things. In other words, at some level, you are looking for them.
Anyone remember the old adage about what happens when we assume? You make an ASS out of U and ME!
Which can lead us to question more of our assumptions; beliefs taught to us by our culture that may be misleading.
Of course, we are entitled to our beliefs, even when they cannot be empirically proven. This is especially true in matters of spirit, which are of the heart, not the head.
But there are other assumptions of a more personal nature that may keep us from health and happiness.
Here is a small example from my own life. I assumed because I am creative (which often means messy!) that I was terrible when it came to discipline and order. This assumption kept me from many things that require commitment and routine. I hated the idea of anything imposed upon me, even if it was imposed by me.
It seemed bad enough that I had to get up everyday and go to work based on someone else’s schedule!
It wasn’t until I questioned my beliefs about organization and discipline, and began to experiment with those qualities in my life, that two wonderful things happened. The first was success in writing a novel. It was the commitment and discipline of four hours a day – everyday – that got the ball rolling.
The second was my yoga practice. Exercise! Yuck! But once I got past my resistance to it, I now look forward to my half hour of yoga like it is a treat. It is a treat – one that I get to enjoy at the same time, everyday.
If I had never questioned my assumptions, both of these things would be missing from my life. That would be a real shame considering the happiness and well being they bring to me.
Therefore – QUESTION EVERYTHING!
It does no harm to revisit what we take for granted with a bit of contemplation. This is appropriate not only in our personal lives, but also in the larger picture of culture. It’s one of the founding principles of this country.
It is especially important now, in this election year, to not make decisions based on sound bites and vague rumors. Question everything! It’s a good motto.
Just for fun, here are some instances where the number 13 is lucky, or at least cool!
Alex Rodriguez, Dan Marino and Wilt Chamberlain all wore the number 13.
There are 13 moons in a year.
There were 13 original colonies that formed the United States.
In Italy, the number 13 is considered to be a lucky.
There are thirteen major joints in your body.
And, one of those aforementioned founders (Ben Franklin, who loved to question everything) came up with thirteen virtues that he tried to put into practice everyday.
Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i. e., waste nothing.
Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
You don’t have to agree with everything Franklin postulated as virtues, but if they inspire you to question what is virtuous, they’ve done their job!
p.s. Heads up on the Autumnal Equinox, which is on September 22, at 11:44 a.m. eastern.
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