Archive for the 'synchronicity' Category


March 11, 2014

I’m going to see Richard Shindell perform next week at one of his dates in Cambridge.  For some reason, I have found myself listening to his song “Abuelita” a lot, both before and after I received notification that he would be in town shortly.  I even started to wonder whether he will perform the song in concert.

Then I read Roger Cohen’s piece in the NYTimes “Left Hand Among Bones” last night.

I used to get a ride to New Haven from Boston from time to time with a fellow graduate student who had been a Sister in the Order of the Sacred Heart.  She had spent time working for her order in Argentina.  It came up during our conversations to and from New Haven.  Around that time in my life, discussing the disappeared would not have stood out so much, but now it does.

It’s food for thought.  Finding remnants of past lives, reclaiming missing pieces, trying (or not) to fill in the blanks, even dealing with difficulties associated with the left side of the body — I resonate with all that.

I used to think some of these issues would resolve by the strands coming together in an emotionally satisfying way, but now I think the opposite may be true:  that there is progress in experiencing the strands separately, one by one, in separate contexts — that once they were all tied up together and that that was a disaster.  I think having been able to reconstruct a story from the very distant past in which these elements were all tied up together once has been helpful, though.  Somebody wanted to know what had happened, and without reliving it completely.


Public lavatories and kids

October 26, 2013

When I was walking home from the reservoir today, when I got across the playing field and near the bike path, I saw a woman disappear into the port-a-potty, which sits there, I think, as a convenience for people using the playing fields or watching the games.  (I could see later she was there for a jog on the bike path.)  She left two very young children in a stroller right outside the door.

I wasn’t sure what to do.  It wasn’t my business, but I was a little surprised at leaving infants unattended.  I decided to kind of stand nearby until she emerged, just to make sure nothing untoward happened.  It didn’t.

So tonight I’m listening to PBS NewsHour’s little feature of casual talk between Mark Shields and David Brooks (facilitated by the always watchable Hari Sreenivasan) on Fridays, and David Brooks starts talking about commuting to New Haven by train.  Which immediately brought up to my mind an incident that occurred while I was commuting between New Haven and Boston on Amtrak, when a woman asked me to hold her baby while she used the lavatory on the train — while the train was stopped at a station.  It seemed to me to be somewhat relevant (by my standards, at least) to the topic of people conversing too freely, and being overheard, on trains, which was what was being discussed.  Lowered inhibitions and all that.

I think this pretty much qualifies as an example synchronicity.

Algorithm, confirmation bias, or synchronicity

September 19, 2013

I posted the previous post and then went for a walk.  I got back and started on my usual tasks.  I googled “Crow on the Cradle” done by Jackson Browne for accompaniment, and when it was finished, I clicked on another Jackson Browne and David Lindley live performance (turned out to be “Before the Deluge”).  I got treated to an ad first.  It was about how MetLife walked the woman who was testifying in the ad, through the process of applying for life insurance — it was over the phone and easier than she thought.

I usually get ads on YouTube about stain removal.  This MetLife life insurance ad was a first for me, so it stood out.  And yes, it did remind me of my blog post about walking my mom (using a different method) through a phone conversation about a financial matter, despite her apprehension and with a positive reaction to the experience.

Do I know whether there was a material connection between the two incidents?  If I have looked at shoes online and shoe ads pop up on webpages I later browse, I assume cookies and algorithms and whatnot.  Here if what happened was due to such things, it would take a lot more sophistication in the software, so I don’t assume it was the mechanism.  Is it confirmation bias?  The two incidents happened close in time and with not much business in between (basically just my walk).  Is it synchronicity?  I don’t like to get too caught up in terms and definitions.  The way I would put it is that it feels like being an unwitting recipient of an unadvertized “buy one, get one free” special, or like pulling an apple off a tree and having another one fall down beside you as the branch returns to its place.  It doesn’t feel random.  And a mundane mechanism is not obvious to me.

Even without my ego to perceive both events in relation to me, they both happened in close succession in the same locale.  A post goes up, an ad with a similar theme plays on YouTube on the same computer a short time later.

Confirmation bias

September 12, 2013

I’ve written about synchronicity and coincidence in previous blog posts, including, I think, about the issue of whether a particular confluence of events seems to be more than something random.

The issue of whether I notice something because I am predisposed to or because something else brings it to my attention seems to me to be a somewhat similar question.  Of course, it’s possible that it’s really not an either/or kind of thing, that we notice something when we are open to it —  if it doesn’t come up until we are open to it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that our discernment of it is purely an insignificant echo of something without importance or that we have created willfully.

When some people see patterns and significance in events in their lives, I think it feels as if the events are being highlighted.  This highlighting doesn’t seem to come from the same place as our mechanism for searching for something.  Song writers talk about feeling as if, with some songs, they are taking down a song that exists elsewhere, rather than that they are creating the song themselves.  I think this highlighting sense is similar — it seems to come from somewhere else.

