I like to refer to coincidences as "secret handshakes from the universe". Sometimes, however, a series of coincidences feel more like an unseen hand slamming a door in your face, over and over. Whether positive or negative, coincidences serve as homing beacons, helping us to know whether we are on the right path or need to make a course correction - provided, of course, that we stop saying that coincidence is "only" coincidence.
The celebrated law of attraction is at work in all this, because mind reaches to mind and mind and matter interact at every level of the multiverse. But there are a couple of things we need to know about how the law of attraction really works. For starters, like attracts like - but it can also attract unlike (isn't that true of plenty of marriages?). More important, if we set our sights on something - weight loss, money, success in any field - from the limited perspective of the conscious ego, we may find we get an outcome that is very different from what the "daily trivial mind" thinks that it wants. The magic happens when the natural wisdom of the body joins up with the larger agenda of the higher self, and hook up the ego to an agenda beyond its wit.
Last night a successful and gifted screenwriter raised another most interesting question about how to read synchronicity (a word Jung made up because he was fed up with people saying "it was only coincidence"). Rod wanted to know why he has not yet succeeded in bringing his favorite projects to the screen, even though he's felt a strong sense of endorsement from the play of synchronicity around him while he was working on those scripts. Here's part of what Rod said to me:
I just picked up your wonderful book "The Three Only Things". I've been studying synchronicity for about ten years looking for answers to a mystery that's been going on in my life. Ten years ago I got serious about my passion -- screenwriting. I sold two scripts during that time, one was made.
But here's the curious thing...I wrote over twenty screenplays during that time, and just like your "Indiana Jones" incident, I got AMAZING synchronicities EVERY TIME I started one. But here's my question... Why didn't they sell? This question haunts me. I get these astonishing series of signs, like a heavenly "thumbs up" -- and I write them...and they don't sell. What am I missing here?
I gave Rod this initial response:
1. We must never confuse value with valuation. The first is what makes something intrinsically worthwhile and of enduring importance. The second is what controls buying and selling in the marketplace.
2. It's the journey, not the destination, that matters. I'll bet you had some grand creative moments bringing through the scripts that haven't sold - YET.
3. Notice the YET. Sometimes we need to wait for a wave to catch up with us. (This has certainly been my own story for much of my life.) Scripts so far unsold may find a producer, yet.
4. Put on a performance - no, lots of performances - of your best unsold script for yourself, your friends, anyone willing to take part. Use a living room, an old hall, whatever. Get it OUT THERE.
5. Continue to put your questions to the world (through our coincidence game) and to your dreams by setting an intention for the night). Maybe you'll get your answer.
6. Keep your hand writing, or your fingers tapping that keyboard. It's what writers do.
I suggested to Rod that the universe may have given him a great idea for another movie, about a guy who tries to navigate by synchronicity and work the law of attraction, but seems to be rebuffed - at least until a twist in the tale that might reveal a deeper logic of events.
Then it occurred to me that while coincidences may feel like secret handshakes, or like a trickster pulling the rug from under us, they sometimes feel like an unseen hand mussing our hair. This is irritating for most kids after a certain age, but may reflect a benign intent that will deliver a fabulous gift later on.
There's more. When the universe gives us a clear message, we may be required to act on it. I'm not talking about Rod now, but about myself, in relation to the "Indiana Jones" incident to which he refers. I was given amazing confirmation - through an unlikely series of coincidences during a plane trip - that I ought to write a ripping adventure involving Winston Churchill, time travel, and occult battles during World War II. I have yet to write that book. But I did make a sideways approach, with a chapter in my new book The Secret History of Dreaming titled "Winston Churchill's Time Machines" that starts with the dream in which Winston received a visitation from his father, Lord Randolph, seeking an update on the state of the world fifty years after his death.