GROUNDS FOR SUPERSTITION AND SILLY BEHAVIOR

By Skeptik Sinikian

The other day–while at a coffee shop–I noticed an Armenian man in his 40s or 50s finish his single shot of espresso–then flip the tiny paper cup over on a napkin. I didn’t think much of the gesture at first but after five minutes–when he flipped the cup back over and started staring at the remnants of the coffee grinds–I realized that the poor sap was trying to read his own fortune. Too busy to make a decent–thick-as-mud cup of Armenian coffee–our friend was using a commercial substitute to satisfy his urge to know his future. I wanted to approach this man and tell him that I could save saved him the trouble of reading his grinds by telling him what the coffee grounds said. After all–it’s always the same two or three things. You’re either going to receive a letter from a strange man. You’re going to go on a trip or you’re either going to win or lose money. Sometimes the letter is actually news and it’s brought to you by a bird instead of a strange man but this is only a slight variation on the three different predictions commonly used by Armenian grandmothers worldwide.

I personally don’t believe that a person’s future is determined by the leftovers of someone’s coffee. I don’t believe in horoscopes either. But I know people who do. These are people who not only believe in horoscopes but live their lives by them. Maybe the Armenian obsession with rituals that deal with superstition stems from our lack of faith in our own abilities to make our destiny. How else do you explain the thousands of Armenian grandmothers out there who regularly go to church AND play the lottery. I don’t remember that verse in the Bible that said blessed are the gambling ‘dadeegs’ for they shall inherit God’s timeshare in Las Vegas.

I admit that I’ll look up my own horoscope but it’s mainly for laughs than it is for actual everyday or even life altering decisions. My friend’s grandmother–on the other hand–will clip horoscopes for her grandchildren and mail it to them with a Lotto ticket. "Janeeg–pakhdud portseh"–"Honey–try your luck." But this whole horoscope business got me thinking. Why do only people have to have horoscopes? What if countries had horoscopes too? I wondered what Armenia’s horoscope was on this unnaturally rainy Los Angeles day.

Armenia’should have a horoscope. After all–it has been personified in so many Armenian songs–poems–stories–everyday lexicon that it might as well be a person. So I decided to look it up. (What you’re about to read is not made up. It is an actual horoscope taken from an internet horoscope site). The hardest part would be to figure out what Armenia’s sign is. Armenia is either a Virgo (September 21) or a Gemini (May 28)–depending on who you ask. Here’s what the horoscope for Virgo read on January 14–2005: "New material comes with new territory. Your first reaction may tell the whole story–or it may mean nothing at all. Nobody has the answers at this point. At least you’re getting used to the idea of change." Strangely enough–it seemed to fit. New territory can be Artsakh (even though it’s always been historically Armenian) and I can see how NOBODY in Armenia has any answers to the Artsakh conflict at this point. And change can refer to independence–exodus–privatization–etc. It sort of made some sense. Then I looked up the horoscope for Gemini which read: "If you broke it–you have to buy or replace it. Arguing your case just goes to show how weak it is. This is one time when you have to choose your battles carefully. Winning an easy one can only help your image." I could interpret this in a myriad of ways. Choosing your battles? Armenia’s seem to always be tilting their lances at imaginary windmills instead of focusing on real and immediate threats. We’re constantly rebuilding ancient churches in Armenia in villages of populations of 100 or less while dozens of Armenian kids are arrested and thrown in jail in Los Angeles every day. Building churches is a noble endeavor but the horoscope clearly states "?you have to choose your battles carefully." This was sort of creepy.

And just for fun–I decided to look up the Republic of Turkey too. Turkish Sovereignty Day is April 23–which also happens to be Turkish Children’s Day. Before your blood pressure begins to rise at the oddly inappropriate and ironic date for these two made up holidays–let me just say that Turkey happens to be a Taurus. Here’s what Turkey’s horoscope said: "You still know a few tricks this crowd hasn’t seen. Leave them smiling instead of feeling afraid. You’re a master at framing the issues to make yourself look good. Once you inspire loyalty–your work is almost done." Can anyone think of an instance in current news where Turkey is trying to make a certain other group smile instead of feel afraid? Can you say "European Union?" At this point I was on a roll. I had to look up America too. July 4. Cancer. "Some topics must remain off limits. Your needs are important to you–but they might eclipse common courtesy or destabilize someone else’s peace of mind. Remember that a community issue could be at stake." Wow–I almost wanted to clip this one and send it to President George W. Bush with a lotto ticket and handwritten note.

I looked at the man getting up from his seat and throwing away his fortune in the nearby trash bin. I watched him as he walked to his car and drove off to work–probably unhappy that the coffee grounds had not predicted a happier more successful future. I went back to my experiment with the horoscopes. I could have a field day with all of these but I’ll let you–the reader–delve deeper and interpret them instead. I finished my cup of coffee and almost instinctively flipped the cup over before realizing that it doesn’t matter whether I’ll be going away on a trip or not or if I win or lose some money. I threw the cup in the trash and headed home.

Skeptik Sinikian encourages his readers to regularly pinch/scratch their butts to ward off evil spirits and jealous eyes. He can be reached at SkeptikSinikian@aol.com–or visit is outdated blog at www.sinikian.blogspot.com

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