Life as an Extreme Sport

Serendipitous Synchronicity

I have a bad habit. It’s called “reading psychology books” – I blame my stint, now nearly a decade past, as a psychology major for this affliction. But it’s stayed with me, and it undoubtedly influences how I see the world. I always had issues with Freud (it was the trendy thing, after all), but never really thought much about Jung until I joined CHID. That first quarter, the Buffy class had a segment on Jung and archetypes – I will always tie the cheese tray in the Season Four finale, Restless, to Jung’s navel of the dream – and he continued to pop up here and there for short chapters.

At the same time, my interest in genealogies and narratives has grown exponentially, and I read whatever I can get my hands on about the subject. (Yes, another bad habit – I enjoy Foucault. Please don’t stone me alive.) So, it was with some interest that I checked out the book There Are No Accidents: Synchronicity and the Stories of Our Lives by Jungian psychotherapist Robert Hopke. I’ve been meditating quite a bit on luck and synchronicity lately; we recently watched The Pursuit of Happyness, and several interviews I’ve read or proofed lately have also discussed the power of luck, chance, happenstance. In fact, my very religious mother has even been commenting on it lately, how so much of my life lately has seemed to just fall into place, as if I’ve been blessed by luck.

Needless to say, randomly finding a book about synchronicity while thinking about synchronicity was… synchronis. Naturally, I had to read it.

So far, Hopke is just discussing the mechanics of Jung’s breakdown of synchronicity, but it’s something I find myself much more receptive to than I would have expected. Our lives are stories, and we only notice this story when we are jolted out of our immediacy and can see a slightly larger picture, when we find ourselves adhering to patterns we would only expect to see in narration, because we don’t consider that we ourselves have a narrative. Hopke says that we have a

very human tendency to try to exert and establish control over our lives, as if somehow our consciously deciding what story we are going to be living and doing whatever necessary, come hell or high water, to make it turn out that way, is the best or only way to achieve happiness and fulfillment. Certainly part of the wonder of synchronistic events is the way that such an attitude gets turned on its head. By pure accident, without our willing them, certain events sometimes occur to us which show us that our lives may well be on another narrative track altogether, that the story we have made up for ourselves may not be our story at all, and only our own openness to reconsidering the plot will allow us to use this meaningful coincidence to our own benefit.

Not at all facetiously, wow. Talk about narrative and wonder and serendipitous events – how can I not love it? And how can I not relate?

I started back to school, several years ago, thinking that I would get a degree in journalism and turn my love of writing into a professional career. I tried to make it fit, but kept being pulled other ways and directions – and when I finally gave in, and let go of the mental idea of who I was and should be, life became better. Happier. More exciting and rich and all those trite things. I was only going to get a BA… but then maybe a Masters would be a good idea. No, no, a PhD. I’d stay on the West Coast, in Seattle, maybe California – okay, fine, New York. In many ways, life since returning to school has been an exercise not in academia, but in flexibility, letting go, and acknowledging that sometimes, the control you have is not to shape your life, but your response to the circumstances you find yourself in.

I was reading an interview the other day, of someone I rather admire. And it struck me how much of the story was based on (and acknowledged to be) luck, timing, and being in the right place. I guess it ultimately goes back to being in the world, and being open to what the world brings you, rather than to what you think the world should bring you. Opportunity comes in many guises, and often there has to be a set-up before there’s a pay-off (and while they exist here, I won’t point them out – you can find them if you’re so curious); if you are so closed off to the world to not be willing to have time, patience, and faith, and yes, even trust – then I wonder if you can ever truly succeed, or be aware of your own serendipitous synchronicities.

One comment

  1. “Opportunity comes in many guises…”

    Well said.

    A promotion at work that I’d been wanting so badly for years that my teeth ached ended up showing me what I didn’t want to do. A transfer that I took somewhat under duress led me to discover a passion for something I never dreamed I’d have either an aptitude for or an interest in. And I wouldn’t have any of it if I hadn’t been fired from a job nearly a decade ago for poor performance.

    Even more strange, learning of the death of an estranged friend (long story) re-connected me with my artistic aspirations, which had been stuck in neutral while simultaneously eating me alive in retaliation for my locking them up. It’s an odd feeling to benefit from this woman’s death. My girlfriend says I can think of it as a loving tribute to her, but part of me feels guilty for having stolen inspiration from someone whom I loved but with whom I could not coexist in life.

    I’m sure Buddhism has a very elegant way of expressing this concept. Me, I just think life is funny.

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