by Joe McKay
“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Albert Einstein
These words, when I first read them years ago, startled me. Hadn’t I been certain for all of my adult life that Physics and “God” could not co-habitate my thinking? How could I reconcile Einstein’s very clear assertion that a “spiritual being” operates in our everyday lives? Wow!
Years of metaphysical and lexicological study later (also “coincidental” ?!), I have come to believe that the so-called mysteries of life are best understood if we study ordinariness. By focusing on the original definition of “coincidence,” “occupation of the same space,” rather than the “by chance” meaning it has taken on, we can make progress in breaching the alienation of the “ordinary” and the “extraordinary.”
We tend to be surprised by coincidence, thinking of it as akin to winning a prize in a lottery. But what if we taught ourselves to see everything as special, as Walt Whitman suggests in his poem Miracles, “as to me I know of nothing else but miracles.” Would we then recognize the “hand of God” at work every day in the people, creatures, things, and places we encounter? “look at strangers opposite me riding in the streetcar, or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon…”
Would not the appearance in our lives of someone or something we need at “just the right time” then seem natural? …our clear awareness of our need and our expectation/belief that it could be readily satisfied…simply an example of how things work? I.e., seeing the problem and the answer simultaneously, because they “occupy the same space.”
Horace Walpole, an eighteenth century English writer, coined the word “serendipity,” inspired by an old Persian tale, “The Three Princes of Serendip.” As they explored their world, the young men were always making discoveries, “by accident and sagacity,” of things they were not knowingly seeking. In other words, by having their minds and senses wide open, by taking in even “collateral” material from the vast milieu they observed, they would have all that they needed … delivered in place and on time!
Is this a way to live? … dependent on coincidence (the old definition, which states that what we need and what’s available to satisfy our needs are both right before us) ?? Is this madness, akin to hoping we win the lottery in order to survive … or is it simply a recognition of the amazing abundance amidst which we live???
Does it negate the need for “striving,” arguably the cornerstone of our Judeo-Christian ethic?
It really depends on how you choose to view and experience life … on how you choose to handle the “God issue” …
Einstein seems to have done pretty well living “coincidentally” …