I’ve been thinking about last month’s guest blog post by Kate Leary, how letting the subconscious mind wander when you’re working out a problem can often lead to strange parallels and patterns that seem destined for you. Like answers to a silent question, or at least breadcrumbs along an important path. Before I started looking into the science of the mind, interconnectedness was the essence of The Extraordinary Project. I had wanted to look at the common denominator of our interactions with synchronistic timing, the seeing of signs, meaningful coincidences and how they pushed our behavior in one direction or another. One part of me wanted to know if these moments were evidence of an invisible map, appearing at salient moments, as Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious maintains, to override our ordinary lives. Another part of me simply wanted proof that they were more than aberrations, as many material scientists maintain, more than mathematical probabilities that deserve no weight. The good news is, so much of today’s science supports the notion that these extraordinary moments are evidence of a physical ability or sense or causal response we don’t yet understand, but can develop with practice. One phenomenon in particular, precognition, has almost 50 years of study supporting it, including two decades worth in the US Army: more on that very soon.
Meanwhile, on the individual level, my quest has changed. I’ve gone from asking “is interconnectedness true” to asking “how is interconnectedness true”, and while keeping on with ordinary life, raising a daughter for almost nine years, maintaining a marriage for almost ten, weathering health problems and career slumps and relocation plans, I’ve gotten good at breaking down self-reported moments of interconnectedness like this one.
After school drop off, I’ve been walking in the mornings in order to stir and then settle the creative projects I plan to work on that day. During these walks my mind is all over the place, in past events, in future conversations, in tasks and scheduling and phrases used by an old employer or chai-making tips I picked up from a café owner in Tucson. My concentrations is nowhere near my book, but roaming at large, like it’s hunting for the thread—an image or a sound—something I can follow for the rest of the work day. I’ve been revising a novel about a young woman who is looking for change in her life. I’m in a messy part of the book right now, and she needs to move forward more fiercely than she is currently capable. She needs the audacity of a warrior. I also know I’ve been holding back on making her forthright, due to a need, and one I’m not particularly proud of, to make her ‘likeable’. Everyone knows likeability is the curse of good character if there ever was one.
So I walked to the post office.
On the way back from the post office, I kicked over a full cup of cold coffee sitting on the curb, left by someone too lazy to reach up to the garbage can two feet away. I kept walking without missing a beat, although the nasty liquid spilled into my shoes (I had no socks on. Ew.). I dashed across the street with wet ankles, intent on getting on with the walk. It was over as soon as it happened, forgotten. I’m only remembering it now that I’m telling a story about the next, more arresting event, because for some reason our minds recall an ordinary and annoying nuisance that precedes a more fascinating, important event. I turned into my alley to the back gate door, and noticed among the many collections of fallen spring sticks an arrangement that stopped me. The shape of a stag elegantly emerged from the curve of the sticks. The antlers, arrow nose, and soft deer-like body bore an undeniable likeness to the stag that symbolizes Diana the Hunter. I’ve been interested in Diana’s symbolism lately, as focus, victory, and the drive that comes from chastity all fall into her hands as the queen of the hunt. Instantly I thought of my book. My character needs to forge a new path, and I just need to suck it up and go there. Fix my sights, hunt and go get it.
Was it a sign from the universe? Well I don’t think the trees dropped those sticks just for me. I also don’t think this was an instance of that insufferable Law of Attraction that so many spiritually-minded people swear by—that I “manifested” it, or somehow made the trees drop their sticks in a pattern that would be meaningful to me. (As author Mitch Horowitz writes in a recent essay of his, there are other laws governing the universe besides one uber Law of Attraction: there’s the law of accidents, the law of grace, the law of abundance.) I don’t think see this moment as the result of any particular law. But I do think the walk melded my creative and psychological state into a place of receptivity. That perhaps ten seconds before I looked down, I knew to look down. Much of today’s science, among both materialist researchers and non-material (or non local) researchers, supports this notion. That the mind unconsciously locates the symbol or person or situation or outrageous coincidence it seeks for problem solving.
I happen to buy this idea. It’s not as sexy as the law of attraction, but it’s verifiable in the lab, and I need long lasting evidence in order to continue this quest. Wishes only get you so far.