Tuesday, July 22, 2014

7/21/14 - Sweet Premonition

I was on the job, cutting grass at an apartment building. As I passed the property's parking lot, a tenant appeared. She waved. I waved.

Upon waving at this person, I was struck with the most vivid, yet obscure, of thoughts: candy and a thank-you note.

I saw it distinctly in my mind's eye, the type of sentimental gift that one might give their mailman at Christmas. Likewise, I had the thought that that tenant I'd waved at would give me one of these, though this was somewhat illogical, for I'd never, in two decades of cutting grass, received such a gift (nor expected or desired one, since it's not customary to give them to lawn-care workers, as far as I know).

And then it happened, just as I'd foreseen.

Several minutes later, when I finished cutting grass and returned to my truck, I was stopped by something on my toolbox: a small, sachet-like bag filled with fun-size candy bars. The bag also had a note, thanking me for cutting the lawn. The bag was left anonymously, in my absence, so I can't say it was from the tenant I'd waved at; but, really, it doesn't change things either way: I'd thought, for the first time, of receiving such a thank-you gift, just minutes before I received one, also for the first time.

Was it a simple synchronistic recurrence like those I've detailed, now with a theme of "sentimental candy thank-you gift"? Or, was this a classical case of a precognitive premonition? Or, alternately, did my thought cause it to happen, acting as some minute but effective force to trigger the receipt of my first ever thank-you candy? There's also the scenario of thought transference: did I "read" the tenant's intention to gift me some thank-you candy, in the brief yet mildly personal contact we had when waving at one another?

Then again, perhaps it was just a very unlikely coincidence. My life is highly coincidental, as it were.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thanks, Guys - I Forgive You

This post is an oddball. It has nothing to do with writing, or even my tangential reports of synchronicity. Instead, the following post is a hodgepodge: part confessional, part essay, part existential reflection. It could, I suppose, also be considered a transmutation of sorts, being my attempt to extract something good from an ugly experience.

So, if you don't want to read something you might find entirely irrelevant and uninteresting, please stop now. Otherwise, here goes:
Dear Dazed Gentleman at the Goodwill store this afternoon, 
I forgive you for cutting in front of me in the checkout line, even though I'd been plainly standing there for several minutes beforehand. Instead of taking offense, I gave you the benefit of a doubt that you just hadn't noticed me, and politely informed you that I had preceded you in line. Also, I would like to thank you, for by blatantly cutting in front of me in this manner, you gave me the chance to react with patience and consideration. See, I consider these to be valuable skills, and through my interaction with you, I was able to exercise them and, thus, gain confidence in my ability. After all, it's one thing to think yourself patient and considerate, but it's quite another to actually practice those things, and unexpectedly, no less, in a crowded public place and when I wasn't feeling well to begin with. I consider that part a bonus, for if you can show kindness in a long line of impatient people while nauseous and with a splitting headache, then you can show it anytime, I think. 
Likewise, I forgive you, sir, for cutting in front of me a second time. When you stepped back out of line to allow me to go forward, I saw how your wife (I'm assuming she was your wife) instructed you to return to the line, even though she'd just witnessed my quiet defense of my place. I saw in your eyes how dazed you were, and even though you could obviously understand me and your actions, I know how it can feel to be pulled in two directions at once. And, once again, your cutting back in front of me offered me another chance to show patience and consideration in the face of disrespect -- and now when I was surprised. After asserting myself and my place in line, I certainly didn't expect you to jump right back in, that's for sure. But I think I did a pretty good job of reacting well and continuing to show you compassion, altogether avoiding a scene. 
Dear Dazed Gentleman's Assumed Wife, 
I forgive you, also, for directing your dazed husband right back in front of me after I'd asked him not to. I could see in your body language that you too were not thinking clearly, though perhaps not in the same fashion as your husband. When you disrespected me so, and in full view of myself, just feet away, it felt like a slap in the face, amplified somewhat due to how sick I was feeling; but, of course, you didn't know that. 
And, of course, I should thank you, too. As with everything else in this bizarre and awkward encounter, your disregard gave me the chance to employ my principles in a real-life situation -- and a rather exceptional situation at that. Any other day, when the line wasn't so long or I didn't feel so bad, your behavior might've only been trying rather than potentially upsetting -- but, in any case, I managed to show you the same patient compassion that I did your husband, without wavering in the least. See, it's been a study of mine, to show compassion and understanding while still asserting my rights when violated, and I know now I can perform in this capacity, thanks to you and your husband. I can't say I understand what you were thinking, acting this way, but I suppose that doesn't really matter at this point. 
Dear Angry Gentleman Who Confronted Me Outside The Store, 
I forgive you, as well, for accusing me of disrespecting the dazed couple in the store. When you first stopped me outside, after I'd made my purchase, my initial thought was that you were a relative of the dazed couple, come to apologize for their behavior and, perhaps, commend me on my patient response (I must admit: I surprised even myself with the calmness of my requests not to cut in front of me). So, when you gave me a hard stare and informed me that you would "stomp my ass" if you ever caught me "acting that way" again, I was surprised anew. 
I forgive you because, as I can see now, you probably possess a skewed sense of respect -- a widespread condition, in my experience. For you, respecting one's elders equates to ignoring your own rights and their violation, rather than any sort of genuine, mutual consideration. All you saw, I think, is me asserting myself and refusing to show favor to a dazed elderly couple. (I suppose I should've allowed the man to steal my wallet, too, while I'm on the slippery slope of ignoring violation.) Thus, in your eyes, everything I said and did was distorted, so that however respectfully I defended my place in line, I was "treating them like shit." Also, I forgive you for disallowing me to explain my actions (that it was the principle of the situation, me needing to assert my rights regardless of who is violating them, having nothing at all to do with waiting an extra few minutes in line), instead repeating your threats of violence and then walking away. I can understand wanting the last word, after all; it makes you appear right. 
And, at last, I would like to thank you, too, for you added a truly unforeseen climax to this experience -- the cherry on the sundae, so to speak. Whereas the dazed couple had given me the chance to react well despite offense and surprise, your confronting me pushed the envelope, allowing me to show compassion under threat of violence. I confess: a part of me wanted to blow up at you, since, after my blatant mistreatment in the store, you added insult to injury, in a specific way that felt especially bad. But, once again, this only gave me the chance to resist falling prey to an emotional reaction that would only make things worse -- which, I think even you would agree, I achieved, maintaining composure and complete respect for you, in the heat of the moment. In fact, it took me all of seconds afterward to both forgive and thank you for this experience, even as the stain of it lingered over me, feeling like a kind of psychic rape. Once more, I don't think you knew what you were inflicting on me, so I can't really fault you for it. Could a newborn be faulted for crying?
There, that's all.

