When we decided to nail down our butt to our desk chair to write our second book Emotional Frustration – the hushed plaguein a six months-period (we had blogged extensively about those issues for three years and we had a lot of material) we made the firm pledge that we would wear—except for a few circumstances where other kind of garments were needed—the same comfortable grey jersey that we loved. For Hispanics that odd behavior is popularly labelled as “hacer una promesa” (make a promise) and is ingrained in the long Roman Catholic tradition of Latin America.
The use of amulets or talismans has been a millenary tradition of Humankind, almost since the times we dwelt in caves and we saved a saber tooth for happy hunting. The natural amulets are made of many materials like precious stones, metals, teeth and claws of wild animals; the man-made amulets are made of wood, iron, copper, ivory, clay or stone. People that carry amulets believe that they confer special powers due to their connections to natural phenomena, religious identifications or mere luck.
In their lugubrious caves, illuminated only by the flickering light from the burning tip of animal grease of a rustic torch, the Neanderthals used the natural amulets to invoke the auspices of the gods before they went hunting for big mammals and also after they returned with a fatally injured victim of their joint ambush of a mammoth. In Ancient Egypt the scarab beetle was worn by the living and the dead alike as it symbolized life—its hieroglyph was the same as “to become”, enabling resurrection of the mummies. In Middle Ages countless objects that belonged to saintly figures eventually became amulets; their body parts were not spared, as attested by Saint Anthony’s tongue.
Why would supposedly rational individuals believe in these extraordinary powers? We must remember that all our Cerebral Cortex, whose large mass differentiates us from animals that might be able think and imagine at a lower level, is inextricably linked with the Limbic System, seat of the emotional trove that inevitably taints our thoughts. All the sensory and motor stimuli that travel from the periphery to the Central Nervous System must pass through the Thalamus—the sensory waystation of our brains. Just below it, lies the Hypothalamus that regulates mood, sexuality and desires; it responds to external stimuli by sending signals to other limbic structures to elicit responses.
Any rational thought is always “contaminated” by our impressions triggered by various stimuli that we have received in our personal lives or form part of our shared cultures. Most objects will have a rational significance that is thinly coated with such a veneer. When a certain object elicits positive attitudes in our minds, we treasure the stimuli.
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.