Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nothing is Random

How random are the things that happen to us? Is there some kind of connection to those seemingly freaky coincident that we experience?

My class is reading John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things and we have been discussing Magical Thinking. One of the concepts we sent some time on yesterday was Synchronicity.

Synchronicity is a concept proposed by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung in 1951 where two or more unconnected events, seemingly random coincidences, are found to have significance by the person experiencing them. The concept seems to support the idea that in life there are no accidents.

One famous story of Synchronicity deals with French writer Émile Deschamps and plum pudding. On her page, Endearing Christmas Story –The Plum Pudding, Juanita Violini quotes the following story:

A series of delicious Christmas coincidences began in the year 1800 in Orleans, France. The famous Romantic poet, Emile Deschamps, was attending boarding school when a Frenchman recently returned from England, M. de Fortgibu, introduced him to an English taste treat unknown in France at that time -- plum pudding. Deschamps was delighted.

Ten years later Deschamps was passing by a restaurant on Boulevard Poissoniere when he spied a beautiful plum pudding in the window. Remembering the wonderful dessert from before, he immediately went in and asked for a slice. Regrettably, the hostess informed him that another customer had just ordered the entire pudding. Seeing Deschamps' look of disappointment, she went over to an elderly man in a colonel's uniform at another table and said, "M. de Fortgibu, would you have the goodness to share your plum pudding with this gentleman?" The two Orleans friends became pleasurably reacquainted as they again shared their holiday treat.

Many years passed. Emile Deschamps was attending a dinner party one evening where plum pudding would be the featured dessert, and joked to the guests, "Then I know M. de Fortgibu will be there." He regaled the party with the tale of his previous two experiences with plum pudding. The meal wended towards its conclusion, the dessert was brought forth, and the guests began to tease Deschamps about his missing acquaintance when the butler opened the door to the dining room. "M. de Fortgibu," he announced.

Deschamps' hair stood on end as in tottered his friend, now very old, looking blankly around the table. It turned out that the venerable colonel had been invited to another dinner party, in the same building, and had accidentally knocked on the wrong door. Deschamps exclaimed, "Three times in my life have I eaten plum pudding, and three times have I seen M. de Fortgibu! A fourth time I should feel capable of anything... or capable of nothing!"

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating." - Miguel de Cervantes

This story is excerpted from the December 24 entry of Almanac of The Infamous, The Incredible, and The Ignored, by Juanita Rose Violini.
A Wickipedia article on Synchronicity describes a strange coincidence which occurred with filming The Wizard of Oz. The Costume Department purchased a coat for the character of Professor Marvel which later was shown to have been owned by the book’s author, L. Frank Baum.

When discussing this in class, one of my students said that her father had seen actor Cary Grant at a ballpark three times in his life. Each time the father was eating a hotdog. The third time, Grant looked at him and said, “Don’t I know you? Weren’t you eating a hotdog here before?”

I was talking with my friend about the term. She related that on her second son’s birthday which is in the afternoon, she sends a text message or calls to wish him happy birthday. But since her eldest son was born at 2:19, she doesn’t do it. The night of her son’s last birthday, she got up she thought around 12 and realized he wasn’t in bed and thought she should go downstairs and wish him a happy birthday. Instead bed seemed a more logical action. As she got into bed she looked at the clock and realized it was 2:20.

What kind of examples can you share of Synchronicity at work?