Do you believe in synchronicity? You call an old friend the same moment he picks up the phone to call you. Or you publish a paper on some arcane topic and find out a colleague halfway around the world has come up with the same idea independently and at the same time. Or you.re walking on the beach, reminiscing on your childhood dog: it would have been her birthday. Just at that moment, another dog comes bounding towards you as if you were old chums, same breed. You ask the owner the dog.s name and find out the name.s the same as well. Synchronicities are meaningful coincidences. Or coincidences so striking that they break the brain in thinking about them.
Diligent readers will remember the blog yesterday about the Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa Goldberg Variations concert. During the after concert question period with the artist, there was an extended discussion of Glenn Gould.s interpretations of this work. Well, how long has it been since Gould.s captured the headlines?–lo and behold he did it this morning on Yahoo Finance:
What are the chances of that–that I would hear a talk on Gould and see him on the next day.s headline? Hard to say. But it feels almost as though the coincidence is meaningful. Sort of in the same way dreams feel meaningful. You feel it but it.s hard to put your finger on the significance.
Today was a big day for synchronicity. It.s almost as though one leads to another. Before the concert, I had gone running with my friend LH. We.re in training for the TC10K. The route takes us along the Gorge Waterway by the bridge over the Gorge Narrows. LH was saying there had been a big commotion there in the last few days: a fellow had jumped off the bridge and was floating face down. The firemen had sent a whole brigade down there and succeeded in reviving him. It.s speculated alcohol and a broken heart may have played a role. Well today, I was reading Goethe.s Egmont. In that play, Clara ditches Brackenburg for Egmont (I can see why, Brackenburg.s a doting sort of ninny). Brackenburg.s reaction to being dumped, however, caught my attention: he thinks to throw himself in the water and to sink face down. I imagined that maybe it was the tragedy of Brackenburg playing out again. Only not in Brussels but on the Gorge hundred of years later in some sort of eternal return.
I.m the last person that would believe in mystical crap. The only thing I believe in is in doing Melpomene.s work. But the idea of synchronicity is fascinating. I had been introduced to it at the right age. When I was seventeen, EA.s father lent me a copy of Jung.s Memories, Dreams, and Reflections. It was Jung that came up with the idea. He collaborated with Wolfgang Pauli of quantum mechanics fame (ie the Pauli Exclusion Principle) so there is some scientific credence. But of course scientists look more towards Littlewood.s Law than synchronicity to explain coincidental events. Here.s how Jung described synchronicity:
All natural phenomena of this kind [eg exceedingly rare coincidences] are unique and exceedingly curious combinations of chance, held together by the common meaning of their parts to form an unmistakable whole. Although meaningful coincidences are infinitely varied in their phenomenology, as causal events they nevertheless form an element that is part of the scientific picture of the world. Causality is the way we explain the link between two successive events. Synchronicity designates the parallelism of time and meaning between psychic and psychophysical events, which scientific knowledge has so far been unable to reduce to a common principle.
Now the thing about Jung is that he.s a damn fine writer. I.m one of those people who cares less about fact and is more persuaded by style. Shoot me. But, mystical crap aside, couldn.t the world be organized around the mind in some sort of meaningful way where synchronicity is possible? After all, science tells us that to break down a quantum state (Schrodinger.s Cat or wave/particle duality) a conscious observer is required. If a conscious observer can ‘do’ something to the world by the act of observation, couldn.t some of these ‘coincidences’ be ascribed to the echoes of consciousness? Okay, sorry, that was off the deep end!
But one thing is for a certainty. By watching out for synchronicity, the wonder and mystery of being alive are increased when we think we have seen it. We do not live in a universe which feels neither obligation or compulsion to us. And that today is good enough.
Do you believe in synchronicity? Or what do you believe? Littlewood.s Law perhaps? But what fun is that?