Meaningful Coincidences….Carl Jung
I’ve got synchronicity on my mind. That isn’t a song, or even a musical reference. Synchronicity is the term coined by Carl Jung for those times when two seemingly random events coincide to reinforce the meaning we give to them. More simply, they are what Jung called, meaningful coincidences. When they happen to be noticed by us, we tend to be amazed, and typically, joyful. That latter response isn’t associated with what triggered this blog.
It was the memory of Henry the Hematoma. On Wednesday of this week, January 15th, our family trekked across the street to join a neighbor for brunch. Yes, trekked. A fluffy six inches of snow had fallen on our usually rainy land. The wind was icy, with temperatures in the teens–another rarity for us, even in winter. We happily tromped out of our driveway single file, each following in the footprints of the other. As we entered our neighbor’s driveway, a slick sheet of ice sent my foot sliding. I called a warning to those behind me. But like any good game of telephone, the warning didn’t get transmitted to the end of the line. A moment later, I heard her shout.
My daughter had slipped on that exposed sheet and tumbled down. Her wrist and hip took the brunt of the fall. “This better not be Henry the Hematoma!” she yelled. Henry was the name she had given a long-apparent giant hematoma (deep bruise) on her hip, one that landed her in a hospital. It had been caused by a similar slip in the snow, but on her driveway in Michigan, a few years back.
Fortunately, this time the immediately-appearing hematoma resembled more of a Little Hank than a Henry. We laughed about it and enjoyed our brunch. Later that day, my daughter told us that she looked in her records, and the previous fall had occurred on Wednesday, January 15, 2014. The current fall was the first possible Wednesday, January 15, since that one. And it was her first fall in the snow since that one, even though the two driveways were 2000 miles apart.
It seems pretty strange, doesn’t it? What are the chances? That’s how scientists explain this phenomenon away–the laws of statistics, of large numbers. But they can’t prove anything by the laws, they just assign meaning differently than those who find other forces at play. To be clear, we didn’t, as a family, assign any particular force at play except gravity. But it is weird.
And weirder still was what happened after we discussed the topic of synchronicity together. We all had examples of such events in our lives. I reminded my children about our Wrinkle in Time event. That was the title of a favorite family book whose author, Madeline L’Engle, was good friends with a dear friend of mine. On the day in question, I just learned that L’Engle had died. I walked my younger children home from school that afternoon when my son looked up and said, “That looks like a Wrinkle in Time sky.” Startled, I asked him what he meant. He had read the book, but there was no movie. He had never said anything about the sky in relation to the story before. He hadn’t read the book in ages. I hadn’t said a word about L’Engle’s death.
My son said he just saw the patterns of the sky and he thought of the book. There was no comprehensive explanation. Later that evening, his older brother spontaneously played a piano composition he had arranged the year before, after reading the book for his English class. His composition was titled, A Wrinkle in Time. He didn’t know about the sky comment or the death. He just felt like playing it, even though he hadn’t in quite some time.
I shared these happenings with my dear friend as they occurred and it made her glad. She felt the universe recognized L’Engle’s passing. I did too, mysteriously. We all hold the memory of that day as precious and awe filled. And we rehashed it together in light of Henry the Hematoma’s recurrence.
I decided it might be an interesting blog post. I read a bit on how people interpret these things, whether scientists or psychologists or religious folks. Then, as the day progressed, I decided I might not have the energy to write, and who really cares, anyway? So we watched an episode of Jeopardy together, annoyed that it was from two days ago instead of current. The Final Jeopardy category was children’s literature. One I actually might know! Eagerly, I waited through the commercial break for the clue. This was the 1963 Newberry award winner that adapted Einstein’s and Planck’s modern physics into the story.
What is A Wrinkle in Time! You’re welcome. And ironically, Planck spoke out against Jung’s ideas on synchronicity as being too concerned with pseudoscience! It comes full circle.
I still don’t know the meaning or cause behind this. I guess the meaning is what we give it. It does seem to happen a lot, at least in my life. Some say that if it happens too much, it’s a sign you’re delusional! Or narcissistic! Are they just jealous? Norms are just that–whatever gets named the typical standard. Maybe they were invented by boring folk to keep us from wondering so much. These events of synchronicity get discussed in psychosocial literature in rather condescending ways, as “folk topics.”
A lot of folklore is based on things we just haven’t been able to rationally explain yet–but eventually we do come to understand the “why” behind a lot of it. Deepak Chopra describes synchronicity as a “conspiracy of probabilities.” I like that. He also says it is opportunity meeting preparedness–much like the descriptions of epiphanies in the last post. The more we look, the more we see. Others describe them as an “anonymous gift from God.” Also nice. They are events connected by meaning, not cause. To me, they all seem to be like wrinkles in time. They are definitely about relationships. Relationships, says Archbishop John Wester, are the essence of God. That’s worth pondering, I think.