On Coincidence

I had the joy of spending Victoria Day outside with a few good friends at a spontaneous picnic. Simple pleasures: roast chicken, a few different kinds of fresh bread, warm strawberries, grapes, cool drinks, and total relaxation. All stresses were forgotten as we nibbled and laughed and played with my lovely goddaughter, who had more energy than the adults lazing about. Plus, I got a bit of sun, which, if you’ve seen my milky-pale skin, is a blessing. I no longer look like a creature of the night.

I happened to stop in at the secondhand bookstore around the corner and brought home quite the find: a copy of Connie Willis’ Lincoln’s Dreams. I’m a huge Connie Willis fan. I am not, however, a fan of charging $9.99 for a two hundred page book, and for some reason I never picked this one up when it was cheaper. (Actually, I know the reason: I’m not a Civil War fan.)

Well, apart from being immensely smug about scoring a Connie Willis book secondhand, I discovered that this book fits right in to my life at the moment. It’s not about the Civil War. (Well, sort of, but it’s a means to a different end.) It’s about dreams.

Now, I love how Connie Willis examines the whole what-is-real perception of reality, and time-travel, and life vs death. At this particular point in time, however, when part of my attempt to solve my sleep problems involves recording dreams, this particular book becomes even more fascinating. Especially since I’ve started noticing that every once in a while, I “dream true” – I’ll write something down in my notebook when I wake up, and a couple of days later something very much like it happens in the real world.

There’s no such thing as coincidence, I’m fond of telling my students, since everything’s connected by energy of various sorts. I’m also a Jungian, which means that I subscribe to that whole collective unconscious idea. I also think that our human concept of time is a construct to make our lives easier, sort of like democracy. So, why can’t someone start picking up the dreams of a man involved in the Civil War? What’s to stop me from having the odd dream about something that (in our childlike perception of “linear time”) hasn’t happened yet? Why does man stubbornly insist that memory only stretches backwards, because he has experienced it? We know the future exists, because today was yesterday’s future. By extension, we’re living in someone’s past.

Mankind places a lot of weight on what is verifiable by sensory proof, and yet is incredibly subjective about other concepts that require faith. Some are inviolate – of course it’s true, even though it cannot be proven – and others are flatly dismissed without even a second thought – that’s impossible. It’s absolutely fascinating to see how uneven we are, and how strongly we’ll defend certain ideas, yet obstinately push away others. Man’s a hypocrite. A loveable, frustrating, contradictory, inconsistent hypocrite.

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