Tuesday, June 23, 2009

天珠, or Syllogism Behind Superstition

Picture of dZi bead because it is a fun thing to do.

The translation for is "Heaven Pearl," but in rowdy, really, really far east Tibet we call 'em dZi beads, and sell 'em to Taiwanese people for a price beyond pearls. A very good friend of mine actually became a multi-millionaire sellling dZi beads in Taiwan, and then promptly gave it all back to Taiwanese real estate agents in Arcadia, California -- which is sort of like a Chinese Brentwood (because next-door San Marino, California would be a Chinese Beverly Hills). I can sympathize with him, but that is beside the point.

My friend is currently the largest dZi trafficker in the world. I call him the dZi King. Lately, he has taken to wearing a turquoise earring, in the Lhasa style.

Lately, I have taken to sticking pictures of a dZi bead in my various posts, just because it seems like a fun thing to do. Here... I'll do it again:

Another picture of dZi bead because it is a really fun thing to do.

I think I mentioned in my immediately previous post that a mosquito bit me... in the middle of a West Nile outbreak. Damn good thing I was wearing a dZi. However, it set me to thinking about syllogistic reasoning and superstition.

The reason why Taiwanese people are inordinately fond of dZi beads, stems from what is fundamentally a series of urban legends, that really don't have very much to do with the reason why Tibetans prize dZi beads. The urban legends are typical: plane crashes, everybody dies but the guy wearing the dZi. Bus crashes, everybody dies but the guy wearing the dZi.

This is the syllogism... really, the core... behind all superstition, isn't it?

What is even more fun to explore is the alternative reasoning. What about Lobsang, who was wearing a dZi his grandfather gave him, but was gored by a mad yak? Nobody else was gored by the yak, and as it happened, none of them were wearing a dZi. In point of fact, they were all wearing coral.


Well, for those of you who like to fool around, here is what to do:

You get an agate or whatever, paint on the design with a very thick solution of sodium carbonate, and then you bake the stone in hot embers for a little while, and you get a white on black pattern. Or else, you can paint the whole stone with sodium carbonate, fire it, and then etch it with copper nitrate for a black on white pattern. Somebody asks you, "Are these old?" You answer, "Stones are millions of years old."

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