#2. Reading Omens
Each one of us is equipped with the ability to recognize potential threats long before our lives are in jeopardy. Our ancestors survived as a species because they could differentiate between the sound of a party and the sound of a pack of wolves. Even today, our intuition keeps us from climbing into windowless vans with strangers, helping Nigerian princes move bank accounts, and hanging out in trash compactors aboard Death Stars. I mention all these examples because I want to be perfectly clear that premonition is a very real faculty we can employ when we are surrounded by red flags, but it is not the same thing as seeing two cats screwing in an alley and assuming that's a sign that you shouldn't go to work today.
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"I knew it, another sick day."
We have a hard time telling the difference between intuition and divination, and we frequently mistake hurdles in our lives for a tingling spider sense trying to warn us that we're on the wrong path. It's a superpower we all privately believe we possess, like we've added fate to our RSS feed and we get warnings before anyone else. Unfortunately, trying to interpret omens usually ends up as a convenient excuse to never do anything difficult. It's also a great way to explain away our own negligence. I can't even count the number of times the universe has conspired to slip liquids and gels into my carry-on when I'm already late for a flight, just to warn me that my plane is going to crash, or worse, that my trip home is going to be really boring. Oh, and speaking of doomed flights ...
#1. Causing Disasters by Joking About Them
Recently I was on a flight during which the attendant joked over the intercom that we should all hold on tight because the plane was so full that the tail might scrape the ground during takeoff. He was booed savagely by a few passengers, and the woman seated in front of me made demands to another attendant that he be fired. She said, verbatim, "He could have gotten us all killed. There are just some things you don't joke about unless you want them to happen."
At first I thought she was being ridiculous, but on the off chance that he really did have the ability to incite tragedy just by mentioning its possibility, then I agree with her that working in a flying steel tube is probably not the best job for him.
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"And if a window cracks even a little, we'll all be sucked out into the air like pudding through a sieve."
The truth is, there's a little bit of crazy lady from 14D in all of us. We believe we have the power to jinx situations by acknowledging the worst case scenario out loud, like atrocities are T. rexes that can only find us when we make noise. It's a movie universe rule that accidentally infiltrated our lives and saddled us all with the belief that we can curse trains into derailment and our friends into cancer just by thinking about it. For instance, if I say ...
"Everyone who rushed to the comments to tell me that Marianne Williamson is responsible for the quotation I used at the top of this article: I promise you will suffer a terrible bout of diarrhea this week that will require hospitalization."
... your immediate reaction might be "Don't even joke about that." But the reality is that my words just aren't powerful enough to make it happen, regardless of how much I mean them (a lot -- it's going to be awful for you). Telling a joke isn't the same thing as controlling fate, and it certainly can't manifest my subconscious. If it could, there's no way I'd used that power for good. I'd live in a volcano hideout and the government would be paying me billions in ransom to ensure that I don't turn all your eyelids into labia.
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Oh shit, did I just will it?