3.01.2011

Coincidence and Knowledge

I know I keep talking about affect, about invisible forces, but I think it's worth talking about more and from different perspectives....

Coincidence has to be one of the stranger words. All it means is two things coincide; they happen together. But the question is: How do they happen to happen together?

I think we tend to imagine our experiences as equal: each is a unit the size and shape of the others. And then shit happens — it rains, we get laid, we get sick. We imagine said shit to be extraneous to the discrete units of our experience.

Why else would we constantly dismiss the coincidences in our lives as "just coincidence"? What does that mean, "just a coincidence"? Why not take these things more seriously and try to understand how the invisible forces of the world operate? Why not make this a domain of empirical science?

"Among so-called primitive peoples," Burroughs writes, "if a man is killed in a fall from a cliff, the friends and relatives of the victim start looking for a killer."

"This is the work of Izzy the Push," says the Chief grimly.

Our experience, the way we endure, is always already inflected and enmeshed. We are always already going with the world, with our environs, all of which have their respective durations. Some are ancient; some are cosmic; some are quite local and terrestrial.

Experience, then, is not an even plane that later gets inflected. The plane of experience is always already inflected, shaped (or, better, shaping).

One can make this a knowledge of self and how best to go in the world. When you first wake, consider your mood, consider your dreams: what is happening? What has happened? What will happen? How do you get out of bed — is it smooth and easy? Do you bump your head, stub your toe, can't find the coffee filters?

We wake with feelings of foreboding and, sure enough, things go bad. We wake with thoughts of someone we haven't seen in years and, lo and behold, there's an email from her. We remember something from when we're young and then see a street sign with the name of the park we used to play in. You keep noticing how a certain word — say, serendipity — keeps recurring in dramatically different places — overheard in conversation, in a Yahoo headline, from a friend, on late night tv in some old movie.

These are coincidences but they are not "just coincidences": they are convergences of durations, of becomings, of which you are a part. They are resonances of the universe that implicate you. So why not make sense of them? We know it's cold so we wear warm clothes. Then why don't we make coincidences just such an active knowledge?

1 comment:

Daniel Schealler said...

Einstein had an interesting stance on the subject of coincidence.

He argued that all coincidence is only coincidence from a given perspective.

So if I'm standing at this particular location, and the light from two disparate events happen to hit me at the same time, then I can say that they were coincidental.

But if I'm at the same spot but moving very fast relative to those two events, or if I'm standing at a different location altogether, the light from the same two events wouldn't have hit me at the same time. They would no longer be coincidental.

So any two events are be both coincidental and not coincidental - it all depends on the perspective.

So depending on your mood, either everything happens together, or nothing does.