Recently I’ve been thinking about coincidence (a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection), wondering about how it overlaps with precognition (knowledge of something in advance of its occurrence) and intuition (the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning). I’ve wanted to boost my ability to recognize coincidences in my life. I’ve been thinking about writing on the subject, but no door was opening.
Until right now. Maybe this is a form of serendipity (a happy accident): I was wanting a way into the coincidence topic, and then while I’m having lunch this old song plays….
Meaningful Coincidences: How and Why Synchronicity and Serendipity Happen. He has initiated The Coincidence Project to gather people’s stories of meaningful coincidences in their lives, to encourage awareness and discussion, and to bring the study of coincidences and their meaning into the field of science. Synchronicity, serendipity, seriality, simulpathity, the psychosphere, the collective human organism (CHO)… Learn more at Coincider.com and on YouTube.
Bobby Charles and Rick Danko, first recorded here in the town of Woodstock, NY – but what I’m hearing now is the great Paul Butterfield’s Better Days version, also recorded in Woodstock. This is the version I loved since I first heard it when I was 21, living in Utah – when I hadn’t the faintest clue that the album cover image was taken in the Catskill Mountains just a few miles from where I would spend my senior years. I live on the same road where Butterfield once lived. It All Comes Back, indeed. *
What does it mean that the literary podcast I now co-host is recorded in a home studio not a hundred yards from where Bob Dylan lived at the time of the mysterious motorcycle accident (1966) that allowed him to retreat from the cacophony of fame after his electric revolution, and do the woodshedding with The Band that would result in yet more world-changing music that I listened to avidly as a young man… what does it all mean? Is this some sort of cosmic synchronicity?
Well, let’s think clearly about this. These were famous people loved by millions all over the world. I’m just one of those millions. And Woodstock is a very small town. If you live here for a few years, odds are extremely high that you’ll come into direct contact with the artifacts of its world-famous musical history. The few incidents I’ve related barely scratch the surface of my experience.
Nevertheless, it feels meaningful. To me, just a nobody from an anonymous suburb out west, it feels highly unlikely. After all, to live in Woodstock was never a goal of mine, and none of my high school or college friends ended up here. If synchronicity can be defined by the feeling of meaningfulness, then maybe it qualifies.
Does precognition create coincidence? Can tastes be shaped by precognition? How does precognition figure into my youthful attraction to Sebastian, Butterfield, Dylan, others who are specifically associated with the town of Woodstock? Did the fact that I would feel the pleasure of living in their neighborhood as an older man guide me to their music as a younger man? Why was it these particular artists whose music I loved? I was the only person among my high school friends who was a serious Lovin’ Spoonful fan. And my choices as a limited-budget record buyer did not go in directions that many people my age followed – toward, for instance, Led Zeppelin, who have no connection to Woodstock. I was certainly a Jimi Hendrix fan… but Hendrix lived for a time in a house just two miles as the crow flies from where I live now. He practiced for the Woodstock concert at Tinker Street Cinema, the little movie house near the center of town.
Did I precognize my future? Is it a case of “retrocausation”? I’m sure Eric Wargo would have some ideas about that. Wargo has been a recent guest on Dr. Beitman’s podcast but I have followed his blog, The Nightshirt, for years, and my fiction writing has been influenced by his ideas. His latest book, Precognitive Dreamwork and the Long Self, is a tool I’m currently using to explore my dreams and how they interact with my waking reality.
Quantum physics has shown that, at the most fundamental levels of reality, no distinction can be made between cause and effect. The relation between two events can be either causal or retrocausal. I imagine time not as a line but as a surface – let’s say the surface of a pool. An event in my consciousness, perhaps given power by emotion, is like a pebble dropped into the pool. Time Loops.
Ponckhockie Union and my story collection The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility, as well as another novel and another story collection in progress, use coincidence, synchronicity, and other riddles as the atmosphere in which recognizable characters like you, me, and our neighbors face life’s multiplicity of challenges. My premise is that the world is not as it seems – it’s much more wonderfully mysterious. The unanswerable questions are my inspiration.
cognitive bias, confirmation bias, or any unfounded assumptions. I am a self-diagnosed “epistemological obsessive,” always demanding of myself and others, “How do you know?” So with all this talk of invisible interdependence, I have to ask: How much am I a victim of apophenia? Apophenia – a common condition that in its extreme form is a precursor to schizophrenia – is the tendency to perceive meaningful connections between unrelated things. The conundrum here is: who decides what is “unrelated” and exactly how do they decide? While I don’t want to be apophenic, I also do not automatically accept someone’s authority about whether I am or not.
Speaking of untrustworthy authority, which is increasingly evident as the world falls to pieces around us – is there a valid reason for rambling about coincidence and fiction? One writer friend of mine can’t write because of his anxiety about the problems in the news. Another only wants to write about the problems, in protest. My own preference (or is it intuition about what is healthiest for me?) is to follow my perennial interests no matter the current events, but I harbor an old secret fear of being a dysfunctional daydreamer – most likely, a vestige of parental voices in my head. Right now I am consciously putting that fear aside – my own small gesture of sovereignty.
I appreciate Wargo, Beitman, and others such as Dean Radin (see his book The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena) in their efforts to give solid scientific study to “psi” or parapsychology. After all, who knows what truths about the universe we may be missing when ultimate authority is given to reductionist, materialist Scientism?
“Artmaking is making the invisible visible.” ---Marcel Duchamp
* For more information about the musical history of Woodstock, see the book Small Town Talk by Barney Hoskyns.