A small, romantic part of me entertains a fantasy: that the actual actors in this strange drama will somehow discover this blog and read of my forgiveness and gratitude (which was fully sincere, mind you), against all logic and odds and common sense. Hey, that's about as likely as any of the synchronistic "coincidences" I've cataloged in other posts. If nothing else, I got to purge some of the experience's unsettling afterglow, and provide my reader with a glimpse into the heads of some very confused people -- or, do you feel I'm the confused person, standing up for myself instead of allowing some dazed old folks to cut in front of me in line ...? Such is the eternal divide between our individual realities, I suppose, where "po-tay-toe" will forever oppose "po-tah-toe."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

7/3/14 - A Lesson in Expectation (Disguised as a Lesson in Intuition)

Today, I received a lesson in expectation, wrapped in a lesson in intuition. Before I go into it, however, I must first relate a previous experience.

A couple years ago, I was initiated into the subtle-but-powerful force known as intuition, and how it could serve me in a practical sense. I was parallel parked alongside a narrow downtown road, and after checking my mirrors, I went to open my door to get out. However, I stopped before doing so, frozen by a distinct urge to keep the door closed. There was nothing logical to this feeling -- I had, after all, checked my mirrors and judged it safe to exit the vehicle -- yet it was oddly coherent, as well as firm in its demand that I keep my door shut. So I obeyed, without question, feeling as if I'd been shouted at.

A split second later, while I remained stunned in my driver's seat, a bicyclist blew past on my left, going as fast as a car (I was parked at the bottom of an incline). As it were, the man had been in my mirrors' blind spot, forced alongside the parked cars due to the narrow road. For this same reason, I found my odd, illogical urge all the more notable, since the same blind spot would've kept me from seeing the potential danger even subconsciously. Had I opened the car door when I'd originally gone for it, the man would've face-planted it, without a chance to swerve, such was the timing.

Ever since that day, I've learned to suspend my normal, rationalist thinking whenever an intuitive urge comes knocking. However, as I've already said, today's experience was a lesson in expectation, not intuition.

That said, it all started with an intuition.

My miraculous non-accident with the bicyclist would be the first time I consciously realized the mysterious urges I've labeled intuition -- or, alternately, a "Compelling," as I've come to call them. As it were, I would encounter these Compellings again and again in the time thereafter, as to reliably recognize them and, eventually, obey them unquestioningly. Say what you will about my decision to trust these feelings, but this post isn't a review of the evidence for and against the phenomenon. Instead, I'll just say that, after my brush with the bicyclist (and several equally consequential sequels, including a recent one which spared me a head-on collision), I listen when a Compelling announces itself in my thoughts.

Such was the case earlier this week, when I ordered a first aid kit online.

