My wife and I believe in “zit karma”. The way it works is, if you point out a pimple on someone’s face, you are doomed to get an equal or greater blemish on your own. It’s the universe’s way of making sure you don’t become callous toward the dermatological misfortunes of others. It teaches us compassion.
Zit karma also leads to some serious verbal wrangling. For example, here is a typical conversation between my wife and me.
Me: Emmy, see this big zit on my forehead? It’s forming a whitehead. Do you think I should pop it? Or should I just leave it alone?
Emmy: Hmm. I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I can’t see anything on your forehead. But you know me: there are definitely times when I can’t resist popping a zit.
Me: Yeah, but sometimes they get worse if you pop them. They get all red and become even more noticeable. What do you think about this one? Should I pop it?
Emmy: Well, if you did have a zit, I wouldn’t suggest popping it now, because I’m standing right here.
Me: So, you don’t think I should pop this zit right here on my forehead?
Emmy: I was thinking–last night when we had all our friends over for dinner–that some zits are really noticeable, and if I had a really big one on my face, I would definitely want to have popped it well before everyone showed up, so they didn’t have to look at it. I’m not sure what made me think about that, though.
Me: Okay, so I’ll pop it. It is pretty gross looking. It might be starting to ooze a little anyway.
Emmy: Pop what?
Of course, we have no empirical evidence that zit karma is an actual thing. We haven’t carried out rigorous scientific testing to determine whether subjects who point out others’ facial pustules show a statistically significant rise in their own levels of acne after doing so. No, it’s more of a cautionary practice, a “better to be safe than sorry” kind of thing. Plus, it’s fun.
Zit karma is similar to some of the superstitions I’ve learned about from my wife’s family. Her parents are from the Philippines, and while they are not superstitious people themselves, they have told me about some of the strange beliefs they encountered growing up. Things like, if you sleep with your feet pointed toward the door, someone in your family will die. Or, don’t give someone shoes, or they’ll walk all over you. (So, if someone gives you shoes, you should give them at least something small, like a penny, as a work-around.) Or, one of my favorites: if you find a single hair growing someplace unusual on your body, like the long white ones that seem to show up randomly on your arms, or the thick black ones that grow out of moles, don’t cut it or pluck it out, because that, my friends, is a lucky hair.
Most people don’t take these things seriously, because they’re pretty irrational. But I wonder, how different are some of our more accepted religious beliefs or bits of conventional wisdom? Are they based on real evidence, or just a feeling about what we’d like to be true?
For instance, one bit of wisdom I have heard quite a few times in my years around church people is, “Everything is in God’s hands. We’ve just got to let go and let God handle it.” Contrast that with another one I run into sometimes, “God helps those who help themselves.” Well, which is it? And how can we possibly know?
This is just one example, and I’m not foolish enough (not right now anyway) to start listing in this blog post all the religious beliefs or popular truisms I think are crazy or wrongheaded. But it’s a question worth considering, don’t you think? Shouldn’t we at least pause every once in a while to question our beliefs and ask ourselves where they come from? Otherwise, we might be out there living our lives by some set of principles that have no more basis in reality than zit karma!Like this? Click to subscribe!