World, Writing, Wealth discussion

The Lounge: Chat. Relax. Unwind. > Are coincidences meaningful, or, well, coincidences?

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message 1: by jessica (new)

jessica (xjessicax) | 14 comments I have always been a superstitious person and the concept of meaningful coincidences rather frightens me. I’ve been reading a lot about it recently, however, and I’ve found that from a scientific standpoint, seemingly unlikely similarities are insanely likely in reality. ”Coincidence is in the eye of the beholder.”

What do y’all think?

message 2: by Nik (last edited Aug 10, 2018 01:58AM) (new)

Nik Krasno | 13431 comments If to talk about superstitions, omens, etc (whether widely believed or some personal omens), like black cat bringing bad/good luck, Friday 13 and all, my experience shows that all of them are meaningless. In a psychological context these may (don't know if do) matter to those who believe in omens and superstitions as they may adapt their behavior accordingly. Similar maybe to a placebo effect, which I think was proved through experiments..
Yet, I find that seemingly improbable events are much more likely to happen than initially estimated. Don't know if these are meaningful coincidences.
Also, sometimes there is some 'divine justice', where someone gets what he/she deserves, but probably not more often than not.
Can't exclude that we are still unaware of some laws and not everything belongs to causality, but I don't exactly believe in paranormal, religious, spiritual and all. At that, I don't discount people that do - and who knows maybe they are right and not I -:)
Don't know if all - but most coincidences have a perfect explanation in the retrospect. However, wouldn't advise to treat everything as a pure coincidence and not to confuse it with a reasonable precaution. Like if you walk and see more and more suspicious dudes on the street, you might truly be in a bad neighborhood -:)

message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9473 comments Coincidence is quite common. The classic bet is when you have people in the room, that there will be two with the same birthday. You need 23 to make it favourable to you, but most people do not expect that few will on balance do it.

message 4: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5332 comments This discussion made me think of synchronicity, a term coined by Carl Jung.

I found this website

Here's a quote: "Synchronicity is the occurrence of two events that have no apparent cause and effect relation but are nonetheless connected by meaning, often in profound ways.

Synchronicity is an odd term, but it's a familiar experience to many people. Someone dreams of a childhood friend he hasn't heard from in years and gets a phone call from that friend the next day. Another person loses his mother and hears her favorite song on the radio on the day of her funeral. Someone facing a terrible personal crisis is the accidental recipient of a book that seems written just for him or her."

The site also offers logical arguments against synchronicity.

I have to say that I've thought of an old friend and then heard from them out of the blue. I've had some problem on my mind and come across something that addresses it. The mind does naturally want to make connections, though, so maybe there's nothing to it.

message 5: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9473 comments Yes, but I have thought about old friends (you tend to as you age) but nothing has happened. The problem is, nobody records the number of times they think like that and nothing happens. If they did, maybe you would recognise the coincidences as really unusual.

message 6: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5332 comments The mind does like to make connections.

message 7: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9473 comments The mind likes to find evidence of what it believes - the confirmation bias - so it is susceptible to being fooled.

message 8: by Tucker (new)

Tucker It's an art form to spot coincidences and reveal them to others. Writers use words in a way that reveals their double, triple, or quadruple meanings. Sometimes the meanings can already be found in the dictionary (a surface level of meaning), and the writer is just challenging his/her own wit to activate those multiple meanings in the same sentence. Other times, the meaning isn't in the dictionary at all, and the writer is creating new, deeper, personalized levels of meaning through the unique context of the poem or story. If I write a fictional story in which, say, an owl appears five times, the owl's occasional appearance is "random" within my fictional world and yet my fictional characters probably still assign some meaning to the owl's appearance because it's interesting for them to think and talk about. I could also do wordplay with similar words like "awl," "howl," "haul," "all" which may also excite characters and readers to interpret the meaning of the wordplay, whether they suspect that those connections were deliberately "hidden" there to convey a complex meaning or whether they believe that they are assigning their own meanings to accidental coincidences.

message 9: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5332 comments I don't think you're really talking about coincidences here so much as the author giving the reader opportunities to make connections and find deeper meaning. If I've understood Tucker's post, would this e.e. Cummings poem be an example?

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




balloonMan whistles

The juxtaposition of spring/balloons/the puddle-wonderful world/ the children playing - and the lame/queer/goat-footed old man whistling far and wee (calling to wee things) is chilling. Cummings uses our associations with those images to produce that chilling effect. Of course, one would presumably have knowledge of Greek mythology and literary representations of the devil. Everything depends on making that connection, which is not at all coincidental.

message 10: by Tucker (new)

Tucker Interesting.

I think where I was going was: If you really zoom out and ask, Why is there anything at all? Why are there people, why are there goats, why are children small, why do they play games, why do balloons float...? The answer is, everything's ultimately random.

But — to your point — if you take some of this for granted — there are goats and children and balloons, as well as established symbolism about them — then what we say and do isn't random, and some interpretations are more correct than other, based on whether they reflect the existing system. The poet says "goat-footed" because he's trying to creep us out.

So, to Jessica's original question of whether ”coincidence is in the eye of the beholder"... One way to approach the question is to determine how far back you want to go. If you go back far enough to "Why is there anything," then the existence of all space-time is one big coincidence. If you zoom in close enough to "Why did my spouse serve the eggs and coffee warm instead of cold and say that it tasted like the way grandma used to make it," there is probably reason and meaning behind your breakfast. Then there's a big gray area inbetween where plenty of stuff catches your attention, you start to assign it meaning, and it isn't always obvious whether you're correct in doing so or just having a runaway imagination.

I believe artists enjoy playing with this gray area. At first, you don't know where the poem is feels like a stream of merely coincidental images...then you encounter the word "goat-footed" and it triggers some pause to unpack your private association...then you pause to think about whether the poet did that intentionally. In this case, he probably did. In other cases, though, just because you stumble across certain words/images doesn't mean someone is trying to make you think about the devil.

Insofar as there are existing motives, interpretations, associations in the world, coincidence is not in the eye of the beholder. There are factual answers about what's related or done deliberately.

Insofar as we create art and layer our own interpretations onto the world, coincidence is in the eye of the beholder. A goat happens to wander by a church; we snap a photograph of it and say, This has theological meaning. It was a coincidence until we noticed it and turned it into art with intentional meaning.

message 11: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5332 comments That's a far-ranging explanation, beginning with the existence of space-time (in my opinion, not a coincidence). I can see what you're saying about the big gray area and how artists have lots of room to play there. You say, "Insofar as we create art and layer our own interpretations onto the world, coincidence is in the eye of the beholder." One day, downtown, I saw a woman pushing an old guy in a wheelchair on the sidewalk next to a woman pushing her babe in a carriage. I've often wished I had a photo of that. Is this what you mean by coincidence as it relates to art?

message 12: by Tucker (new)

Tucker Yes, exactly!

message 13: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5332 comments Thanks for your reply and for the discussion.

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