Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Route to a coincidence

Crows in treeRecently I had a memory going round me head that, for some reason, just wouldn't go away. It concerned a place, far away, that I'd visited precisely once, many years ago. It was an obscure place, little known outside birding circles. I hadn't thought about it for maybe a decade or more and yet, suddenly, I couldn't get its uncommon name out of my head.

So, when I subsequently noticed a tiny advertisement in the street, something caught my eye instantly. The advert was for a taxi firm. The name of the company was the same as the place I'd been thinking about continuously, for no apparent reason, for the previous 24 hours! Could this be a synchronicity - a meaningful coincidence? Was fate trying to tell me something? Was it a message that I must go back?

Then I noticed something odd. The name on the advert was, in fact, NOT quite the same as the one I'd been thinking about all day. There was one letter different. Even so, it was remarkably similar and still an astonishing coincidence, given that both names are uncommon. I had probably misread it precisely because it was so similar to the name I'd been thinking about.

But then I realised something else. I'd actually seen that exact same advert before! It's design and position suddenly appeared oddly familiar. My meaningful coincidence was unravelling fast. It was now obvious that the chain of events went more like this. When I had seen the advert for the first time I'd clearly paid little attention to it and forget I'd ever seen it. However, the uncommon name had triggered a memory in my brain that then appeared 'unaccountably'. The only real coincidence was that the name of a taxi firm was one letter different to an obscure place I'd once visited. Which doesn't appear that meaningful.

From this incident you can see how apparently meaningful coincidences can sometimes be generated by purest accident. The crucial point in the events outlined above was that I forgot I'd seen the advert the first time. It is easy to think of similar sequences of events where someone forgets what prompted them to think of a particular idea. And if they don't remember that triggering event, any subsequent apparently meaningful coincidence will continue to appear significant. Even if, in reality, it isn't!

When analyzing reports of synchronicities it is vital to get a full sequential account of every relevant event. If there is an obvious point where a forgotten connection might easily account for the synchronicity, it is an idea well worth exploring. Note, also, that memories can be triggered by something that merely resembles the original thought. There doesn't have to be an exact match.

And the photo? Every time I look at it I have a nagging feeling it reminds me of something I've seen before. But what?

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