For the devoutly superstitious, Friday the thirteenth is special—a day to take precautions. When it’s the second Friday the 13th in the year, as October 13, 2017, one rabbit’s foot isn’t sufficient. To produce enough good luck to counter the extra negative mojo, the unfortunate hare might end up a quadriplegic.

That still might not be enough to ward off the bad luck. No, that day might call for packing a shaker of salt. This to have enough sodium chloride to toss over the shoulder now and then. What’s that sound? Did a woodpecker get into the house? No, that’s the precaution of knocking on wood as much as possible. Might be prudent to carry a log that day so we always have something substantial to knock on. The salt, the knocks on wood, the rabbit’s feet—just a few of the weapons needed to keep evil forces from scoring on that most unlucky Friday.

One never knows from where the basketball of chance will be lobbed on an arc toward fortune’s net. The opposition need only score once to confirm what the superstitious know and the rational suspect—that alignments among dates and days have influence on our lives.

What astrology is to astronomy, numerology is to mathematics. Cold statistical reality is nutritiously complete for machines and the orbits of moons and planets, but for humans, tasteless. We seem to need the spice and added flavor of luck, both the good and the bad kind. The cosmic influence. “I was born under a bad star, that’s why I’m always getting in hot water!” or “Someone up there doesn’t like me!” Have lady luck kiss the dice before you roll them.

Be careful what you wish for they say—as though fate were perverse. Does fate care one way or another? The horseshoe nailed above the door. Tokens and talismans we hope will summon good fortune and ward off evil. The rational sciences find patterns in nature. As they dig ever deeper they discover that the newly revealed patterns themselves have patterns. The motion of the planets against the zodiac’s background is the physical solution to complex multi-variable equations. Why not our personal destiny too? Our luck and fortune, good and bad?

The theory of the multiverse suggests that every moment somehow chooses among several possible subsequent moments. You might win the lottery. You might get hit by a truck. On any given day our lives can veer between such extremes. The forking of our path in life, the one path taken and the many declined—are they not choices influenced by external forces? By the moon, the planets, the day and date, the black cat, the ladder we walked under. Or are these our excuses? A complex mythology to get us off the hook of responsibility.

From the movie Terminator we learned that there is no fate but the one we make. Our luck, the good and the bad, is mostly of our choosing. Our fate is not in the sky, in the chart cast for us by the astrologer. If our luck is bad the fault is not in our stars but in our selves. The power of positive thinking comes from consistently choosing the better of available paths—even on Friday the thirteenth.

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