Out of the Ordinary: Folklore and the Supernatural

Out of the Ordinary: Folklore and the Supernatural

Out of the Ordinary: Folklore and the Supernatural

Out of the Ordinary: Folklore and the Supernatural

Excerpt

The essays in this volume call into question the idea that the supernatural is something strange or even extraordinary, and reading them as a whole brings attention to the fact that aspects of the supernatural are comfortably incorporated into everyday life in a variety of cultures (even in those “advanced” communities that emphasize formal education and technological sophistication). These assimilated aspects of the supernatural act as an integral part of belief constructions and behavior patterns, and, in many instances, have significant cultural function and effect.

The realm of the supernatural is inextricably connected to belief, and belief is rooted near human cognition itself, starting with a simple trust in words as symbols that allow thoughts to be communicated, ranging to polished and often complex systems of belief on which we may establish meaning and motivation for our lives.

As much as we may prefer to think otherwise, we live in an imprecise and ambiguous world, which in its inexactitude allows for the awesome, the inexplicable, the wondrous. Consider a circle drawn on a page: In your early algebra lessons, you were taught that to find the circumference of a circle you multiplied the diameter by pi, which represents the ratio between the diameter and the circumference of a circle. But pi is an irrational number (which means it is infinite, it has no end), and when a rational number is multiplied by an irrational one, the resulting number is also irrational. What that meant to me in eighth-grade algebra, and still does, is that either the ratio of the diameter to the circumference (pi) is inexact—perhaps because our mathematical system is inadequate for dealing with circles—or that circles have an inherent infinite quality about them. Either way, this phenomenon is pretty astounding, considering circles, our mathematical system, and how our society relies on both. Think how we believe in our circles and in our numbers: think of wheels and gears and things that turn round; think of one (unity, uniqueness) . . .

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