Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Synchron-O-city Beast

Shhhh. If you're quiet for a moment, you'll hear him snuffling and padding around the room. Most grown-ups can't hear him or see him because they are too busy. Whatever age you are, you don't want to miss him. When he's around, things happen differently. You can finish something before you started it, which is really cool when it comes to doing chores.
     He is, of course, the Synchron-O-city Beast. I shall tell you exactly how he got his name and his shape. There was once a very clever professor in Switzerland who woke up noticing what you and I know but most grown-ups forget: coincidence matters, terribly. But it was very hard for him to explain this to respectable adults in a country of bankers and cuckoo-clocks, so he made up a word that sounded scientific.
     The word was "synchronicity", which he defined as "an acausal connecting principle." He was talking about meaningful coincidence. You and I know that coincidence always means something. It's through coincidence that we discover that the world inside us and the world outside us aren't really separate. It's through coincidence that we discover the secret doors to the world-behind-the-world that open in our dreams but often seem to be bricked over in the daytime, as if they were never there. Through coincidence, we discover that there are players involved in our games of life who live on the other side of the curtain between the worlds, but can reach through that curtain to move a piece on the board, or tickle us, or muss our hair.
     The Swiss professor got serious people - the sort who would never listen to talk of "coincidence" - to sit through his lectures when he substituted the word "synchronicity." He also go them to listen because he told good stories about how synchronicity worked in his own life, about how a solid cabinet cracked with a loud BANG when he was getting into an argument with his own teacher, or how a fox appeared on a path when he was talking to a lady about a dream of a fox.
     I have never liked the word "synchronicity" as much as that good old word "coincidence". But alas, "coincidence" has been horribly ad-justed and only-fied by all the people who have long been in the habit of saying, "just coincidence" or "only coincidence". It has even been not-ified by people who insist "it's not coincidence" when they really mean that it is, but it's something real and important and meaningful, and they don't understand (because of the bad talk they've learned) that coincidence is all of those things.
    So I've been using the word "synchronicity" in my own classes. But in one of those classes, there was a sweet lady artist who could never say it quite right. It always came out "synchron-O-city" with a great big O where an I should be. I thought this was rather cute, and couldn't bear to correct her. So, month after month, following her homeplay assignments, she would bring us tales of synchron-O-city, to our smiling delight.
    One evening there was a newcomer in the class, a serious person and a stickler for accuracy in everything that can be looked up.
    "I have another synchron-O-city to tell," said the lady artist, eager to share.
    "You mean synchon-I-city," said the newcomer. "You should get it right."
    Crestfallen, the artist tried to correct herself, but faltered.
    I quickly intervened. "Please don't ever change the way you say that word," I implored the artist. "Every time you say it, I sense a soft snuffly animal - the Synchron-O-city Beast - coming into the room."
    I paused. In that moment, I believe we all heard and sensed something like a plush baby rhino, snuffling and snorting. The first peoples of the country where I grew up, Down Under, say that to name something is to bring it into the world. The Synchron-O-city Beast is now alive and ever so busy in this world.
    I can prove this because a writer named Maureen has just reported a most delightful dream in which she is one of a team of counselors helping me to run a camp for children where we supervise sleepover parties and dream together. Padding and snuffling all over the magical house in the woods where we are gathered is a creature she describes as a "baby rhino", soft and cuddly.
     I don't think Maureen ever heard of the Synchron-O-city Beast from me, at least not in an ordinary way. The Synchron-O-city Beast just went ahead and introduced himself. I hope they are feeding him well in Maureen's dream camp. He thrives on giggles and slips of the tongue. He likes to exercise by shredding the curtain of solemn people's expectations, and butting holes into Outland and Fairyland and other lands big enough to be doorways for anyone with a child's sense of wonder.

An expanded version of this little essay appears in my book Active Dreaming, published by New World Library.


Justin Patrick Moore said...

Ideas of sleep over parties must be floating around today, because I was thinking that it would also be fun for adults to have sleep overs. I had been thinking specifically of the Onerionauticum group in San Francisco who is experimenting with this approach. Kids already love to have sleep overs and to encourage them to dream and play with Synchron-O-city
can only add to the fun and excitement. Think of the new games they will play and invent! Maybe the adults can all sleep communally as well, pulling out the sleeping bags and pyjamas. Falling asleep after fits of belly laughter is always fun. And a fun way to build a dreaming culture.

Robert Moss said...

Hey Justin - All of my residential playshops (and there are many) amount to adult sleepover parties, often with group dreaming assignments. In the early days, we would sometimes start off by all gathering in something resemblig sleepwear and lying down in cartwheel formation (heads to the center) in front of the fire in a great room (in both senses) where we could fit over thirty people, and enter the dreaming with shared intentions. It soon became apparent that this degree of physical proximity wasn't required to travel on a communal web of dreaming.

