Back in synchronicity part 1: We discussed psychologist C.G. Jung, the originator of the term synchronicity and how to address those who view the idea of synchronicity a little more skeptically.
Be forewarned. This article is targeted more for the right brain than the left brain. My goal in this article is not to prove anything, but rather to throw out an idea that just so happens to line up with the idea of synchronicity.
As a self-styled fiction writer, there is something to be said of the use of coincidence to help along a plot. Now, don’t get me wrong, overuse of coincidence can make a story trite or even disastrous, but sprinkled in the story just so, it adds flavor and can make an overall story stronger, and keep the audience surprised. If done right, it’s plausible too, because coincidences do happen.
One of my favorite examples of coincidence to tell a story is from the T.V. show Firefly. In one episode, the crew lands on a planet made entirely of mud and tries to smuggle supplies. One of the crew members, the uber-selfish Jayne explains that he made enemies there years ago when he tried to steal the magistrate’s money. The plane was going down, and to keep himself alive, he had to drop the money below him.
When he returns years later, the whole crew is bewildered to find a statue of Jayne in the center of town. It just so happens that people think Jayne dropped the money on them purposely to help them. That one coincidence, or accidental event drives the whole rest of the story. Jayne eventually even begins to care for the townspeople, before his selfish past eventually comes back to haunt him.
The famous playwright Anton Chekhov once said that “If you say in the first chapter there’s a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
Our Lives as a Story
But each of us have our own stories, our own paths, so to speak. Each of us has parts of us that are more whole than others, and each of us have our own journey in life. We all have our personal hindrances, and this in part makes us human, helps us grow. In the case of the story of Jayne, what you see is the story of a selfish man, who gets to experience what it’s like to be the opposite of what he is, a true “hero” in the sense of the word. Jayne tries on this hat for a while, and the hat feels great. He begins to really like wearing it, and then reality strikes and he has to admit to his fans how much of a selfish bastard he really is.
These are the kinds of things that make up great stories, and while this particular example is fiction, these stories happen in real life all the time. Abraham Lincoln in his youth used to write sharp satirical letters of people he didn’t like, and then leave them along the road to be found. He did this once too often and someone challenged him to a duel. He was fortunate enough for the duel to be interrupted, and from that day forward, he never criticized or satirized anybody for anything, and he wound up one of the most well-known and respected presidents in the history of the United States, probably because of that fact.
Another great example is in the movie Pulp Fiction. The two mobsters, Vince and Jules, burst into a house to punish some people that have not fulfilled a promise to their boss, Marcelus Wallace. They are in the process of shooting up the place when a guy bursts through the door and at near point-blank range fires off a valley of shots at the two mobsters. Vince’s reaction is that it was a weird coincidence, unlikely, and that the guy was just a terrible shot. Jules disagrees and says it was the hand of god, that it was meant to happen, in short, that it was a synchronicity. From there, Jules decides to quit the mobster life and begin “walking the earth” and living a spiritual life.
Again, it’s two views of the same stimuli, but where they intersect is that they are both part of a story, and that weird coincidence helps to drive the plot.
God’s existential crisis
What is the meaning of life? This is just a wild guess, but given my background in stories and storytelling, it makes sense to me. When God, or Source, or whatever name you want to give it first manifested itself, it asked itself what the purpose was for it’s own existence. To figure that out, it created reality and everything in it, including humans, to better define what it means to be a God. After all, what’s the point of being God if you aren’t the God of something? Similarly, what’s the point of being a someone, if you have no point of reference, no one else to compare yourself to?
Perhaps we were all created in this world and this universe as a way to help define exactly what God is. Perhaps the stories we live inform the lives of God in the same way that the stories we read and write help to inform our lives.
In writing there is a word called a “trope” which is really just a writer’s device. If you go to the site TV tropes, you can learn all about them. I think one way to define a trope is “A specified thing that falls under the category of the kinds of things that always happen in life and existence.” Truly the best tropes are the ones that twist things in unforseen ways. It’s those little surprises, which we experience every day of our lives, that really help us define ourselves and God to define himself.
So when you experience a life-changing synchronicity, perhaps it’s because this synchronicity helps the stories of our lives unfold around us, thus defining our souls. What tropes have you subverted today?
Jung, Archetypes, and the Collective Subconscious,
In addition to synchronicity, Jung’s primary contributions to psychology are his theories on archetypes and the collective subconscious. Wikipedia says that Jung “developed an understanding of archetypes as being ancient or archaic images that derive from the collective unconscious.” The archetypes are also referred to as innate universal psychic dispositions which form the substrate from which the basic symbols or representations of unconscious experience emerge.”
Another way to say it is that Archetypes are images, characters, or you could even say story tropes that are universal and originate in the subconscious mind of every person regardless of culture. Jung used these archetypes to explain things like mythology, where many cultures have a slightly different version of the same story. Cinderella, for example has many many different versions across many many cultures. The universal flood is another example. To explain this, you have to basically adopt one of two points of view, 1) That humans had a collective culture before splitting off (i.e. a tower of babel type situation.) or 2) That these stories are somehow innately imbedded in our collective unconscious.
I’m not going to say it is one or the other, but for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s the second. If this is the case and we all have certain stories imbedded in our collective unconscious, or at least certain psychological constructs, ie the shadow, the anima, etc. and they are all in our minds, doesn’t this support the “existence as a story” belief? Is the collective unconscious the “memory of God” so to speak, of stories, archetypes, and history that have happened in the past? Take for example the archetype of the shadow. Is “the shadow” something that God/Source/Whatever has stored in his memory from the many experiences people have lived over the years? Is the idea of the shadow that’s ingrained in some form in all of our subconscious, the result of stories of bullies and mean people throughout human past? And is it the source behind the “evil” characters in our own stories?
The Fourth Wall
One particular group of interesting Tropes are what I call “meta tropes.” The most common usage of these tropes is when a show “Breaks the fourth wall.”
The term comes from theater, when three walls would be on stage, and the fourth wall would be open for the audience to see. Basically, meta tropes imply a certain level of “Fourth wall awareness”, or when a character recognizes that he or she is in a work of fiction. What is always interesting is that these characters are usually brushed aside as “mad” when really they see things as they are, at least to some extent. Perhaps we have our own madmen capable of seeing the fourth wall of reality. Perhaps that’s what psychosis or schizophrenia is, or even psychic abilities. Then again, perhaps not. I cannot say for sure because I have not experienced these things.
What I’m more interested in is, what if you treated your life story as though you had fourth wall awareness? What would you do to inspire God? How would you make your own personal story worth reading? Normally we think of it as the other way around, that God is supposed to inspire us, but what if it’s not? What if we just decided to step out, break the fourth wall of our existence, and just say to God, you know what, I’m going to put on a hell of a show for you in my lifetime, I hope you enjoy it.
When you lucid dream, what happens? Is it not the most liberating experience? Imagine, you are sitting in a particularly boring dream world, and then suddenly you realized you were dreaming. If you realized you were dreaming, would you sit there and still do the boring work, or would you start trying to play with and hack the reality you were in? Would you be afraid if you knew you were dreaming? Or perhaps you would recognize that the you in the dream isn’t really you, that there’s literally nothing there to fear.
Life is like that. You are dreaming. You are like a character in a story, and you’re afraid to take command of the dream because the dream seems so real. It doesn’t seem like a dream at all. But…you can wake up. You can wake up and alter things as soon as you are ready, just as soon as you can see that fourth wall.
And when you get down to it, that’s what it’s all about. Your lives, as boring as they may or may not seem, are one hell of a show. There’s more complexity, more twists and synchronicity then you could ever find in even the best of stories. I know that Hollywood is supposed to seem “larger than life”, but I don’t think that’s really the case, not one bit. Art imitates life, and life reflects God. Perhaps the feeling of inspired bliss that we have when certain synchronizations happen to us is really our souls dancing at the knowledge that there’s a new twist in our personal stories, at the new opportunity to inspire our audience, so to speak.
Until next time, break on through to the other side.