Every now and then, a series of coincidences occur that are so unusual, serendipitous or downright bizarre that you are forced to weave the little bits of logic you are able to gather together, and read the signs that something, somewhere, somehow is transmitting. According to renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung, these instances represent a case of ‘synchronicity,’ or the occurrence of two or more events that appear to be meaningfully related but are not seemingly connected.
These ‘meaningful coincidences’ reveal some sort of underlying pattern that encompasses a wider theme, bringing certain events to the forefront of our consciousness. We’ve all been there. Think of that moment when you are thinking of a certain person and suddenly see their name on your caller ID. Or those moments when you see a stranger on the street that so vividly resembles someone you know that you are overwhelmed with a jolting sense of recognition in your gut.
Recently I have found myself hyper-aware of synchronicity’s presence in my daily life. Now, more so than ever. I just returned from a long Christmas weekend in Paris with a dear childhood friend. For the most part, the weekend was exactly what one would expect from a magical winter weekend in Paris. However, in the span of a few short days, we experienced a series of three uncannily bizarre experiences on the Parisian underground that at first sight appeared to be coincidental, but with a deeper look, may be part of a greater synchronistic force.
On our first metro ride into the city, we settled into our seats on a comfortably full train. Suddenly, we heard a woman begin an energetic diatribe that immediately captivated the entire car. Ranting to a faceless perpetrator, eyes glassed over and voice unreasonably loud, this woman was burdened with a blinding anger that only a public outburst could remedy.
With our limited French, we could piece together hints of racial frustration and a painful revulsion to social discrimination. The woman simply couldn’t hold it together anymore and used the car full of strangers as her involuntary public soapbox. We left the subway feeling heavy, as if we carried some lingering particles of her rage out of the car with us onto the street above.
The following day, as we entered the platform we saw a blind man waiting for the oncoming train. As the train approached, I began to venture over to assist him to enter the car. My friend held me back, and in a moment of confusion, I was pleased to see that another stranger guided him safely into the car. A compassionate humanitarian in her essence, my friend’s reaction surprised me and left me wondering.
Finally, as we were waiting on the platform a few hours later, a young man suddenly approached us with a 50-euro note, which he said had dropped from one of our bags. My friend looked in her bag to discover that, in fact, it was hers. In awe, we thanked our superfluous savior.
Contrary to everything one hears of urban underground behavior, this man briefly restored our blackened faith in broader human goodness and spurred our reflection of the previous incident, as my friend explained her initial assumption of the man’s duplicity after hearing countless stories of Paris subway scams using similar tactics.
Three powerful experiences within a few short days, all on the usually unremarkable Parisian underground. Blinding burdensome anger juxtaposed with graceful generosity and fundamental human kindness. Were these three random events or the human manifestation of hidden forces actively at work, which appeared to us in a string of events, begging us to absorb, assist and appreciate?
Jung and his long-term patient and intellectual muse Wolfgang Pauli were convinced that synchronistic events reveal an underlying unity of mind and matter, of conscience and sub-conscience, of the universe lifting the curtain to reveal its infinite wisdom. What appears to be random coincidences are in fact the manifestation of the mechanisms which govern the whole of human experience and history, as the universe has a way of delivering exactly what we need at the very moment we need it. Since ‘everything happens for a reason’ is trite bordering on crude, I’ll end with one of Jung’s favorite quotes from Through the Looking-Glass in which the White Queen Says to Alice, “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.”