Magazine article The Spectator

A Divinity That Shapes Our Ends?

Magazine article The Spectator

A Divinity That Shapes Our Ends?

Article excerpt

THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTS: SYNCHRONICITY AND THE STORIES OF OUR LIVES by Robert H. Hopcke Macmillan, L16.99, pp. 260

Several older people I know have said that they feel their lives have been led under a sort of destiny or guidance. Timely encounters and coincidences have shaped their careers, led to their marriages and so on.

This feeling makes some people religious or mystical and casts doubt on the rational, cause-and-effect view of life in which we are educated. Coincidences are a subversive phenomenon. Writers are particularly exposed to them through the curious ways in which books and references turn up by happy chance in an hour of need, and there is a good deal of speculation on the subject by Koestler, Colin Wilson and others. Jung made much of 'synchronicities', briefly defined as meaningful coincidences. I have never much liked this word, since the detection of meaning is subjective, and it is possible to make any perceived coincidence relevant to oneself if one cares to do so. I found that out years ago while keeping a `coincidence diary', noting unfamiliar words that occurred several times in one day and thoughts of long-absent friends immediately followed by their call or letter. The more I attended to such things the more frequently they happened. Life became so damned meaningful that I could stand it no longer, gave up the diary and lapsed into mundane consciousness. That was sheer laziness and no reflection on Wilson's view, which I am sure is right, that we could and should be alert to everything we experience and thus live more intensely and purposefully. …

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