As a rational human being, I don’t subscribe to magical thinking. I know my thoughts don’t make things happen, and of course I don’t believe that coincidence is anything other than random chance. I’m a human, though, and humans like to look for magic; finding explanations is a pitfall of being an intelligent creature with a brain that seeks out patterns.
All this is my way of saying that at times, I make a hobby of reading meaning into the odd happenstance of everyday life. Here are three of my recent oddities and what they could mean, if I chose to believe in a pattern which some call “fate.”
- The Random Man. About a week ago, I was researching online for a piece of fiction I’m writing that’s based on a real story. In my search, I stumbled upon a random Blogspot post containing pictures and names of three individuals. I read the page and moved on. A few days later, I spent my afternoon in Downtown Los Angeles, walking around, exploring the milieu, and writing. As I strolled passed a location I am writing about–a high-rise full of hundreds of people– a man exited the front door: one of the three people featured in that random blog post. No one famous, just. . . some guy. I recognized his face, but if that weren’t enough, his companion called out his name, cinching the fact that I had just witnessed a Giant Coincidence.
- The Former Roommate’s Friend’s Aunt. A few days later, I was creating a strategic marketing plan for a fiction author. I visited a website to check out its author and poets directory. I thought, “Maybe my client should join this and set up a profile.” Four Featured Authors appeared in photos at the top of the page. The first, on the left, was the aunt of my former roommate’s best friend from high school. The previous summer, I’d met her for the first time in Upstate New York. My friends and I spent two hours visiting her and her husband at their house in the woods. They fed us cookies and beer and gave us a tour of their property. Giant Coincidence Number Two.
- The Moose. Last night, I typed up a seven-page story which I’m reciting from memory tonight at my storytelling salon. The final paragraph mentions a town in Connecticut where the main character–someone in my family who I’ve never met–is buried. This morning when I logged onto Facebook, one of the first items I saw was a Hartford Courant article about a moose being spotted in this same town. The timing of this incident struck me as odd for two reasons. One: the town in question is a small city, not the type of place you’d expect to find a moose; and two: seeing a moose in the wild is the #2 item on my bucket list after “See the northern lights.” I grew up in the Northeast and have camped and backpacked at various spots around the U.S., but I have yet to see a moose in the wild. My totemic animal appearing in a small Connecticut city where my relative is buried: odd, yes, but maybe the only magical thing about it is the way it confirms my longstanding hunch–when I leave a place, it gets interesting.
So do I believe in magical thinking? Sometimes, yes. I don’t allow myself to have thoughts of plane malfunction when I’m flying, for fear my mind will undo all the nuts and bolts that hold the wing onto the fuselage. But for the most part, no, I’m not a believer, just a logical, rational person who wishes coincidence had meaning. In this case, I think, the meaning would be quite clear: