Friday, May 14, 2021

Andy Young: Beware the Ides...all of them!

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

“Superstition” is a term that, deservedly or not, is often preceded by the word “silly.”

Few people admit to letting baseless fears impact them, but it’s hard to deny that illogical concerns play a subtle role in the daily existences of even the most level-headed amongst us. It’s hard to estimate the number of otherwise well-adjusted, rational individuals who'll go out of their way to avoid crossing paths with a black cat, purposely walk around (rather than under) ladders, and avoid stepping on a single crack in the sidewalk for fear of being responsible for their mother’s spine fracturing.

Words too can conjure dread groundlessly. A notable example appears in Act I, Scene ii of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, when a soothsayer, who the emperor apparently dismisses as a crackpot, advises the title character to “Beware the Ides of March.” That the prophecy still reverberates nearly five centuries later is chiefly because Caesar was subsequently dispatched (and on the date prophesized) by several backstabbing Roman senators.

But today those same five trepidation-inspiring words can also stimulate curiosity in those of us interested in reducing our towering ignorance ever so slightly. Until I looked it up recently, I hadn’t known that the “Ides” of March, May, July, and October were, under the old Roman calendar, the 15th day of each of those months.

One long-ago Roman emperor’s demise isn’t the only reason to fear the Ides of March, though. Nazi troops seized the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia on March 15, 1939, effectively ending Czechoslovakia’s existence. Exactly two years later a deadly blizzard struck North America’s plains, leaving more than five dozen dead in North Dakota, Minnesota, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. And the citizens of Cilaos, a town on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion, cannot forget the traumatic events of March 15, 1952, the date on which they were inundated with a world record 73.62 inches of rain within a 24-hour period!

But regardless of these and a surprising number of other cataclysmic occurrences which have taken place on that particular date, it seems grossly unfair that March’s Ides has gotten tagged as the lone notorious 15th day of a month. What about the Ides of July? King Richard II of England had John Ball, a leader of the Peasants Revolt, hanged, drawn, and quartered on July 15, 1381. A volcanic eruption killed approximately 500 people in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan on July 15, 1888. And a grave injury was inflicted upon humanity’s collective civility quotient and impulse control on 2006’s Ides of July, when the social media platform “Twitter” was launched.

Historically the Ides of October is no better. Hurricane Hazel devastated North America’s east coast (claiming 95 innocent lives in the process) on that date in 1955. The worst industrial accident in Australian history occurred on October 15, 1970, when a span of the West Gate Bridge collapsed, killing 35 workers. And destructive October 15th earthquakes rocked both Hawaii (in 2006) and the Philippines (seven years later).

Obviously, prudent behavior is a must for this Saturday, the 15th day of the month. Hopefully this year’s Ides of May won’t be as grimly catastrophic as far too many past Ides have been, but why take chances on a date that during this century alone has already claimed the lives of singer-songwriter June Carter Cash (2003), televangelist Jerry Falwell (2007), former Miami Dolphin place kicker Garo Yepremian (2015), and beloved comedian Fred Willard (2020)?

I’m not the least bit superstitious. But I still can’t help wondering if, early on May 15 six years ago, Garo Yepremian unwittingly walked under a ladder. <

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