Meaningful Coincidences

With one breath, with one flow
You will know
The Police

For most of my adult life I have had somewhere in my library books by Carl Jung. Does this make me a Jungian of some kind? The bookish kind?
I was at a Jungian gathering last Friday night. It was showing Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries one of my favorite, favorite movies. Most glom onto the clock in the opening scene — a dream scene — because it has no hands, an obvious metaphor or archetype, if you will. It means disorientation, say, or a sense of timelessness, give the clock cannot tell us what time it is. It comes up in Prof. Isak Borg’s and then once again when he is shown his father’s pocket-watch by his mother. I had said a watch with no hands is junk to the great effrontery of the evening’s lecturer. “We’re Jungians,” she said speaking for everyone in the room, “don’t consider it junk.” I shook my head; “I meant it literarily.” (Within the reality of the filmic world of Ingmar Bergman the watch wasn’t Jungian, perhaps, I could argue, but derides its meaning from the world Bergman has created — I could have said this but I didn’t).
Was the collective unconscious giving me the what for?
Several years ago I had entered a play-writing contest and had lost out to several great playwrights including one whose play entirely misconstrued Jung’s theory of synchronicity — the playwright had confused chaos theory for synchronicity. Despite the fact that this characters mentioned that what was happening to them was the result of synchronicity they were in fact engaged with chaos.
I still think about it. i remember telling the writer, but he just chose to ignore me. But still I wonder if over the years of my thinking I set something off that…wait no that’s chaos. That writer would have to be thinking about synchronicity as I do now for it to be what Jung had in mind.
Jung might have had thought this a good example. Back in 1985, I had taken Synchronicity out of the university library and had only begun reading it when I was called to bring the copy back for a faculty member. The next day, after my morning classes, I took the three escalators up to the library to return the library book. Standing right behind me out of some four thousand students and another thousand faculty and staff was none other than the very faculty member needing the book in my hand.
“That’s synchronicity,” said said, and I agreed handing her the book.

Synchronicity designates the parallelism of time and meaning between psychic and psychological events, which scientific knowledge so far has been unable to reduce to a common principle. …It simply formulates the occurrence of meaningful coincidences which, in themselves, are chance happenings, but are so improbable that we must assume them to be based on some kind of principle, or on some property of the empirical world.

Carl Jung

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