margin-top: 28px; The Unlikely Times: April 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012


As an interesting example of synchronicity, try reading a book or magazine while the TV or radio is on in the background. I've found that about once per hour there is a near-perfect overlap of a word being read and a word being spoken on the TV/radio. Just now I was cataloging stamps from German East Africa, and was writing "German" on an envelope just as the news said something about the German Chancellor, the word German being spoken at the same time. I've had it happen while reading Sherlock Holmes tales and a commercial for Seinfeld comes on. Or I'm reading a Dune novel and my wife is on the phone talking about gardening. You never know what will mesh together.

These moments are really striking. Oddly jarring from a state of dullness to a state of awareness, and sometimes even worth a chuckle. It should be completely expected, but we can never guess WHEN it will happen. So it feels weird.

I suppose we could increase the likelihood of a hit by reading and listening to things on the same topic. If I was reading about tornados and listening to some Weather Channel report from Iowa (no doubt with Jim Cantore on the line), I would expect to hear a lot more overlaps ... but I'm not sure it actually works that way?

Back in college we'd sometimes get bored and play a game where we pick up wildly different books and take turns reading lines. Guy might read a line from Shakespeare then I'd have to quickly find a reasonable follow-up line from H.P. Lovecraft, followed by Bill finding some segue into a biology text. Usually just silly, but I remember some very strange times where we'd find almost the same exact words on whatever pages we happened to be looking at.

Which reminds me: there was some hype a few years back about the "Bible code". How a guy wrote a program to line up letters in the Bible and look for hidden messages up, down, diagonal, or in any pattern. Especially if you vary the length of the lines of text, and quibble over translations, or pick any edition that suits you, you've produced an endless source of essentially random letters. I once started a program to see if I could get the same effect using Moby Dick, but found it unbelievably tedious. The funny thing is, I watched that "Bible Code" show again (on the so-called History Channel, I think), and even with all that fudging the program was only producing the most inane fragments, which had to be augmented and "interpreted" by the author, often allowing for misspellings to make it work.

It all shows nothing more than if there are enough things happening side-by-side, or enough searching through noise, there will eventually be something that looks like a signal, but is just a playful bit of nothing at all.