Monday, 16 October 2017

A few words about coincidence

One of my Top Ten Favourite Movies Of All Time Ever is Alex Cox's Repo Man (1984). By 'cult film' I mean one that's dearly loved by the few down the ages. Reputedly, Cox set out intentionally to make a cult film, rather than just shoot something and then see whether it would become one. Anyway, it has, and I've seen it many, many times.

Among the memorable quotes (and a cult film usually has many such quotes), is this one:
"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like 'plate' or 'shrimp' or 'plate of shrimp' out of the blue no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."
This line, which I first heard a third of a century ago, has helped shape my worldview. "Web of coincidence" rather than "lattice" in my usage, but typing in that phrase into the search box on my blog yields several meaningful results from the past decade.

So. Today's one. I'm just leaving the office and step up to the windows to admire the view - the sinking autumnal sun illuminates Warsaw... I catch sight of a large crow or raven flying across the sky and find myself singing the line from Roxy Music's Bitters End... "You were the raven of October..."

And as I walk out into the street, I'm still singing Bitters End. Once out of the building, I find myself singing it aloud...

Give now the host his claret cup
And watch Madeira's farewell drink
Note his reaction acid sharp...

Now - to catch the moment, you need to listen to Bitters End and scroll forward to 1:55 - immediately after the words "acid sharp"... that trilling bell, before Bryan Ferry sings the last line of the song.

So here I am, walking across ul. Bagno, singing "Note his reaction acid sharp" - and EXACTLY then, to the beat, I hear this sound:

...Should make the cognoscenti think

Now, it's not exactly the same bell sound, but it came at exactly that same moment. Trams go down Marszałkowska all the time, particularly at rush hour, and the older ones sound their old-style bell as they near the junction with Świętokrzyska, but the timing was extraordinary enough for me to want to write about it as soon as I got home.

It confirms my long-held view that the universe is indeedheld together by a web of coincidence; when we stop noticing coincidences in the world around us - then is the time to start worrying!

Last week, Moni SMSed me, asking why Ian Dury claimed to have been born in Upminister, was actually born in Harrow Weald. I explained the importance of 'street cred' in the days of punk, and thought no more of it - until the next day, when I found that I would be speaking about trends on the Polish jobs market in a conference room in Warsaw's Lumen building called... Upminister.

The great physicist Richard Feynmann once said "“You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight... I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!” In trying to poo-poo the idea that coincidences are somehow seen as metaphysical or supernatural in nature, his glib comment fails to connect. 'ARW 357' would have truly been amazing had it cropped up in another context around the same time, say, on a scratch-card or phone number, and the observer been conscious of both.

Coincidences happen more often to those with greater powers of observations, those who are conscious and aware - and curious.

Below: the Raven of October, as seen from my office window

Don't go into some exaggerated hunt for coincidences, or finding them, seek deeper meaning (or worse) prophesy; just take comfort that our planet spins on around a sun in a galaxy that's moving ever further from the Singularity Event, and that the coincidence you've just experienced is part of the space-time fabric into which we fit. I shall give the final word to David Bowie, a man who to me proves that there is more to human existence than flesh and bone...
Here are we 
One magical moment
Such is the stuff from 
Where dreams are woven
Not quite the final word... these words remind of the first stanza of Poem XXXII from A.E. Housman's cycle of 63 poems, A Shropshire Lad, published in 1896.
From far, from eve and morning
And yon twelve-winded sky, 
The stuff of life to knit me 
Blew hither: here am I. 
Did Bowie know Housman's works...? Maybe, maybe not.

This time three years ago:
Hello, pork pie [my week-long pork-pie diet]

This time five years ago:
The meaning of class - in England, in Poland

This time six years ago: 
First frost 

This time ten years ago:
First frost 
[Today, by contrast, the daytime high was 22C]


adthelad said...

No 'Like' button so I could 'thumbs up' today's blog - take it as read :)

Unknown said...

"Let's go get sushi and not pay"

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Unknown

"The more you drive the less intelligent you are"