Yesterday, as part of my first day at summer school, I played the Police song “Message in a Bottle”– which I then heard on the radio on my way home. Got me thinking about something I had written a few months ago but never posted, a piece about “synchronicity”– the phenomenon, not the Police album!
One morning, several months ago, I woke up with “Dreams” on my mind.
I’m not talking about the remnants of the Sandman. I mean the song “Dreams,” by Fleetwood Mac. For some reason, I woke up earlier than usual that day— without the aid of my alarm, I should add—with the chorus of that song (“Thunder only happens when it’s raining”) in my head.
Now, I’m not the biggest Fleetwood Mac guy out there. I like them, sure, but in the way that everyone likes Fleetwood Mac. (I don’t even own a copy of Rumours!) I’m such a casual fan, I didn’t even know for sure that the song was called “Dreams.” In fact, I first thought the lyrics floating through my freshly-awakened noggin were from another Fleetwood Mac song, “The Chain.”
About a half-hour later, I’m driving to work, flipping the channels on the radio, stopping on the “classic hits” station. And what’s playing? Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”
Now, would this be at all noteworthy if I had, say, Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” on the brain and then heard it on the radio? No, because that song is still played quite often; I’d wager some stations exclusively play it. But “Dreams” is no “Call Me Maybe.”
“You should look at the lyrics,” people said when I told them about this curious incident. “Maybe the universe is trying to tell you something.” And it is: I think the Universe is reminding me about synchronicity—the phenomenon of two or more unrelated events occurring at the same time, seemingly by chance, what Carl Jung described as an “acausal connecting principal.”
Synchronicity isn’t scientific, but it’s real. Jung (who actually coined the term, in the 1920s) wrote extensively about it. His most famous example involves one of his patients, who was describing a dream in which someone gave her a piece of beetle-shaped jewelry. At that very moment, Jung heard knocking on the window; when he went over, he found an actual beetle, trying to get in.
(Interesting aside: Jung described this patient as “psychologically inaccessible”—a tough nut to crack. But after the incident with the beetle, she opened up, and their sessions become more productive.)
The truly unusual thing about synchronous events is that they are not that unusual; they happen all the time. I personally can think of two more incidents from the past year, both of which also involve songs, that attest to the legitimacy of synchronicity.
Exhibit A: Last summer, on my birthday, I wake up to music coming from my sons’ room. They’re tinkering with the clock radio we just bought for them, and they land on a “Back to the 80s” show; one of the songs I hear is Ratt’s “Round and Round” from 1984.
So I get up to go for a run, set my iPod to “shuffle,” and listen in confused wonder at the very first song that randomly comes up, out of 800-plus songs: “Round and Round.”
Exhibit B is even freakier, because it’s a three-parter: a few months after the Ratt episode, I’m in my car, heading to the mall, and from out of nowhere, Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” pops into my head.
I’m sure you see where this is going: I get to the store, and “Human Nature” is playing on the PA system. And when I get back in the car, what do you think I hear on the radio?
Now, some may dismiss these examples as insignificant coincidences. And I’ll agree with the half of that; there’s nothing particularly significant—nothing earth-shattering or serendipitous—about hearing a song on the radio. But coincidental?
Just the opposite, in fact: synchronicity hints at the Grand Design just beneath the surface of everything.
Jung said that synchronous events give us a glimpse into the “peculiar interdependence” that exists between the world and all those who inhabit it—and I agree. Think about it: in 1976, Stevie Nicks wrote “Dreams” in California; more than thirty-five years later, on a random Thursday, some Connecticut DJ decides to play that song, on the same morning I inexplicably woke up thinking about it. Now, I don’t know Stevie Nicks or that DJ, but in that moment, through that song, we’re connected. Linked.
Speaking of links: I have a fitting coda to “Dreams” story. Later that same afternoon, I was again in my car, listening to that same classic hits station, when another Fleetwood Mac song comes over the airwaves: “The Chain.”
Nicely played, Universe.
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