by Jerry Kolber, special to the Herald, author: Three Dollar Dinner
Over the past few weeks I have been incredibly aware of co-incidents. The power of coincidence seems to be playing a large role in my life and I am wondering if this is related to karma, or cause-effect, or intentionality. This may or may not have anything to do with Buddhism and I leave it those far more deeply versed in the non-basic teachings than I to weigh in, but I do feel compelled to share some of my thoughts on coincidence.
For example, at the IDP Meditaton Marathon, one of the first songs to
come on when ABC opened for business was I Love the Nightlife, as
hilariously documented by in a post by Ellen Scordato.
24 hours and several plane rides later, a friend in Berlin had taken us
to a club, and on came the song I Love the Nightlife. I do not hear
this song much, and it seemed to make a strange line from NYC to the
city I found myself in. The club was also exactly the one place IDP
associate director Patrick Groneman had mentioned to me by name and
told me to avoid, though it turned out to be a lot of fun.
Another recent example: My boyfriend Brian bought me an amazing bronze
cast of a bird skull for my birthday, and he got himself a matching one too.
They are made by his friend Blue in New York. Brian has been working a
lot in London, and met a new friend named Luka one night randomly in the UK
because Luka also had a piece of Blue’s jewelry. Coincidence enough,
but on his way out of London his weekend another friend told Brian she was
looking forward to a date this week, because the guy had the same
name as she gave her stuffed animals as a litle girl. The guys (and
dolls) name? Luka Blue.
Smaller coincidences abound at work and in life, and they have been
quite intense as of late. Is it any less of a coincidence that you go
into a store and discover a new photographer who inspires you in a new
creative directon? You go looking for the perfect house to buy or rent
and eventually you find it – without having to look at every house in
the neighborhood (You just know it is the right one). Out of billions
of people on earth you meet the friends and lovers who fit your life
perfectly and you theirs, and offer each other exactly the life lessons
you need at that moment in time.
It is beginning to seem to me that being aware of coincidence is no
different than having present moment Buddhist style awareness. Every
moment of our lives is a co-incident – i.e. several incidents happening
at once. That is at least one reasonably passable definition of
reality. So why do we seperate out certain co-incidences and say “What
a coincidence!”? Why do some moments, which are really no more or less
special than any other moment, shock us awake with what we perceive as
some hidden message?
I propose that it is because of two forces at work. Number one, and
call me new-Agey if you must, but I do think that at certain more
depthful turning points, if we are open to it the universe will send us
signals that we are on the right or wrong path. Whether we are
unconsciously sending out a beacon saying “I am lost, please send a
sign” and are thus in a sense looking for coincidences, or if there is
something even more mysterious at work, does not matter. I know I am
not the only one who has experienced this level of what feels like
strang signposts on the liferoad.
The other force I think is at work behind what we perceive as special
coincidences is that at some times in our lives we are more focused on
deeper questions than at other times. It is inevitable that if you are
focused on a question you are more likely to find an answer. And the
quieter your mind is, the more likely you are to hear the answer when
it comes, so it is no coincidence that the more I am disciplined about
my meditation practice the more likely I am to be present to notice
coincidences, and the more likely I am to attach meaning to them.
Thinking about this just makes me want to pay even more attention all
the time, especially in the moments that don’t necessarily register as
a big “coincidence”. How often do I find just the right book, person,
or article with the right story or idea for exactly where I am in my
life? Am I having these experiences or are they having me? Either way,
I do not live in a universe where I can rewind and try different
options, so the experience I have is the only one I CAN have – there is
not some alternate universe in which what we call a coincidence can
un-happen as a result of some other choice we make.
Put another way, the next time you are walking down the street and
happen to run into someone you know and they say “What are the chances
of running into each other?”, the only logical answer given the deeply
thick and non-optional nature of time and the universe is “One hundred
The only question really worth answering – if you want to get at the
truth of what is happening and what this experience has to offer (and
every experience has something to offer) – is Why?