Sunday, September 2, 2007


I began a recent post with a very clear statement about my feelings on "coincidence: a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance: [e.g.] Our meeting in Venice was pure coincidence." Not a believer, I said.

I should qualify that. I think it's very rare. It's not possible, really, to rule out that some things do happen by mere chance. What then, is the word for the sort of events I have in mind that most people think of as "coincidence?" That's a real question. Perhaps there is a term for it. But, I'm unaware of what it is.

So, I'm going to propose one: "convergence." In particular here, I have in mind definition number 3 of the link: "the degree or point at which lines, objects, etc., converge" with a strong emphasis on the "etc." If you attribute such things to chance, then you call it coincidence. For me, I think the deciding factor may simply be the statistical probability, or lack thereof, of such a convergence occurring. The less the probability, the less likely it is coincidence.

Let me offer a few examples from recent days that illustrate what I mean. To begin with, there are those two instances of convergence that I mention in the "Like Minds" post.

Then, a couple of days ago, I was writing to friend, female in this instance, and happened to make a comparison between said friend and Aphrodite. This is one of only two women whose absolutely classic form has driven me to make such a comparison in this lifetime--and the other, with whom I went to school, is, blissfully probably, unaware of the comparison. For a week or more, I've been walking around with crossed fingers as this friend has been attempting to buy a new home. Crossed fingers because there was a competing offer. Two days after the Aphrodite reference, my friend sent me the MLS number for the house, enabling me to find the agent's listing and to take a "virtual tour." This is not a small house, there are lots of rooms and lots of walls. But, there is only one wall (there's a ceiling with elements of the Sistine Chapel, but, at least in the virtual tour, only one wall), in a cast off room on the main level, with a mural (or possibly wallpaper). And what might it be? Why Botticelli's Birth of Venus of course. You can see the original at the link in that last sentence. (If your Greek/Latin mythology is rusty, Aphrodite would be the Greek name for the Latin Venus.) And the here is a screenshot from the virtual tour of the house my friend will buy (not believing in coincidence, I take this particular convergence as a sign):

Convergences, I've noticed, seem to come in waves. So it was no particular surprise when the next followed hot on the heels of this one. The day after I discovered the convergence above, I received the following brief note in my evening e-mail on 30 Aug:

Are you a Jon Stewart fan? I don't usually watch him (or any TV for that matter), but the TV is on (no one watching), I am doing the dishes and Jon Stewart is doing some funny thing with a recent debate. It is hysterical. I'll try to get the info and forward it to you so you can watch. I can't believe how funny this is.

Nothing particularly odd about that. I do watch Jon Stewart, but we'd never discussed him before. The real convergence came the very next day, as I was reading the headlines from an academic news service I subscribe to. Among the top three stories for that day, 31 Aug, in a publication where, honestly, I've never seen Stewart's name before, is this headline: Jon Stewart, Oral Exams and More.

What next? I can barely wait to find out. (I had thought, for a minute, that the example in the definition of coincidence, might, itself, be another convergence, but it turns out the Botticelli currently resides in Florence, not Venice. Damned close though.)