I often wonder about the nature of coincidences. That may, in itself, sound a little bit weird, but bear with me. In my books my characters often express their disbelief in coincidences, and that’s mainly because I don’t believe in them myself. What we call coincidence is either a random conjunction of events or its something that has occurred by design, but the origin of which we aren’t aware of. At least that’s my humble opinion.
But then something sometimes happens that makes me think “well, that’s a bit spooky”.
I had better set the scene a little by telling you what happened on this particular occasion.
The elder of my two daughters had posted on Facebook her opinion that chocolate and wine don’t mix. I assumed this was the consequence of some sort of wine and chocolate based hangover, or maybe just an opinion based on a single sample of both at the same time. Who knows; she didn’t elaborate. Well, just a short while later I was a guest for dinner at a friend’s house and for pudding the hostess served a delicious sponge and melted chocolate concoction. With it, she insisted, we had to try some pudding wine that she had recently discovered. It was a chocolate wine. Now, I’m not keen on pudding wines. I find them too sickly sweet for my taste, so my immediate reaction was a silent (so as not to seem rude) “yuk”, but I went with it anyway. It was absolute heaven. It gave ambrosia a bad name (that’s the legendry food of the Gods, not the tinned rice). A serious chocoholic combined with alcoholic personality would be doomed forever. There is no twelve step programme that could possibly cope with the temptation offered by this wine. So, wine and
chocolate clearly do go together.
My reaction to the close conjunction of the two events was“spooky” and it was this that got me thinking about coincidences (I’ll provide more information on the wine later for anyone who is interested, so please keep reading).
So, let’s say you happen to be looking at the photo of an old friend and a few minutes later the same friend rings you for a chat. Is that “spooky”,is it a coincidence, or is it just a matter of timing? If you hadn’t been looking at the photograph would the friend still have phoned you? They almost certainly would have if they intended to anyway and they could
have had no idea that you were going to be looking at their photo.
Now, there are sceptics out there who would argue against that view. They might tell you that there was some sort of psychic connection going on and it was the act of looking at the photo that prompted the friend to phone. Well, if you believe in that sort of thing then I’m not going to be able to convince you otherwise. Belief is a powerful thing, and of course it isn’t possible to prove that there definitely wasn’t some sort of psychic connection. As Shakespeare once wrote “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Hamlet Act I Scene V).
The unfortunate thing is that it’s all very hard to prove, one way or the other. You can’t artificially create a coincidence in
order to test the theory. If you do create something then, by the very definition, it’s no longer a coincidence because it has been deliberately engineered. You might get a thousand people to look at photographs of friends nd see if any of them get any telephone calls, but what sort of time interval between viewing and the phone ringing would be regarded as a valid psychic connection? And if the phone doesn’t ring then does that mean there was no connection or does it just mean that the friend wasn’t free to make a call at the time?
The only way to test for coincidences is to gather stories about them then do some sort of statistical assessment of the
probability of the two events occurring at the same time, or in the same place, or whatever the phenomena was. To return to my example of the photo and the friend telephoning. If the friend always phones at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday and you happen to glance at her photo at 10.58 on a Tuesday then it isn’t a psychic connection, because the friend’s behaviour has conformed to a predictable pattern. If you talk to that friend on a regularly basis, even if it isn’t on a particular day or time, then it still isn’t really a coincidence, because the friend is going to phone at some time. Its only if the friend hasn’t been in touch for years and phones out of the blue that things start to “get a bit spooky” if she now phones just after you have looked at her photo.
But then again, maybe not. How often do you look at your photos? If its regularly then we’re back into predictable patterns of behaviour that just happen to overlap on some occasions. If, on the other hand, you had been looking in the cupboard for something else, chanced on an old photo album and started browsing through it just before your friend phoned, well, maybe, just maybe, you might be into some believable “spooky” zone.
And of course it’s also in the telling of the story. When I described my “coincidence” above I was pretty vague about the gap between the day of my daughter’s Facebook post and the day I had the pudding wine. In fact the Facebook post
was made on the Thursday and the dinner was on the Sunday. So, is it still a coincidence? Or is it just two things that happened within a few days of each other and happened to have related themes? Did my memory just conflate the two
events, making them appear closer together than they really were and therefore a bit spooky? Answers on a postcard please.
Now, on a completely different subject, my blog is becoming a little more demanding to write each week. I’ve covered some areas connected to my own writing, and I’ve had a bit of a rant about some things that have annoyed me, but I’m starting to find it difficult to come up with new ideas. So, here’s a challenge for you. E-mail me an idea for a blog and I’ll see if I can rise to the challenge of writing about it. Any idea that I use will be rewarded with a prize. Don’t get too excited, it will just be an e-copy of one of my books. Please specify which one you would like to receive in your e-mail. Rules: Nothing sexist, racist or homophobic. If its political in nature then it shouldn’t be related to a specific political party (either for or against). And if I send you an e-book then I will ask you to put a review on Amazon for me after you’ve read it. Please use the e-mail address provided on my “contact” page to send in your suggestions.
Now, back to that delicious chocolate pudding wine. It’s called Rubis and you can find out more about it on the distributer’s website by clicking on this link http://www.rubiswine.com/ and if you Google it you’ll find several on-line
suppliers. It may also be available in supermarkets so check the website for whichever one you use. If you like wine and you like chocolate the you won’t be sorry. It really is something special. And if the distributer’s ever happen across this blog, then in exchange for this free publicity a case of it would be very much appreciated.