It was 8:20 a.m. on a recent Sunday and I was driving north from the West Palm Beach area to Jupiter, Florida to meet a friend for a bike ride. It’s not a time that I’m often on the road, except for these occasional bike rides. I turned on the radio to NPR and was surprised to hear that the next interview would be about the meaning of coincidences.
Trish and I had often wondered why National Public Radio never seemed to take on metaphysical topics, such as synchronicity, and we often made jokes about appearing on NPR and talking about the subject. So, it finally happened. Not to us, but someone else, another writer, and I was curious to hear what he/she would say. Was NPR actually opening its radio doors to the paranormal? If so, then maybe the paradigm shift was really happening, the mystical/spiritual and science were starting to merge.
But as soon as the author and his book were introduced, I knew it was going to be another skeptical take on the subject. The author was a British statistician from the Imperial College of London with a lot of impressive credentials in the world of statistics and mainstream science. The book is called: The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day.
The sub-title, I suppose, is an intentional head scratcher. After all, these events are either rare or they happen everyday. Which is it? I’ll go with the latter, because that’s what I experience. But the author incredibly tried to argue both sides. Astonishing coincidences rarely happen, he told listeners, and gave a well known example involving Anthony Hopkins. (We wrote about it in The 7Secrets of Synchronicity.) Yet, he quickly added they happen every day because humans look for patterns. The underlying idea was that it was all just random, as any statistician will tell you.
I was waiting for him to talk about apophenia, but the interview was too short. Statisticians generally believe the so-called pattern-seeking behavior becomes a disorder – apophenia or paternicity – if you find meaning in the pattern. Maybe Professor Hand’s book will shed more light on his take of the ‘disorder,’ aka synchronicity.
Just encountering his brief interview early Sunday morning was a minor synchronicity, since Trish and I have co-authored four books on the subject. I suppose the professor would say that I was looking for meaning in a random event that I see as a pattern, and not a very impressive one at that.
But less than an hour earlier, while sipping a cup of tea and looking at the front page of the local newspaper, I spotted a story about the Bermuda Triangle. This story detailed a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) that said there is no such thing as the Bermuda Triangle. In other words, there are no more disappearances of ships and planes in that area of the world than any other, and no unusual conditions present in that area of the North Atlantic.
It took a couple of hours, but my pattern-seeking behavior detected a minor cluster of synchronicity. Not only had I written books about synchronicity and heard a radio interview dismissing anything meaningful about coincidence, but within the same hour I had read an article that debunked the B.T., another subject that I’d written a book about.
So was I encountering a conspiracy by the universe against my ideas about how the universe works? That would actually be a contradiction. If the universe was acting with intelligence, why was it promoting these debunkers? Hmm.
The answer, to my way of thinking, was that the universe has a great sense of humor. I had encountered the trickster, one common form of synchronicity. The trickster nudges you along. A paradigm change is underway you say? Well, don’t expect to hear about it on NPR or read about it in your daily newspaper. Look deeper.