Honolulu Lite


Sunday, June 2, 2002

Skeptics shouldn’t knock
knocking on wood

I admit it. I am an incessant, incorrigible and unrepentant wood-knocker. I will knock on wood at the slightest provocation. If a friend says, "The weather's going to be great this weekend!" I will find the closest piece of anything made of wood and knock on it to neutralize the unfortunate statement, which, if left unchecked, would cause a major storm or hurricane to hit the islands on Saturday.

If, in a moment of distraction, I accidentally make a dumb comment like, "Man, I feel great! This is the best I've felt in years!" I will run, RUN to a tree or chair or box of toothpicks to knock on wood to keep from contracting any number of debilitating illnesses sure to follow such a dangerous gush of enthusiasm.

My knocking on wood drives my friends nuts. "You don't actually think that knocking on wood will keep bad things from happening?" they ask. And I say, "Hey, why take chances?" Knocking on wood is a simple thing to do. It takes little effort. There's always wood at hand in case of karma emergencies.

I make them think that I am just humoring the gods, like it's some kind of joke to knock on wood. But it isn't. Knocking on wood to counteract bad karma is a real, scientifically provable phenomenon. Not that anyone has proved it yet, but they will. When scientists are done trying to solve the mystery of genes and cold fusion, they will turn their efforts to something that will really benefit mankind: proving that there is a scientific basis for the theory that wood is a cosmic grounding material and that by knocking on wood at a critical moment in time, a person can negate the flow of harmful energy.

Skeptics will say that knocking on wood to keep something bad from happening is just as stupid as stepping on a dropped comb before you pick it up so nothing bad will happen to you. Wrong. Anyone who steps on a dropped comb to avoid bad luck is just a superstitious knucklehead. Everyone knows that plastic combs are cosmically inert and have no power. But wood comes from the earth and maintains an elemental bond with the primordial forces of nature.

I have a friend who not only doesn't believe in the power of knocking on wood, but taunts misfortune. He just doesn't get it. He'll make fun of someone's physical disability only to find himself scheduled for knee surgery within weeks. He'll brag about some expensive purchase of electronic equipment he just made, making sure to point out HIS gizmo is better anything YOU'LL ever own, only to have the gizmo go bad within days. It's sad. A simple knock on wood after a fit of braggadocio or unintentional insult would have kept him from having to go under the knife.

If I had been a believer in knocking on wood earlier in life, I might have kept our house from burning down. My brother and I were lying in bed one night when we were kids, and he said, "Nothing exciting ever happens around here." That night, the house caught fire, and we were forced to flee into the snow in our underwear. Sure, the fire started because my mom accidentally threw smoldering cigarettes into a kitchen rubbish can. But it was my brother's fault for making such a dumb statement. And mine for not simply turning over and knocking ever so quietly on the wooden bedpost.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail

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