Flurries of the uncanny

There have been flurries of notable coincidences a half-dozen times or so in my life so far, along with a profusion of the trivial variety. The exceptional examples go beyond being uncanny pairs of events, and seem free of confirmation bias. In their most intense form they can be disturbingly continuous and close-packed. Some are associated with dreams or meditation, but most have occurred entirely in the waking state. The "flurry" or wave aspect makes up a major portion of the notability factor; the linked meanings make up the rest. Two or three of the flurries occurred when I was reading about coincidences. Koestler (who calls them "puns of destiny") and others have also experienced this curious meta-coincidence.

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, Sherlock Holmes wisely states that "Amid the action and reaction of so dense a swarm of humanity, every possible combination of events may be expected to take place, and many a little problem will be presented which may be striking and bizarre..." The occasional occurrence of the improbable does not mean that God has left his calling card. Improbability falls on the same continuum as probability, so we're not obliged to mystify such happenings. At the same time, we have no reason to purge these occurrences of their charm or profundity. As Jung points out, once they carry symbolic significance for the perceiver, they cease to be "random." WoIfgang Pauli calls them "visible traces of invisible principles." I have no idea what to make of such events, but extended coincidences make compelling stories. They're a diverting and entertaining fact of life that draws attention to itself, and suggests by its nature that daily stuff could be wired together in unexpected ways to create "teachable moments," (a favorite theme of the Sufis) and a natural creative medium for the highly suggestible times in one's life.

Learning from coincidence

There's a structure I've learned to trust from watching coincidences through my life. In brief: Anything to which we pay a certain quality of high-grade attention, will disclose its connections to many, many other things and occasions. If the attention is pure and sufficiently unbound, the disclosure will erase the former self, leaving in place a newly drafted man or woman, stepping back into the stream of daily time as if emerging from a dream. When this happens, there may follow "rhyming" ramifications, or sequences of metaphorically-connected coincidences. It is left to others to work out the significance of all this, if there is any.

The Oakland Library (1973)

While living in Berkeley I frequented the Oakland Library. One day I was looking in the card catalogue for a book by Kammerer on the phenomenon of coincidence. A card fell (somehow) through the slot in the bottom of the drawer I was flipping through, or from some nearby drawer, onto the floor at my feet. I picked it up: it was a card describing a story about a one-legged man who rode a bike. Later, when I left the library and was standing on the sunny sidewalk, zipping toward me from the distance was a one-legged bicyclist in a ragged white T-shirt who was clearly having trouble balancing the bike. As he approached I could hear him intoning "Whoa...whoaa there..." as he tried not to fall over while pedaling on one side. My instant reaction was laughter and something like, what kind of a place is this?

The dancing reflections (1973)

to be added

A record of synchronicity from 7/21/88

I attended a conference on automation at a hotel in Washington, D.C. One of the conference attendees I met there was a Mr. George Hurley. I was reading about synchronicity in my hotel room. I pondered Jung's story about the scarab beetle incident.

I went out to a bookstore in Dupont Circle. I read a Zen book there, and had an insight experience.

On the street after leaving the bookstore, I was stopped by George Hurley (who didn’t recognize me), who removed a bug from my back – a beautiful, metallic green scarab beetle.

Down the street, I entered another bookstore, and picked up a magazine about "strange people", including Tim Leary; the magazine showed a picture of a man with a bug on his back.

Later that day I checked out of the hotel, still thinking about this. I got on the elevator with my bags; in the elevator was George Hurley, so I told him the story of my synchronicity.

Synchronicity account from 9/17/97

Driving home from a day of delivering training for a Lehigh Valley Leadership program, I was thinking about Dad and how he liked reciting poetry while in the hospital. I remembered how he loved to recite the Ode on Intimations of Immortality: he knew it all, and his voice would get stronger as he spoke.

When I got home, I flipped through Jung's autobiography while changing clothes—I'd been reading Jung for some weeks while I made notes about synchronicity and coincidences and I kept the book by the bedside. I went to the bathroom, picking the Dover Thrift edition of Wordsworth from the hall shelf as I went by and started reading Stanza V of the Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood. This was the part of the poem that Dad seemed to especially prize. Back in the bedroom I continued reading Wordsworth, with the Jung book in my other hand. Still changing clothes, I put both books down and clicked on the TV. Channel 12 was showing a 1978 broadcast of Dick Cavett interviewing Allen Ginsberg. Allen was reading a poem about his dying father. Then Allen quoted stanza V of the Ode: "trailing clouds of glory do we come…"

The pearls (2007)

In the early morning of Wednesday, July 25, 2007, I woke up while lying on my side, facing the wall, remembering a dream I'd just had about my wife wearing a pearl necklace. She had on a white cotton shirt with blue stripes; the dream focused on her head and shoulders, and she was adjusting the narrow collar of the shirt around some beautiful pearls. I was puzzled about dreaming of her wearing pearls, and thought how beautiful she looked.

Around 4:30 PM I mentioned the dream to my wife (not sure why it came back to me at that moment; I had just been looking at a few pages from my website), who smiled and said that she had gotten up very early that morning and came downstairs, unable to sleep because of neck pain; she had been thinking about pearls while reading in the kitchen.