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.

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