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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Coincidence happens

     "Do you realize," my wife said, "that the flowers you bought match the flowers on the pitcher exactly?"
      I stared dumbly in the direction of the bouquet.
     "Pink roses and yellow tulips," she prompted.
     "Of course," I said, improvising. "I thought that matching the pitcher would ... umm ... enhance the overall aesthetic effect."
      We gazed at one another. 
     "No, that's a lie," I confessed. "A complete coincidence. I picked out the pink roses because they looked best, and then added the tulips because the yellow and pink seemed to go together."
     At Mariano's, by the way, which has good prices on flowers—the roses were $10 for a dozen, the tulips a couple bucks more. The pitcher was nowhere in mind—in fact, I initially put them in our Dior vase, then only moved them into the pitcher because the cleaning ladies were coming and I didn't want them shattering our good vase. Sometimes they break stuff.
     The coincidence lingered with me though. I don't think we give random pairings—the flowers perfectly matching the vase—enough attention, which is why there is so much magical thinking in the world. You dream most nights, the days and weeks and months pass by, and odds are that, eventually, one of those dreams will correspond with something that happens later in the day. It doesn't make you a seer. It's just a coincidence.
     If I had to teach a high school class, I think I would call it "Accidents and Fabrications," and focus on the important, undervalued role of chance and deceit in our lives. We see too much imaginary order and supposed truth, and too little actual randomness and mendacity.
     That sort of thing happens a lot. I'm writing this on my new iMac, which I brought home last Sunday afternoon. An hour before I set it up, my old iMac, which had worked faithfully for eight years, bricked. Just died. Couldn't turn it on. All my files and photos, thank goodness, was backed up on a 1 terabyte Seagate hard drive—always, dear reader, have a back-up. But still, of all the times for the old machine to give up the ghost.
     "Maybe it was jealous of the new arrival," a colleague speculated.
     Yeah, that has to be it. Hell hath no fury like a computer scorned.


  1. My wife takes magical thinking to its extreme: she blames Trump for all our current travails, including the hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.


    1. John, you can comfort your wife by explaining that Trump is be the manifestation of bad joo-joo, not the cause of it.

  2. Serendipity. "Coined by Horace Walpole and suggested by 'The Three Princes of Serandip...who were always making discoveries by accident and sagacity of things they were not in quest of." OED


  3. I always have jumper cables in my car. Jump starting cars, it's another bucket list item that's been fulfilled many times over. Hearing that click click noise when someone is trying to start their car, don't wait to be asked, just wander over and ask if assistance is required. Years can go by without such an event occurring. In a Jewel parking lot early morning in the fall of 2013, it happened to my car. Just raised the hood and stood there jumper cables in hand. Within minutes a beat up truck pulled up next to my car, and a fellow with a thick southern drawl provided a jump. Made it to Reliable Auto Repair and got a new battery. The coincidence occurred when later that day I stopped at Waldheim Cemetery, and sure enough the driver I parked next to needed a jump.

    1. Reliable Auto Repair on Ashland, Bernie? Is that a trusty spot? Anyway, good on you for your jumper cable white knight benevolence! : )

    2. The very one, very convenient, just a block from the Paulina station. Drop it of in the morning and take the Brown line to work. Those dozens of 5 star reviews on Yelp and Google are no fluke. They are the most competent and honest auto mechanics I've ever encountered. If you see Andy tell him Bernie who drives an old Mercedes diesel sent you, and see if that gets you a positive response.

  4. Interesting. My first thought was something about the subconscious mind. But that might be reaching...
    Beautiful flowers.


  5. The most amazing coincidence for me this year was visiting and photographing Walden Pond the same day that Neil was writing about Thoreau.

  6. I have become an apostate from the Church of Mac for precisely the reason elucidated in this post. Every five to eight years they just die, taking all your files with them. That gets old.

    It happened to me earlier this year, taking with it a PowerPoint presentation I had painstakingly prepared for a job tryout. Luckily I had backed it up, or I would not be here writing this--I'd have committed hara-kiri.

  7. Carl Jung coined the term "Synchronicity" to describe this phenomenon. He believed people too often ignore such events when they should, in fact, pay closer attention to them. Its an interesting field of study!

    1. Jill, Yes indeed; I'm familiar with some of Jung's theories and have always respected them, though some tend to tilt more toward the paranormal-type phenomena, which have been dismissed by some as supernatural.


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