Patricia said...

Sometimes I really have to 'play' with an event before I recognize the presence of the Snuffly Beast. There is a beautiful tree in my back yard, a Brush Box, and it is in the process of having its leaves eaten by a particular kind of moth that does that kind of thing in it's caterpillar stage. Because of the position on the block I have associated this tree with my Psychology Practice and last year I made the intention to change the way I work. My intention is to do less one on one work and to run workshops and dream groups instead. I too, believe that to name something is to bring it into the world. The workshop, or playshop as you would say, is called Romancing the Archetypes and having thought about it for a long time, now is the time I have to name it and claim it. The tree is helping me do that. I am seeing new growth on the tree from the branches where the moths have had their way. We are both being encouraged to let go of what we don't want, in order to make room for what we do want.
A special friend of mine, a 'tree whisperer' has give me advice on how to nourish the tree in this process. I will be taking similar advice for myself as well. Soul nourishment is the order of the day. This blog is helping to feed my soul. I almost wrote 'feel' my soul. That too.
Love and lignt
Patricia from Oz


Dear Robert, I have been on the otherside of the curtain between worlds of Fairy Beings just today! Yes the wee ones pulled back the boughs of a pale branched willow, like you would pull back a curtain. Behind the willow boughs were treasures to be in delight with!
Synch-O-city with Patrica's dreaming with her tree. Could be!!
Thanks Robert, great fun! Hey just curious I wonder who the 'Synch-o-artist' might be? Oh! I think I know!
Love, Karen

Robert Moss said...

Patricia - Lovely to hear how the tree is putting out new growth as you grow your practice in fresh and wonderful ways. I love butterflies but have never much cared for moths, and when I think about that I find an atavistic connection. In the ancient world (at least among Greeks and Romans) while butterflies were linked to souls of the living, moths were often believed to represent shades of the dead, the kind you don't want batting around.

Robert Moss said...

Karen - I know you are one who is quite adept at gently drawing back the curtain of Grandmother Willow to slip into a world beyond ordinary eyes.

Unknown said...

Ah, the Synchronocerous... I know him well:)

Robert Moss said...

I thought I saw a giant boy
Juggling cars and our school bus
I looked again and found it was
A synchronocerous
"If we could take it home," said I,
"There'll be such fun for us."

Patricia said...

Thank you Robert,
I have learned a new word today. I had to go and look that one up. It seems that I have a lot more work to do on my 'family tree'. My grandma seems to be 'bugging me' again. Not to be taken lightly, I know, but I do love to play with words.

Unknown said...

Hi Robert,

It is Pamela J Griffiths resident of New York City and Sydney calling. Remember that I went to your wedding at Saint Christoper's at Manuka. Need to get in contact with your wife Katrina Fairbairn, dear old Geoffrey's daughter. Is she still in Britain where you headed after marrying in 1968?

GF got me my first job in History Dept. at the Institute of Advanced Studies at ANU; ah the good old days of nepotism. I hear he had a dark side though. Not that I ever saw it.

Incidentally, a couple of times I have know that past and the present but it was not a dream it was something I just suddenly 'knew.' I did awake yelling that "something was threatening Nancy" (my mother Dr Nancy Griffiths my mother) in Katonah NY in the depths of a snowy winter. We rang Australia but all was well. EIght hours later my step father Frank Chamberlaiin (Head of Agence France Presse in Asia/Pacific) had a massive heart attack and died. I was close to my mother. I think you and Katrina knew Syvia Chamberlain

Other event in London where I sensed boys and horses all arund me on cobble stones shouting in cockney and confusion and some sort of panic maybe a fire but long long ago. I was poking around doing some local history research in the old part of London at the rear of what is Dorchester Hotel near Curzon Street heart of 18th century British and indeed Edwardian majesty before the Wars broke and all went with the wind.

I found an old house set in a wall with curved glass windows containing bubbles and imperfections in the glass. Saw a sign later saying I was at the site of a major stables.

Did you know that a Canadian biochemist has linked the DNA and other tracers in the blood of US Native Americans with that of the tribes of high cheek boned fur hat weareing Russian citizens on the far northern borders of Russia above Vladivostock and indeed in snowy wastes where Snow Leapards roam. So much nicer that homo sapiends; too many of them on the planet and if they reach 9 billion there will be no planet.

You can reach me on and would love to hear from you Robert.. Pamela

Robert Moss said...

Hi Pamela - So interesting how people find each other across time and space not only through the internet but through what we might term the inter-world. We'll talk by email. Thanks for reminding us, through your vivid vignettes, about "what the bleep do we know that we don't know that we know."

Diana said...

Hi Robert,
I had just such an experience yesterday and will keep my eyes open for the Synchronocity Beast.