Saturday, May 21, 2005

Coincidentally speaking

This post about coincidence has been inspired by two occurrences that happened a month apart.


On 19 April, DD, in Denver, titled a post on his blog “Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth.” Within in the next day or so, my colleague, Richard, in Prague, used the same expression when speaking of a relative’s funeral that he would be attending in England that weekend. Cursory research has shown me that the expression comes from the book of Matthew in the New Testament. I took note of the coincidence because “wailing and gnashing of teeth” is not something I have often heard in conversation.


On 19 May, one of the partners in my firm, a Czech, called to ask me for an explanation of the saying “The die is cast.” At about the same time, an anonymous commenter posted on DD’s blog “Alea iacta est.” I looked it up the next day to find that it means “The die is cast,” which words were attributed to Julius Caesar (by Suetonius) upon his decision to cross the Rubicon with his army intact. Again, it seemed like a weird coincidence.


So I started thinking about coincidence. At first my question was whether there is such a thing as coincidence. I googled: the first link took me to a website that showed me how to fold an American $20 bill to see the World Trade Center on fire, and more. There were also several links to mathematical explanations for what we call “coincidence”. I could not get into those at all (I got a D- in calculus). There were psychology articles, a lot of Christian sites and, not surprisingly, other people’s blogs. I found the arguments for the existence of coincidence far more compelling than those against.


In reality, the most astonishingly incredible coincidence imaginable would be the complete absence of all coincidences. -- mathematician John Allen Paulos.


But then I realised a question of more fundamental importance is how do we define coincidence. We cannot discuss whether something exists or not if we do not know what we are looking for. It is the lawyer in me: define your terms.


The dictionary on my desk says: “the chance occurrence at the same time or place of two or more events that appear to be related or similar.” But while semantically accurate, the definition does not convey the deeper meaning that the word has attached to it. In addition, too many explanations of “coincidence” focus on finding a parking spot or something else that hollow, which to me is not the same as DD and Richard using the same biblical quote within a day of each other.


More research led me to the term “synchronicity” which was coined by Carl Jung to describe “meaningful coincidence”. According to Jung, synchronicity has occurred when “no causal connection can be demonstrated between two events, but where a meaningful relationship nevertheless exists between them.


My question has now become “Does ‘synchronicity’ really exist?”


More research to follow.

15 comments:

AG said...

Your are obviously bored today and definately got too much sleep last night.

Love ya.

Anonymous said...

Blessed is he who, having nothing to say, refrained from giving wordy evidence of the fact.

Max said...

Anon, if you don't like what I write, then please do feel free to refrain from reading my blog.

matty said...

my short answer... Yes

Anonymous said...

Coincidentally this is the most boringest blog in the blogosphere.

Max said...

Anon, some words of wisdom from my childhood for you:

If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. -- Max's mom

On giving criticism to your peers: say something you liked about the writing first, and only then say how you think the writer could make it better. -- Max's 7th grade English teacher

Max said...

P.S. Anon, you're a twat.

Dave said...

LOL. I haven't seen the word "twat" used in years.

matty said...

i think the word "twat" needs to come back, "cunt" is so overrated

Sinister Steve said...

Matty,

You're a twat

DD,

You're a twat too

Monkeys Max

You also are a twat


Hope you all are satisfied.

Dave said...

Twat did you say? I cunt hear you. I have an ear infucktion.

Celinka Dionova said...

I don't believe in coincidences. Everything happens for a reason.

Anonymous - go fuck yourself already!

I prefer the word "Pussy". I love Cunt but people seem to cringe in fear of this word. I only use it when I am really really peeved.

Max said...

Celinko -
"I love Cunt"? But I have quoted you as saying "I like cock." Which is it? Make up your mind.

And thank you for jumping to my defence. Bisous.

matt_in_carajo said...

I like to use them aimlessly, like: Anon, That fucking cunt sucking dick-weed pussy. He can go butt-fuck himself. What a goddamn chode-blowing scrotum scraper!

Max said...

Thanks, Shiny Matt.