One night last week I dreamed that I received a phone call from a former girlfriend. I don’t recall much else from the dream, and because she is someone that I wouldn’t expect to hear from, I didn’t give it another thought. But then, the very next day, I received an email from her with a link to a video she thought I’d enjoy. It was the coincidence that got my attention... and got me thinking about synchronicity and some of the weirder historic moments of happenstance. Here are some of my favorites:
Dead Author’s Coat Appears in the Motion Picture of his Most Famous Work
During the making of The Wizard of Oz movie, a costumer from the MGM Wardrobe department went to a Hollywood thrift store to find a suitable jacket for the character Professor Marvel. According to Mary Mayer, an MGM publicist, "They wanted grandeur gone to seed. A nice-looking coat but very tattered.” After filming one of his scenes as Professor Marvel, actor Frank Morgan found the name “L. Frank Baum” sewn into the lining of the jacket. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz book had lived in Hollywood, but passed away 20 years earlier. The movie-makers, curious if it could possibly have been owned by the author, showed the coat to its tailor and Baum’s widow. Both confirmed it to be authentic.
Booth Saves Lincoln’s Life
Several months before John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln, his brother, famous Shakespearean actor, Edwin Booth saved the President’s son from being crushed under a train.
According to Robert Todd Lincoln, “The incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.”
Edwin, a Unionist and Lincoln voter, was devastated by his brother’s infamous action. Later in life, he took some comfort when he learned that the man he saved was the President’s son.
Weirdest Coincidence Yet
On July 20, 1975, 17 year old Ershine Ebbin was killed by a taxi while riding a moped in Bermuda. Exactly one year earlier, his brother Neville, also 17 years old, was killed while riding the same moped, on the same street, by the same taxi and driver, which was carrying the same passenger.
How often do you notice coincidences? Do you attach any meaning to them? Is there a unseen power or force which directs particular events to happen such that we consider them coincidences? Many people think there is. Albert Einstein who developed his Relativity Theory from a dream once said, “God does not play dice with the universe.”
The study of meaningful coincidences was termed Synchronicity by psychotherapist Carl Jung. To Jung, events are "meaningful coincidences" if they happen without an evident causal relationship, but appear be related in some meaningful way. The catch is that coincidences only have meaning if there is a human participant or observer who attaches meaning to it.
For some people, synchronicity implies an underlying connectivity between all things. For me, I like to think that perhaps there is an unseen force that operates outside the laws of science as we understand them.
What is the strangest coincidence that you’ve experienced?
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an author, humorist/speaker and innovation consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. Robert is the author of ...and Never Coming Back, a psychological thriller-novel about a motion picture director; The Annoying Ghost Kid, a humorous children's book about dealing with a bully; and the inspirational book: Wisdom in the Weirdest Places. For more information on Robert, please visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.