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"There Are No Coincidences"

This statement is a paradox.

The moon has coincidentally occluded light from the sun.Original image by Luc Viatour. Wiki Commons
Source: The moon has coincidentally occluded light from the sun.Original image by Luc Viatour. Wiki Commons

When uttering the phrase, “there are no coincidences,” the speaker feels fully confident in its truth. But, just like coincidences themselves, the meaning depends on the beliefs of the person involved.

Let’s start by looking closely at the word coincidence. Dictionaries usually define it as two or more events coming together in a surprising, unexpected way without an obvious causal explanation. Embedded in the definition is a hint that there might be an explanation.

This possibility of an explanation creates the opportunity for saying “there are no coincidences." If a cause can be defined, then there is no coincidence.

Many believe that Fate or Mystery, or the Universe or God, causes coincidences. Their faith in something Greater provides them with a cause. Since God causes them, the cause is known. Therefore, there are no coincidences.

Statistically-oriented people believe that coincidences can be explained by the Law of Truly Large Numbers, which states that in large populations, any weird event is likely to happen. This is a long way of saying that coincidences are mostly random. Because statisticians “know” that randomness explains them, coincidences are nothing but strange yet expect-able events that we remember because they are surprising to us. They are not coincidences, just random events.

Those who believe in Mystery are more likely to believe that coincidences contain messages for them personally. They may think, “It was meant to be," or “Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Some of those in the random camp can find some coincidences personally compelling and useful.

"Randomness" and "God" Explanations Remove Personal Responsibility

Each of these two explanations take responsibility for coincidences away from you! Each suggests that you are powerless in the face of inexplicable forces.

Randomness says you have nothing to do with creating coincidences—stuff just happens because we live in a random universe. You think coincidences may have something to do with you, but they don’t. When God is called in to explain coincidences, you are the recipient of divine grace. If you think you had something to do with it, you are deluding yourself.

Randomness and God are extreme positions in a coincidence dance that usually involves you, to varying degrees. Probability plays a necessary role. Some coincidences are more unlikely than others. Mystery plays a role because our minds cannot grasp the multiple stirrings hidden behind the veil of our ignorance. Here lies some of the beauty in the study of coincidences. They make us wonder. How much do we have to do with them, and how much is beyond our current concept of ourselves in the world?

It’s Your Choice

Coincidences exist. Coincidences are real. Saying that there are no coincidences stops inquiry. Challenging the statement forces us to make sense of its ambiguity and explore our potential involvement. You can choose the random perspective and with a wave of a mental hand, dismiss most coincidences as not worth further attention. Or, you can seek out their possible personal implications and make life into an adventure of discovery both about yourself and the world around you. As you explore, you may uncover the latent abilities hidden within you.

More from Bernard D. Beitman M.D.
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