No Coincidences

I have heard people say that there are no coincidences. That seems extreme. Sometimes two things happen that seem oddly connected. You thought about calling your old college roommate who you haven’t seen in 10 years, but before you could, your phone rings and it is that roommate. Coincidence or is there some other explanation?

Some people believe that it is Fate. Or perhaps it is some force of the Universe. Maybe that force is actually God. In all of those cases, it is something greater than us. It’s not a coincidence.

There are also people who take the opposite view. Some statistically-oriented people may explain coincidences with the Law of Truly Large Numbers. I didn’t make that one up. The law of truly large numbers is a statistical adage attributed to Persi Diaconis and Frederick Mosteller.  It states that with a sample size large enough, any outrageous thing is likely to happen.

This idea that we simply focus on unlikely events and notice them more than many likely events is said to debunk any supernatural phenomenology. So, it is all about probabilities.

You may have heard that in a room of 23 people there’s a 50-50 chance of two people having the same birthday. In a room of 75 there’s a 99.9% chance of two people matching. This is known as the “birthday paradox” though it seems to many people to be a counter-intuitive paradox because we just aren’t very good about grasping the compounding power of exponents.

Those statistics won’t stop those who believe in larger explanations for coincidences that contain messages for them personally. If someone explains a strange coincidence as something that “was meant to be” they might also say that “coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

My favorite explanation comes from Jungian psychology. Coincidences are actually examples of synchronicity. Years ago, a friend gave me the book, There Are No Accidents: Synchronicity and the Stories of Our Liveswritten by a Jungian psychotherapist, Robert Hopcke.

Carl Jung coined the term “synchronicity” for coincidences that seem too strange to be coincidences. These are events that seem to be telling us something. Are we being taught a lesson? Should we be changing our lives?

“Synchronicity: A meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved.” – Carl Jung

The word synchronicity comes from the Greek words ‘syn’ (together) and ‘chronos’ (time).

Jung became convinced that everything in the universe is linked, and so all humans must also be connected in some way. He called this the collective unconscious and that human psyches are linked and we that communicate in the form of meaningful coincidences, or synchronicity.

I believe some coincidences are just coincidences. But if you tell me about a coincidence that seems far too unlikely to be just a coincidence, synchronicity might be my explanation rather than Fate, God or the bidding of the Universe. I am probably not alone in wanting to believe there is some greater meaning to things that happen in our lives.

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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