by Michael J. Hallowell
experiences coincidences in their lives.
Some years ago I attended a conference on the paranormal
in Exeter, and, just before I got up to speak, I
discovered that the man sitting next to me had, until
quite recently, lived only a quarter of a mile away from
my own home. Neither of us had met previously.
Several weeks ago I was told of another strange
coincidence. A colleague of mine was at an exhibition at
Newcastle, and was approached by a lady who needed some
information. My colleague gave the lady my name and
said, "I can also give you his telephone number, but I'm
afraid I can't give you his address".
"You don't have to", replied the lady. "He's my
And so I was.
Of course, coincidences like this occur often, and there
is nothing inherently strange in them. Most readers will
be aware of the old adage that if you give enough
monkeys enough time and enough typewriters, eventually
one of them will type out the entire works of
But not all coincidences can be explained in this way. A
colleague of mine who specialises in studying the
phenomenon of synchronicity - the notion that life is
filled with meaningful patterns which often repeat
themselves - once said to me, "Some coincidences are
just too much of a coincidence to be coincidental".
What did he mean? Simply this; that, from time to time,
a "coincidence" occurs which is so extraordinary that it
is difficult not to think that there must be some unseen
intelligence guiding things behind the scenes.
Let me give you an example. Two men met in an English
bar in Spain. They were both from north Yorkshire and
both were called Mackins. Whilst discussing this
extraordinary circumstance their conversation was
overheard by the barman who told them that his surname
was Mackens. Not quite the same, but almost.
Their amusement was further compounded by the fact that
all three men had, during their teens, spent time
working as salesmen in the used car trade.
Philosophers and researchers have struggled for
centuries to explain this strange phenomenon. One
theorist said that such coincidences were not only
natural but inevitable.
All of nature, he said, was "built upon patterns and
rhythms". Tidal ebbs and flows, seasons, daytime and
night time… the list is virtually endless. Coincidences,
he argued, were simply proof that the same natural
forces and laws governed human life and activity.
Coincidences were, he believed, simply the "patterns of
An interesting idea, and it may or may not be true.
However, what we can say is that extraordinary
coincidences add both humour and wonder to our lives.
As we go about our daily business we usually become
immune to synchronicity and coincidence. Yet, if we were
to consciously take note of these things, we would see
that they occur with astonishing regularity.
How many times have we telephoned a friend only to hear
them say, "I was just about to ring you"? How many times
have we bought a birthday card for someone, only to find
that the recipient has received one or even two
identical cards from other people?
How many times have we wished to see a favourite film on
TV, only to see it appear in the listings a day or two
Synchronicity probably finds its greatest expression in
the lives of identical twins, who will often purchase
the same item of clothing on the same day without
knowing that their "other half" is doing exactly the
Synchronicity doesn't disturb me; in fact, it fascinates
me and I honestly think that our world would be far less
rich without it.
©Mike Hallowell, 2009
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