It was late. I was tired. I was seconds from shutting down my PC -- when I saw an ad for a first aid kit. At once, my fatigue lifted and I took notice: I had to get one of these kits. The idea was entirely illogical, and entirely spontaneous, but, like the edict to keep my car door shut that one day, it was entirely intransigent, brooking no argument. I was getting one of these kits, that feeling said, no doubt about it -- a classic Compelling, of the kind I've come to know well.

Just a year ago, I might've hesitated. By this time, however, I was far beyond question. I ordered the first aid kit literally without a second thought, completing the transaction in less than a minute.

Now, fast-forward to today, when I received my intuitive lesson in expectation.

I was about to leave the house for the afternoon -- in my truck, key in ignition -- when a new Compelling befell me: check the mail. Even after everything, I almost ignored this one, since, as best I could recall, I had nothing coming in the mail (I'd entirely forgotten about the first aid kit by this time, as we do). But, of course, I ended up going with it, sparing the whole ten seconds to get out of my truck and open the nearby mailbox. Sure enough, a package was inside. It took me a moment to remember the first aid kit, but even when I did, it was an anticlimax: Okay, so the first aid kit I don't need has arrived. I got back in my truck.

Then came a second Compelling, now to unwrap the first aid kit.

Again I obeyed -- I would've used the kit to give first aid to a tree stump, had I been Compelled to do so. Afterward, I sat with the opened kit for a moment, studying the cheap Chinese-made packaging as I waited for a third Compelling. But no such Compelling came, so I finally started up my truck and left my driveway, the denuded first aid kit in my passenger's seat. Down the road, however, I got to thinking: this was all leading up to something, I was sure. Being no stranger to these Compellings, I knew from past experience that there was a good, logical reason for all this, as always. Never once had I been Compelled for naught, especially when a succession led me in a certain direction. I was going to need this first aid kit, I knew -- somehow, in some way, and in my truck of all places, I was going to need this dinky little $6.99 (shipped!) first aid kit.

My first thought: an accident.

I knew it at once: I was going to be in an accident, or was, perhaps, going to come across one that had already happened. It all made perfect sense, and I can't fault my logic, really: I'd been Compelled into having a first aid kit in my truck, opened and ready, and I'd never once been Compelled wrongly, so it was only natural to reason that some fashion of accident lay in my immediate future. After all, what else could it have been? First aid kit + truck + holiday-weekend drivers = accident. I didn't make assumptions of doom about this inevitable accident, at least; I'll give myself that. I stayed calm and cool-headed, but just went on alert for an accident of some kind, whatever that might entail. A good student of intuition, I was sure a new lesson was afoot, to further bolster my confidence in the Compellings by way of my being outfitted with the unlikely first aid kit.

That is to say, I was expecting an accident and its attendant exercise in intuition, since it was the only foreseeable outcome within my range of possibilities. And therein lies the heart of my lesson: that expectations can limit and restrict one's thinking, as to obscure possibilities outside of one's awareness (or imagination).

So, there I was, driving hyper-defensively, perpetually scanning for smoke or blood or crumpled car hoods. However, I arrived at my destination, a local gym, without incident, the first aid kit unused. I'll admit: I experienced a moment of doubt. Even after my years-long romance with my intuitive Compellings, and their consistent pay-offs, I still had the thought that, this time at least, I'd been mistaken. Maybe it was all in my head; maybe I'd allowed my illogical subconscious to lead me astray, buying up a first aid kit out of some hidden fear. Nobody is perfect, after all, so why couldn't I have been wrong to go along with my illogical urges? Everyone should be forgiven a mistake or two; I believe there should be vouchers issued for this, at birth.

As I was thinking these things, I was interrupted by yet another Compelling: now to open the first aid kit itself, and explore it.

Despite my self-doubt, I obeyed this one, also -- maybe slower, and a touch begrudgingly, but I obeyed. As I unzipped the flimsy nylon case, I distracted myself with the fact that it wasn't all such a bad idea, really, having a first aid kit in my truck -- because, after all, what if I did come upon an accident and needed to administer to an injured driver? And, likewise, it was probably best that I familiarize myself with the kit's contents, as this last Compelling had commanded. If nothing else, these ideas provided me some consolation, lending a bit of logic to my indiscretion.

And that's when I saw the wound on my hand.

I used my left hand to open the kit's flip-style flap, and in doing so, I upturned my palm, which had an open wound on it. I'd had a splinter there the day before, and it had been uncooperative enough to result in a bite-sized wound upon being coaxed out with tweezers. Still, nothing much to worry about, except for its location: being smack-dab on my palm, it was a prime target for contact with germ-ridden public surfaces. For this reason, I'd made it a point to put a Band-Aid on it before leaving the house, especially since I was going for a workout at the gym, to use public equipment handled by a great many unclean hands. But, of course, I forgot the Band-Aid, just like I forgot ordering the first aid kit.