I had a speech impediment as a child, and I had no idea that one could make a hard C or G sound in the back of one’s throat — I was trying to make the sound in the front of my mouth and was coming out with T and D sounds.  I think that perceiving highlighting is like being able to pronounce a hard C.   A person may not realize others are doing that if they are not.

Some communities talk about when an old wound comes up for healing.  One could argue that this creates “confirmation bias,” but what if when something comes up “for healing,” it’s more like one half of a magnet emerging and attracting in further information originating elsewhere?  What if it is a process in which we participate and is not purely something we are doing?

The “highlighting” I mentioned feels like reading something written on a wall.  If it, or our focus on it, is projected there from within us, that also doesn’t mean it originated with our thinking minds.

People can insist that there are only the dimensions they can perceive with their senses, they can insist that certain kinds of numbers that can’t be represented with manipulables don’t exist, they can insist that everything is reducible to something ordinary and usual and mundane.  There are only sparrows, never cardinals.  There are no imaginary numbers.

If one finds oneself reading highlights and one allows oneself to start finding patterns, one sees the world in a new way.  We can label that new way error or pathology, but it does allow a person to perceive things beyond what the initial patterns are about — one’s apparatus gets loosened up and like the heron swallowing a big fish, we can take in more of the world as it actually exists.

We could also label higher math nonsense.

Engaging in mental processes beyond the usual can lead to positive results not achievable other ways.  Not reducing highlighting to confirmation bias can train a person to see more deeply and to actually come up with ways of analyzing real world issues that produce more helpful ideas for dealing with them.

At least, that’s how it seems to me.

Somebody else’s birthday

July 31, 2013

My neighbors and I have been having tree work done (yesterday and today), and it turns out today is our tree guy’s birthday.  (See previous post.)

Bird nests and laws

July 16, 2013

I discovered two bird nests in my backyard while I was pruning.  The timing of the second discovery had to do with when some of my neighbors go on vacation and I can prune my bushes on my property without having to parry back conversation.  I wondered about whether it was okay to remove the nests.  I was pretty sure they were no longer in use.

One nest was in the grapevine, about where there was one last year.  That one ended smashed on the ground after a storm during the fall.  The other was also close to where I had seen a nest other years — in the great rambling rose bush that is intertwined, in places, with one of the hedges.

I found online the legal rules about removing bird nests.  Pigeons, sparrows, and starlings, I think it is, have little protection, but other common migratory birds do have some protection from us humans.  I also read about parasites in bird nests, and did notice some earwigs in the ones in my yard.

Anyway, this to me was just another random chapter in yardwork and suburban homeownership.

And then I got one of those emails from The New Yorker about what’s in the current issue, and I read a piece called “Operation Easter,” by Julian Rubinstein, about high crimes involving stealing bird eggs out of nests in Scotland and England.

Clearly there was no causative connection between my nest issues and this article, and it’s hard even to find a connection between them through something conscious I could have done.  One could write off the confluence as coincidence, but I think of it as a good example of synchronicity.  I suspect synchronicity is driven by some third aspect of it that we don’t see — for example, perhaps by a solar flare of energy from somewhere, washing over us and playing out in a variety of similar ways.

A footnote:  the birds may not be nesting in my yard at this point in the season, but they bathe in the two low bird baths in the yard.

Synchronicity report

March 25, 2013

I took a walk at lunchtime, and on my way to stop at the bank en route home, there they were, in front of a clothing-donation dumpster at a gas station, a few pieces of Duplo in primary colors.  Granted, not Lego, but the primary colors and more juvenile level of the toy did remind me of elements in the photo in this post, too.

Statistical likelihood

March 23, 2013

I did some errands on foot this afternoon.  One was at a store at which I paid $24.41.  I paid in cash and with exact change (I had a lot of singles and loose change I wanted to use up).

I continued home, through a park.  I sat for a bit in the park on a bench and then went up the steps on its other side to the street.  I turned up the hill without crossing the street first, because there was a snowbank in the way, and that’s when I saw some coins on the sidewalk.  $.41, exactly.  What is the statistical likelihood of that happening, I wondered.  Willy would have been able to give me an approximation.

(Both times it was a quarter, a dime, a nickel, and a penny.)


February 27, 2013

I bought a few CDs on Amazon today and received an email about their Cloud Player.  So I asked Jordan about it, and voila, I have music from the cloud this evening.  Lots of it, I guess courtesy of previous purchases over the years.  I’m listening to Jethro Tull.

So I enjoyed the little echo sound I heard when I read the title for Maureen Dowd’s column tonight:  “Get Off Your Cloud.”

Information on demand

February 20, 2013

I read the last line of David Brooks’s column today and thought, “I’m supposed to know who Edward Tufte is.”

But not to worry, in today’s mail comes a brochure offering me the chance to attend a one-day course by him in Boston, and hence multiple pages of information about his books and work.

In the same mail was also another discounted offer from The Weekly Standard.