I had a guest on my TV show recently who spoke of an experience she had while attending a lecture a few months ago.
Although the auditorium was filled with upwards of two hundred people, she had the feeling that the speaker, a genocide survivor from Rwanda, was looking directly at her as she spoke. My guest assumed she may have been imagining it, but when the lecture was finished she approached the speaker only to discover the young woman had actually been looking directly at her while she delivered her speech. They spoke for a while, exchanged phone numbers, have since visited each other’s homes and now my guest is scheduled to go to Rwanda this July to help assess the needs of orphans in part of that war-torn country.
I have a lot of respect for someone who is willing to follow through on what many would consider to be a coincidence and actually allow themselves to make some fairly important life decisions based upon it. The term for this type of experience is Synchronicity. The term was originally coined by the esteemed Swedish psychologist/physicist Karl Jung. He defined it as a meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved. In our Western culture we are much more likely to term such an experience simple coincidence, whereas in other, longer established cultures such “coincidences” are given much more weight.
Our experience of life and the world takes place on a wide range of levels. We understand and accept that certain ultraviolet light waves occur in nature that our eyes cannot see. We know and accept that there are sound waves we cannot hear but, for example, dogs can. I suspect, as did Dr. Jung, that there are also other forces at play which are guiding us to fully understand and reclaim our wholeness and destiny that we routinely dismiss. We are a modern, rational society and anything that appears to be beyond the limits of rationality we tend to disregard. I think this is due in part to the “melting pot” origins of our culture, where family roots, ties and traditions fail, to a large extent, to survive beyond a generation or two. In European and certainly Eastern cultures, where the roots to the cultural past remain largely intact, the appreciation of unseen forces at work is much greater.
Jung had a great deal to say about all of this and I am not going to attempt to deal with it here. (I will say that Jung was a quite extraordinary thinker who worked almost exclusively alone with his own thoughts, in a fashion similar to Albert Einstein.) What I am going to do is ask you to consider looking for the hand of God, the universe, or fate in what would otherwise be considered simple coincidences in your life. You dream of an old friend you haven’t seen in years and suddenly he calls you. You think of an old tune you favored in high school and suddenly you hear it on the radio. You daydream about a dish of clams over linguini in a white sauce and your wife comes home and says Let’s go out and get some pasta in a white clam sauce this weekend.
I’m not even asking you to do anything about it. I think it’s quite enough just to take in the possibility that things are happening that we don’t fully understand. And that is just the point: we don’t have to understand things in order to appreciate them. All too often if something happens that we don’t understand with our rational minds, that’s it, that’s all she wrote, and bam, out the window it goes. Just stopping to consider even the possibility that some unknown force is at work the next time you experience a so-called coincidence is a broadening experience. It’s very powerful just to think about it, because by thinking about it we are allowing the possibility that such forces exist. To me it’s like opening the window a crack and allowing the fresh air of possibility to enter into the functional but otherwise stuffy room of rationality.
And believe me, I am by no means sold on this. I consider myself a rational and reasonable person and am proud of it. I rarely make any decision of import with having gone over it from many angles over a period of days or weeks (with the possible exception of fixing myself some clams over linguini in a white sauce.) I enjoy imagining I see that hand of God in coincidences. It helps get me out of my head and engenders a sense of healthy humility that I sorely lack. I’m one of the people who believes that after we’ve died and shrugged off this mortal coil, all will be revealed to us. In the meantime, I feel we are free to believe whatever we want, and I choose to believe that I sometimes catch a glimpse of the hand of God at work (actually, more than experiencing a hand, I feel I’m experiencing God winking at me, as if letting me in on an inside joke.)
While I’m not planning any trips to Africa anytime soon, I do want to encourage you to experiment along the lines I’ve outlined here. As the Poet said There is much more to heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy and I’m inclined to believe him. There is a wealth of useful and specific information available to us that we routinely disregard because it does not come through channels that we find acceptable, which is to say rational. Consider the possibilities. Consider broadening your horizons of what is acceptable and what isn’t and you may be surprised by what you’ll learn. Allow yourself to be just a little more open and accepting, and I’m sure you’ll begin to see what I mean
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