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Is There Such A Thing As Coincidence?

Photo by Danico Tanjutco (Public Domain)

Do you fulfill your destiny and does your destiny fulfill you? (Photo by Danico Tanjutco — Public Domain)

When I look back at my life, it’s clear to see that all of the twists and turns and internal dilemmas have been connected. They are not separate, isolated events, but a continuous journey. Perhaps the universe, or a higher force beyond my comprehension creates these coincidences, or maybe it is my own inner narrative that knits together the random series of happenings that makes up my time on this earth.

Peeling Back The Layers

Is there such a thing as coincidence? On the surface, this looks like a simple enough question. Either the answer is “yes”, and we accept that our experience is full of freak twists of fate that drive our destiny, or we say “no” and believe that life is entirely our own doing, or the cause of known external forces or random chance happening.

Yet, when we peel back the layers, the question peels back into philosophical layers, each one as challenging as the last. Let’s define coincidence as “fate” or “destiny”. I’m talking about coincidence in terms of meaningful events that tie together to form your reality.

Is It Rational To Believe In Fate?

If you are a very rational person, you probably think that everything happens for a reason and that, if we had enough information, we would be able to know how and why our lives happen the way they do. In the most rational model, if we were to input every event in your life into a supercomputer with sufficient predictive power, we would know what was coming next. In this sense, it is entirely plausible to assume that life is, in a way, pre-determined.

An even more mathematical approach would take into account statistical variance. This concept explains that statistically unlikely events do happen, but that in the long run events will balance out according to the actual likelihood that they will happen. For example, you could flip a coin and get ten heads in a row, therefore “defying” the odds, but if you flip it millions of times the results will run out at close to the statistically defined 50%.

Take the story of Nikolay Ponomarev, who had his KK beaten twice – an extremely unlikely event – and then went on to win a poker tournament, including a $25,000 prize and platinum pass. At one point you would say he was destined to lose, yet, in the end, it seemed he was destined to win. And so it is in life. Sometimes you’re winning, sometimes you’re losing. Some people even look like they’re winning their whole life, but in the long term life hands out what is statistically accurate given the situation. Coincidence, even from this rational standpoint, makes perfect sense. Your fate or destiny, in this model, is the result of factors such as genetics and environment, as well as the “statistical variance” of the universe.

Of course, this view taken alone sees humans as if they are always merely reacting. With self-awareness, and deliberate thought and action (the gifts and curses of humanity), it is surely possible to escape from the action-reaction principle, and therefore take some manner of control over your own destiny. This is what we call “free-will”, and whenever we exercise it we should, if the concept be true, be able to influence our own destiny.

Synchronicity

There are spiritual theories that call coincidence “synchronicity”. The outcome is the same. Events line up or “conspire” to create a scenario. Synchronicity assumes that there is mystical meaning to these alignments. That is to say, your fate is not happening by chance or random occurrence, it is happening because it is “meant to be that way” for one reason or another.

In this model, coincidence is an accepted part of life, and a language by which the universe (or a higher force, either internal, external or both) communicates to the individual. The individual can then “read” the universe by watching the signs in their own life. Some even believe they can see the future.

How the individual interprets this meaning is up to them. They could see it as a higher power, or as their own mind. A popular interpretation is the “law of attraction” style thought, which says that the individual attracts each of these experiences according to what it is that they need to learn.

More psychologically mature theories accept the role of both the universe (that is to say, external factors of which we have little or no control), as well as internal and individual factors, of which we do have control. Life, in a sense, just happens to us, but in another way we have control over our thoughts and actions, the way we perceive the coincidences of events that happen to us, and how we react to them.

In this way, our destiny is a combination of something that happens to us and something that we create. And coincidences, whichever way you seem to look at it, are the threads that holds our story together. Isn’t that neat and comfortable? Not really. What do you think? Is there such a thing as meaningful coincidence, or is it all random?

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