Sfiga! April 9, 2011Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary , trackback
The last couple of days have been tense for Beachcombing. After seven fabulous, tripping-the-light-fantastic months of having no new symptoms from the illness that was tearing him apart, he was hit – bang – by a ‘change’.
Though in itself minor this symptom may be a sign of worse things to come and Beachcombing is, therefore, priming every gun in his arsenal – yoga, aspirins, bananas with ginger, comic-book reading, avoidance of infants… – to try and forestall a full attack.
But what particularly fascinates him is the cause of the attack and here he has no doubt: it was Paul Johnson’s The Oxford Book of Political Anecdotes (Oxford 1986).
It’s a great book – the only great book by PJ? – but it will be for ever associated by Beachcombing with illness as it was the book he was reading when Beach was first diagnosed.
It was, therefore, with some trepidation – and the root to the problem is presumably in auto-suggestion – that Beachcombing picked it up the other day for his bus ride.
Then three hours after reading about Lord Curzon losing his trousers lightning strikes and Beachcombing finds himself with frazzled hair.
Honestly, what an idiot, Beachcombing might as well have kicked an Aboriginal witchdoctor in the ghoolies…
All this got him thinking about luck in general and sfiga in particular.
Sfiga for those who do not know is the Italian sub-category of luck (or more correctly bad luck) and as Mrs B. has an Italian passport and the Beachcombings spend much of their time in Italy then sfiga figures in an exaggerated way in their lives.
Sfiga came – Beachcombing has done some research – out of the tradition of the evil eye: certainly Beachcombing’s father-in-law – who is a university professor, ahem – has the sfiga mania bad and he applies, without knowing, the tenets of the malocchio, carrying lucky charms around on his wrist, believing that compliments will destroy him…
However, in more normal twenty-first-century Italian lives – and Beachcombing is surprised by how much sfiga has penetrated his own consciousness – certain things and people porta sfiga, carry bad-luck.
Of course, in English we talk about black cats bringing bad or good luck (Beach can never remember which): but – perhaps a product of Beachcombing’s upbringing – Beachcombing just cannot take all that ‘unlucky for some stuff’ seriously.
And bar the sensible expedient of not walking under ladders, he suspects that very few modern Anglo-Saxons can either.
Sfiga is a rather more elastic and is applied to things on a merit basis: in other words some objects – books, for example – and some people are just negative and should hence be avoided or at least only approached with caution and cattle prods.
Beachcombing finds even this a bit monolithic. He has developed his own sfiga-lite philosophy where it is not that certain things and certain people are inherently unlucky, but that certain things and people are unlucky for some people. It is not ‘your’ fault that you are unlucky but ‘your’ and ‘my’ fault. Think healthy parents who in combination risk producing genetically ‘damaged’ children.
Certainly, Beachcombing notes that the person who has brought most luck to his family in the last five years is, in fact, an extraordinarily negative individual whose peculiar habits seem, however, to work well for the Beachcombings and have brought in cash, job opportunities and good will.
There are presumably science-of-the-mind books out there that explain these things to their own satisfaction. Beachcombing though is going to avoid the temptation to collect rules and just judge on a results basis: Paul Johnson’s Oxford Book is about to be exiled to the top shelf of the least penetrable room in the house where no blood relatives will ever touch it.
The present blog is, at least for Beachcombing, lucky and will be celebrated at table.
Beachcombing cannot in good faith return too often to the ‘science’ of luck as this ‘science’ has only so many applications in history. But he will return in the near future (another post, another day) to some rogue researchers on luck and their surprising results and memorable methods.
In the meantime any equivalents of sfiga in the nations of the world… drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
Beachcombing will, meanwhile, be running his childhood method of attracting luck, learnt on long walks to school a generation or two ago: what the professionals know as bargaining with God.
Beachcombing toyed with the possibility of getting a tattoo but settled instead, naturally only if the present symptom disappears, on paying for the restoration of a tomb of a close relative of one of his heroes, Gustaf Mannerheim.
It takes all sorts…