Friday, May 15, 2009



This is the simplest, most direct way in which synchronicity happens. The single synchronicity has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It stands out in clear relief from the rest of our everyday lives.

For example, you are walking down the street, and you cross paths with a friend you haven’t seen for many years. You do a double-take, stop, talk, say good-bye, and walk on.

What would make this encounter a synchronicity? Let’s look again at the definition of synchronicity: the coinciding of inner and outer events in a way that can’t be explained by cause and effect and is meaningful to the observer. Assume that there’s no causal connection: you did nothing to arrange the meeting with your friend and had no idea he was even in town. Perhaps you were thinking of him just the day before, for the first time in years: Your thoughts would be the inner event, the meeting the outer event, and the meaning might be in the wonder you feel at how things are connected. Or perhaps he fills a need for you: you’ve been thinking of buying a computer, and it turns out he’s just brought one himself and has some good tips for you. Your thoughts about your pending purchase are the inner event, the meeting and his advice comprise the outer event, and the meaning might be that now is the time to take the plunge into cyberspace. Or perhaps you’ve been trying to experience flow at deeper levels: your aspirations are the inner event, the meeting the outer event, and the meaning to you is that you’re on the right track.

What, then, would make it not a synchronicity? According to our definition, meaningfulness makes the difference. Your meeting with your friend would be "just a coincidence" if it had no meaning whatsoever for you: you saw nothing special in bumping into him and made nothing of it. The unlikely encounter wouldn’t lead you anywhere—not to inward searching, not to a nearby computer store, not to the power of flow.

Single synchronicities happen often in things like telephone calls, chance encounters, and lucky numbers. Bruce Kohler remembers how twenty years ago he had a sudden urge to call his father in Florida whom he hadn’t spoken to in several weeks. When he picked up the phone, before he touched the dial, he was flabbergasted to hear his father’s voice on the other end—trying to reach him.

Information you need might come your way through some surprising route at the moment you need it. Dame Rebecca West told philosopher Arthur Koestler how she had been researching a specific episode of the Nuremberg war crimes trials: "I looked up the trials in the library and was horrified to find they are published in a form almost useless to the researcher. They are abstracts, and are cataloged under arbitrary headings. After hours of search I went among the line of shelves to an assistant librarian and said, ’I can’t find it, there’s no clue, it may be in any of these volumes.’ I put my hand on one volume and took it out and carelessly looked at it, and it was not only the right volume, but I had opened it at the right page." Koestler writes that coincidences of what he calls the "library angle" are "so frequent that one almost regards them as one’s due."

Just because a single synchronicity is simple in pattern doesn’t mean it can’t have a great impact. Looking back, you might find that a turning point in your life, such as meeting your significant other, was a single synchronicity.

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