Need a Band-Aid, I thought at once, still sitting in the gym's parking lot. Without protection of some kind, there was no way I was using the weight machines, since it would be asking for infection. I might as well have gone in there and licked the handles.

Upon having this thought, I realized that I held in my lap an open first aid kit. And there, just beneath the wounded left hand with which I'd opened the flap, was the kit's collection of small adhesive bandages. Being in the super-cheap kit, they were knockoffs rather than proper Band-Aids, but the one I put on my hand proved of resilient quality, withstanding the stresses incurred during my workout.

In my oversight and narrow thinking, never would I have expected needing a first aid kit in this manner. But then again, isn't this how we learn?

(A postscript: it was an interesting chance occurrence that led me to the first aid kit in the first place. I was browsing my email, and when I went to click on one, my mouse glitched and the cursor jumped, so that I instead clicked the previous sequential email -- a piece of spam mail which was chiefly advertising its ultra-cheap, $6.99-including-shipping first aid kits. My mouse does this every now and then, stuttering about erratically, God knows why. Had this chance glitch not occurred when it did, making me accidentally open a spam mailing that I never would've touched normally, I'd have never seen the kit that bore me my Band-Aid precisely at my moment of need ...)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

7/1/14 - 'The Roots of Coincidence,' Part Two

Just days ago, I composed a long-winded entry on a synchronicity involving The Roots of Coincidence, a book about synchronicity. Well, apparently I spoke too soon, for a sequel incident occurred today.

It started last week, when I read The Roots of Coincidence. Involving quantum physics to some extent, the book briefly outlined Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, that koan-like concept which states that there exists a relationship between subject and object, so that, basically, the observer affects the observed (and vice-versa). Though I was not unmet by the Uncertainty Principle, I did have a minor revelation upon reading of it in The Roots of Coincidence: I drew a parallel between the Principle and human perception, for the first time. Because of the subjective nature of perception, no two people perceive the same object in the same way, so that, practically speaking, they are seeing two different objects, each in the respective mind's eye of the observer -- a perfect demonstration of Heisenberg's Principle, as it were. Perhaps this parallel isn't so mind-blowing to other folks, but for me, it struck me deeply, for it wedded a bizarre physics concept to real-life experience, placing it in living terms that I could understand. In any case, my little insight stuck with me, vividly so, the way any well-rounded understanding will adhere to the mind and gel into everyday thinking.

Then, just days later, the whole thing recurred.

The recurrence came knocking today, while I was reading another book: The Petting Zoo by Jim Carroll, the next sequential book I read after The Roots of Coincidence. In one scene, two characters are discussing perception and empathy, and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle comes up in their dialogue -- synchronicity strikes! I found the incident somewhat notable: after going months (years?) without reading of the Uncertainty Principle, I read of it in two books, back to back -- books which, as it were, couldn't have been more different or random, one being a forty-year-old nonfiction head-scratcher about coincidence and synchronicity, and the other being a modern novel about an artist living in New York City. What are the chances that I would randomly pick these two wholly disparate books to read (one purchased online after I'd been putting it off for almost a year, the other an unfamiliar book bought for no logical reason from Goodwill a month prior), only to find them referencing the same physics concept? (And never mind that this fits the pattern established by dozens of prior incidents, where my choices of reading material seems to reflect each other in subject matter ...)

Unlikely? Yes. However, the recurrence of the Uncertainty Principle was only the first part of the incident. The second was a whole other ballgame.

The second part of the recurrence: not the Uncertainty Principle, but the comment, by one of the Petting Zoo characters,  that the Uncertainty Principle was just like human perception -- exactly what I'd thought when reading The Roots of Coincidence. Dig it: not only did the Uncertainty Principle recur between two different books randomly read by me, but the latter echoed, in the exact same context and similar wording, the minor revelation I'd had regarding the Principle and its parallels with human perception. If the chances of the Principle's original recurrence were somewhat low, I can't fathom the chances of my thoughts regarding the Principle recurring.

Now, I must wonder: is this a common comparison, perhaps well-known to academia? Is it routinely pointed out by professors to their students, that Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle can be understood in terms of human perception? Perhaps it is, and I'm just ignorant of it, so that it comes as a surprise for me to see that precise sentiment echoed in a book. But even were it common, even to the point of being cliche, what are the chances that I would see it recur in this manner, in a second, random book, days later, back-to-back with that which originally led me to make the comparison for the first time in my life ...?

As I've said many times before, I'm no mathematician. However, it seems to me the chances of this two-tier incident would be astronomically low. The first, original recurrence seems about as likely as having a bag of money fall from the sky and land at your feet; with the second part taken into consideration, however, it seems about as likely as the bag of sky-money having a note inside with your name on it.

Regardless, the incident succeeded in making me laugh.