Synchronicity again

I wasn’t quite sure of the meaning of “synchronicity”, until I looked it up and read about events with no visible causal connection that seem to have meaningful relationships to each another. I knew of the word but had never used it to express my own thoughts; it was the title of a book I’d never opened.

In her book, “World as Lover, World as Self”, Joanna Macy uses the words synchronicity and synergy to invoke how everything is so interconnected with everything else that the distinctions we make are just our way of marking our interpretations and interests.

If we weren’t destroying the living world, our interpretations of the dance of synchronicity would seem harmless enough. But we are destroying our world.

I started to write something about this book ten days ago, but abandoned the attempt. Then yesterday–in the midst of life’s chain of causality—something popped out of a box in our garage. My wife and I were going through the boxes that line the edges of the garage–in the townhouse we moved into last year–when something unexpected emerged.

From a box of translations of Buddhist works, written more than a thousand years ago and in my possession for 40—emerged a copy of an earlier edition of “World as Lover, World as Self”. It was inscribed by my friend who died last year, Pat Simmons. She must have given it to me decades ago; but it is only recently that I have become deeply troubled that I know of no medicine to heal our deeply wounded world.

Yesterday’s message (from the flux of “interdependent co-arising”, which sees everything as interconnected) brought to mind that the blog I abandoned two weeks ago explored the inter-connectedness of events at different times in my life. I normally don’t notice connections between different periods of my life. My 35 years in Canada and my 45 years in Albuquerque simply seem related like a cradle is related to a queen-sized bed.

Joanna Macy describes the living systems of our planet (which systems theory also explores) as a whole in which everything constantly provides “feedback” to every other part. A beautiful image for this is Indra’s Net, in which a sparkling jewel at each node reflects the jewels in every other node, and is reflected back to itself from them.

At first glance, any connection between different periods of my life seems to be just another causal example of how human knowledge builds on itself.

But Joanna’s use of the word “feedback” became evocative of my past when she explicitly mentioned a book I had read during my time in Montreal. That book was “The Human Use of Human Beings” by the father of Cybernetics, Norbert Weiner.

My mentor, Eric, gave me that book around the time I graduated from college. He also made me aware of another book back then, “The Facts Rebel” published in 1964, by Pálóczi Horváth. This book presents an optimistic future for Russia. He predicted that the installation of feedback mechanisms in industrial processes (such as automatically triggering cooling if a thermostat senses overheating), would condition the authoritarian politburo to pay attention to feedback received about the effects of their decisions.

Another word that gets closer to the intelligent responsiveness present in feedback within life systems is “monitoring”:

Monitoring is a key term in systems theory. All open systems self-monitor; it is like a naturally occurring mindfulness. That is how our blood and the oceans, for example, regulate levels of salinity. They watch what is happening and adjust.World as Lover, World as Self, Joanna Macy.

I would like to think that something inside me, even if it has lain dormant for more than half a century, has been monitoring my life as a human being all along. It feels like there is something more than a causal link between those two books I read in the 1960’s and the one I am reading now. It is certainly true that their common use of certain words–such as feedback, monitoring, systems—is part of their subjects of inquiry, along with their causal development. But the way those connections are arising at this point in my life feels like an instance of synergy and synchronicity. The periods of time joined by these connections may have been caused by my recent concern for my helplessness in the face of what is happening to our world. But that concern is more like an atmosphere that affects everything than one event causing another.

If I wasn’t searching for ways to become a knowing participant in Indra’s net; if I wasn’t trying to learn to join global self-monitoring as part of naturally occurring mindfulness; if I wasn’t hoping to become better friends with the living system in which I have my being; would I have read any of these books and would I now be grateful that the two major geographic places in which I have lived are finally beginning to notice each other?

Would it have occurred to me to notice that I have been wandering all these years amidst the groves of an unbroken forest, in which tree trunks of synchronicity share a single underground system of roots?

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