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The Symbolism of Synchronicity

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

I have two rules; or rather, two versions of one simple rule.

If I see someone three times in the one day, or every day for three consecutive days, I should invite that person to have coffee with me.

Now, some people might think I'm quite odd, asking them to have a cuppa. They might think it's totally random, if they haven't seen me noticing them! But some people think it's nice - they feel noticed, seen, and acknowledged. They appreciate a friendly chat with a stranger they might never meet again.

What's the purpose of it? Well, I just like to be friendly, but I'm a little scared to be! Once I get the person chatting, it's interesting to hear what they have to say. They're curious too, so I get a few words in as well!

But, it takes courage! You try walking up to a stranger and inviting them to have a cuppa with you! Sure, it's not a romantic flirty drink in a bar; it's a warm beverage in a café.

Am I working with synchronicity? Is synchronicity a thing? Psychologist Carl Jung is credited with saying that synchronicity is more significant than mere serendipity. That's a big call!! For me, serendipity is where hard work and opportunity collide: it's where the impact is felt!

But if synchronicity is more significant than serendipity, then surely, we must work with it!

Both serendipity and synchronicity involve happenstance: both are about happy coincidences in life, but the synchronous ones are deeply and personally meaningful.

When I was working as a mental health researcher (in clinical neuroscience), I interviewed many participants who had psychotic illnesses. They would openly and trustfully tell me about their experiences of hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are perceptual experiences (like hearing a voice, but there's nobody there); and can be auditory, visual, olfactory ... a person might taste poison or smell dead fish, see flashing lights or hear a running commentary of every little thing they do. Delusions are different; they are firmly held beliefs of something that is evidently untrue. Delusions can be bizarre (like a menopausal woman being pregnant), religious (like a man saying he is Jesus, Buddha or Allah). Delusions can be paranoid (believing someone is watching, betraying, or tormenting you), or referential (believing a higher power or alien is communicating with you through the way things might be arranged, like "all the cars are white").

Hallucinations and delusions can be terrifying and debilitating. They don't normally cause a person to harm another, but the sufferer might self-harm in order to make their suffering cease. They can be so problematic that the sufferer can't work, their self-care is non-existent, and they develop depression because they have a lifelong illness that won't let them be.

I mention the hallucinations and delusions, because they have that same sense of self-referential significance that synchronicity has!

So, how do we tell the difference? I suppose, we need to develop experience with reality, and with unreality. That way, we can begin to learn discernment. But to truly develop discernment, we need to have some trust, so we can test the waters. That's because we need to test our intuitive feelings by looking for validation.

The only way we'll know that something is real or not, is to try it out.

So, this past week, I have had three instances of Vincent van Gogh coming into my consciousness. Is that synchronicity? Here's what happened:

First, I was watching the re-runs of Dr Who on free-to-air TV, and the 11th Dr Who played by Matt Smith, took his companion Amy Pond (played by Karen Gillan) to visit Vincent van Gogh (played by Tony Curran). The painter was portrayed as admiring of Miss Pond, and having an ecstatic love for the sublime beauty of all he saw.

Amy Pond, played by Karen Gillan, is admired by Vincent van Gogh, played by Tony Curran
Vincent admires Amy's courage, and defiance, in 11th Dr Who .. credit BBC One.

I thought to myself, this Vincent van Gogh painted for the love of it.

Then, I was shopping for something completely different, to brighten up my spare bedroom. I wandered through the store, looking at all sorts of decorating ideas, when I came upon a set of mugs. You guessed it; they depicted scenes from four of Vincent van Gogh's paintings. Not what I was looking for (but nearby; I found the duvet cover soon after).

I though to myself, I could buy these mugs, and they'll remind me to just do what I love, for the love of doing it. Truth be told, I really do like to write!

I bought the mugs and the duvet cover (decorated with Australian paper daisies in white and an orange-yellow reminiscent of van Gogh's sunflowers), and something else happened. I looked at my spare room and thought, the picture doesn't go with the room. I tried a different picture, which looked better, but not perfect. And so I thought, maybe I'll paint one, myself! I haven't yet; but I've thought about it ...

So far, two things about Vincent van Gogh. At this point, I'm calling them coincidences.

Two days later, I opened up my email, and what do you think I saw? An advertisement for an exhibition in Canberra, called "Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London". Does that mean I have to go??? Now, I don't know how that particular ad came on for me at that time. I don't have any apps open on my phone or computer that would listen to me or to what I'm doing (call me paranoid!!). I didn't do any internet searches about Vincent van Gogh until this morning - well after the Dr Who episode and the purchase of the four mugs.

It did get me wondering about the man himself, so I read a Wikipedia article, and looked at some of his pictures. I can't say I've ever been a fan of his style or content, but I can say this: he did what he loved, for the love of it. Despite poverty, and rejection from the women to whom he proposed marriage, he kept doing what he loved, for the love of it.

I think that's a pretty good lesson. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone, we should do whatever we do, passionately. Don't worry about making money; let it come when it's time. Just follow your passion. And if you don't have a passion? Try lots, until passion finds you.


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