Industry of Strange Coincidences
A Short Story by Jeremy Benjamin
Written using the suggestion "Guru"
Originally featured on 12-04-2010
As part of our series "The Roles of a Lifetime"

NOTES ON EXPERIMENT (qualitative reconciling of predicted results, for personal record — note: if this journal should find its way into anybody else’s hands, PLEASE DISCARD):

 

It’s because of the rain and it’s because of volcanoes, so it is believed. The northwestern United States was found to have a higher rate of reported instances of what has been dubbed ‘weird’ or ‘uncanny’ occurrences, or what psychologists might call ‘meaningful coincidences’ than any other region of the country. It has everything to do with the chemical properties of rainwater, and with the magnetic field modulations of volcanic activity. Scientists are only a few years away from proving that connection.

Portland, Oregon was one of ten U.S. cities to take part in the survey. No other metropolitan area came within sixty percent of Portland’s score for number of ‘weird coincidences’ per capita. The criteria for a qualifying ‘weird coincidence’ as defined in the parameters of the study can range from something as benign as, say, what happened to me this morning…(an acquaintance mentioned an old classmate of mine in conversation; I had not spoken to, seen or thought about this particular classmate in several years, and a few minutes after the conversation I bump into the aforementioned former classmate in a convenience store)…to events of much larger import.

To validate the study, my colleagues and I have created a weird-coincidence-factory. It is a bio dome, a quarter mile in diameter and with the highest point of the ceiling three hundred and fifty feet above the floor, with four simulated volcanoes, one at each corner, and a state-of-the-art sprinkler system that circulates nine-hundred seventy-eight gallons of water per hour to a dispersal system in the ceiling that acts as a humidifier. A team of eighty test subjects was selected to live inside the Synchronicity Dome for thirty-eight days having no contact with the outside world, and for their services they were paid a small stipend.

On the fourteenth day, it was predicted that the religious beliefs of all participants would be abandoned, and a new cult would form within the Synchronicity Dome. One woman or man would naturally rise as the leader of the tribe — that guru, for the purposes of this report, will be referred to as Citizen Alpha One. On the twenty-first day, it was thought that the community would split into two opposing factions, the dominant one (Tribe A) presided over by Citizen Alpha One, and the subordinate (Tribe B) ruled over by Citizen Alpha One’s rival, Citizen Beta One. On the twenty-eighth day, Tribe A and Tribe B were fully expected to declare war against one another.

The fulfillment of the expectations stated in the previous paragraph is the control in this experiment (the course of events indicated is derived from previously published sociology studies, and adapted via calculations based on the population and spatial area of our facility — see the Appendix of the lab report). The data my team set out to collect was to concern individual daily reports from Synchronicity Dome citizens of uncanny coincidences. As I write this, moments ago I looked down at my wrist and noticed fading ink. Last night in my recreational activities I did not take notice of the image that was stamped on the back of my hand upon entering the establishment wherein my colleague’s band was playing. I see now that it depicted a rabbit in the act of dashing speedily. As it just so happens, this morning I was running a few minutes late to my office, and on my way in the door, I nearly tripped and fell as a blur of white fur crossed in front of me, startling me. It was a rabbit dashing across the front lawn. This is not a common occurrence, and neither is the stamp on my hand one that I have seen before, but I did not think anything of either event until I pieced the two together in my mind, as I write this report. I cite that as post-data Weird Coincidence number one.

Once we’ve gained quantitative insight into the empirical structure of recurrent themes and symbology in human intercourse, we may begin synthesizing means to harness and direct ‘weird coincidences’. Ultimately, our theoretical models show that a governing body that has control over the frequency of such coincidences results in a stronger economy. Put simply, a person who experiences a weird coincidence at 9am is eight times more likely to spend money before 11am than a person who has no such experience. The psychological mechanism behind this phenomenon has yet to be explored.

On an editorial note, the facet of this project that was of most interest to me was the tracking of Citizen Alpha One, and her or his rise to the inevitable position of leadership. Before it became evident who would be in the seat of power, I wanted comprehensive data taken on all citizens; I wanted recorded interviews with each one of them six times a day. I want to know what they ate, what they thought about, what they felt, what they dreamed about. I want to see if Citizen Alpha One yielded a significantly higher proportion of coincidental ‘king’ references than other citizens in the early stages of the project. If they engaged in informal card games, perhaps that individual may have recurrently gotten kings in their hand, for instance. Or maybe she or he would have…I can not posit any further speculations.

The possibilities are beyond numerous.

I myself made the decision to reside in the Synchronicity Dome as a participant, incognito, despite objections from my colleagues.

 

The real reason I funded this project…funny thing, I’ve momentarily forgotten why I did this in the first place. It will come back to me in a moment, if I stop thinking about it…

 

Confession of personal motives: I have always been aware of a higher saturation of mundane coincidences per day surrounding an instance in which I’m entering into a relationship that will be significant, and have viewed the spike in synchronicity as a literal signal from — unknown origin — that I’m about to meet somebody important or do something important.

I wish to disprove the theory that [XXXXX] was of significance to my life.

Read More By Jeremy Benjamin

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Portland Fiction Project

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