Synchronicity is a term that people are either gung-ho about, or vehemently reject. I suppose I should mention a third group that has no clue what the word means, so let’s start with them.
Synchronicity is a term credited to Carl Jung, and it defines a simultaneous occurrence of events that are highly significant, yet have no obvious or likely connection. “Meaningful coincidence” is a simpler way to describe it.
Pretty much everyone has a good story about a bizarre coincidence. The difference between what gets labelled a synchronicity versus a coincidence is the meaning attached to the event. For the die hard skeptic, no matter how impossibly unlikely their tale of coincidence is, they will never connect anything more to it than random chance. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the overzealous New Ager sees absolutely every mundane occurrence as reason to declare synchronous incredulity to anyone who’ll listen.
As with most things in life, the middle path is the best way to find balance. Extremes tend to throw us out of whack. A hard pendulum swing in one direction is always accompanied by a resultant swing the opposite way. Although I could be wrong, it seems the universe favours equilibrium to precipitate harmony.
Skeptics lean toward a state of cynical misery because they refuse to allow any unquantifiable wonder into their lives. Over-the-top spiritualists have a similar problem, because they attribute everything to fate, destiny, and higher purposes dictated by more powerful entities. Even if “God” has an ultimate plan for you based on unconditional love, it won’t change the fact that you’re a puppet on Its strings – you either follow the path set out before you, or fight it and live in misery. Both extremes imply a degree of impotence.
Whenever philosophical conundrums overwhelm my feeble brain, I usually find answers by going outside to explore.
So let me tell you a couple stories.
Yesterday evening, I took a walk to visit a free lending library set up a few streets over from where I’m currently hanging my travel hat. Take a book, leave a book, kinda thing. I wrote about this spot in a previous post. I had a simple plan: Place an old book onto one of the shelves, and grab the first non-fiction book that presented itself. It’s a little game I like to play called: TomeQuest – Hey Universe, Surprise me!
After getting lost and wandering cluelessly for a bit, stubbornly convinced my destination existed a block north of its true location, I eventually rediscovered my secret library. I carefully opened the glass door, and placed the book I brought with me on the top shelf. TomeQuest was officially underway. It didn’t last long. I grabbed a hardcover titled, Why Me, Why this, Why Now. Haha, fitting, no matter what state of mind you find yourself in. No info on the back cover, but the bottom front declared the name ROBIN NORWOOD, Author of Women Who Love Too Much. Upon reading those words, my eyes rolled back so far into my head that passerbys either thought I was possessed by lingering halloween demons, or on the verge of a massive epileptic seizure. I pocketed the book nonetheless, putting faith in my game of the universe handing me information relevant to my state of mind.
I got home, kicked up my heels, turned on the vibrating bed that once held a corpse, and opened the Why Me table of contents. As my cringing exponentially increased reading chapter title after chapter title, I turned to the “Recommended Reading” section in hopes of finding a reason not to slam the book shut and go into a comatose state until the morrow’s light.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Many of my favourite buzzwords were present: healing, energy fields, the astral body, theosophy, near-death experiences, the human aura, and more. Needless to say, I’ve been engrossed in the book, quite happy I didn’t judge Robin by her cover.
The second story involved a morning run. As I reached my randomly chosen halfway point, I decided to play a similar game I call: SignFeld – Hey Universe, Send me a Message! Yeah, that sounds lame, but it keeps me amused.
There wasn’t much of a wait this time either. Up ahead, a church had one of those illuminated rental signs where you can switch out the letters on a whim. I passed by it earlier and ignored it, because the north face note had something short and patronizing about being a heathen. But the south side message was different. It said:
Obedience to God will always transform your lifestyle.
Oh, the word-cringing. Obedience, God, lifestyle – I was mentally vomiting as I told the universe to go fuck itself. But I memorized the quote and let it foment in my brain the entire run home.
The message made me consider metaphorical texts, secret codes, and misunderstood quotes found in holy books like the one that church likely housed. The best messages written thousands of years ago are of little value when taken literally. Analogies have far more lasting power and resonance if understood.
If I told you the meaning I got out of tweaking a few words in that church slogan, you’d probably accuse me of forcing a synchronicity out of something random. You might be right.
But later in the day, I pulled up a random interview to listen to while I washed dishes, fed cats, and changed litter boxes. Yeah that’s right, I said litter boxes.
The interview had me dumbfounded.
If you could combine elements of manifestation, synchronicity, Indiana Jones, National Treasure, Mission Impossible, Shakespeare, the Catholic Church, and the Monkees, what would you get? A hell of an interesting tale. If you ever find yourself in the midst of extended housework, a long drive, or some other repetitive task in need of a little auditory enhancement, check out this story. I didn’t expect even a fraction of the interesting twists that came out of this interview. The title doesn’t do it justice.
I’m not advocating giving up free will to the grander plans of god, the universe, the higher self, or whatever other loving puppet master names we use, nor am I advocating dismissing interesting occurrences as dumb luck. There’s a respectful balance that facilitates our evolution. Open-mindedness can be just as detrimental as skepticism when wielded fanatically. Both are useful tools we shouldn’t be afraid to hang off our utility belts.
Let me leave you with one last thought I mulled over while running today. Something I learned from driving a car:
There are a lot of signs along the highway of life, and they all have different bits of information, not all of it relevant to where you want to go. But when you stop paying attention to the signs before you, you’ll likely miss the road you seek.