Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mathematically Speaking . . .

How is it that so often after one gives pause to anything new, the same new thing comes across one's path again in a different context, seemingly too soon to be a random coincidence?

It happened again today. While reading The Heart of a Distant Forest, by Philip Lee Williams, I came across a literary reference to the glistening of the sun in the pine trees---a reference that would have escaped my notice had I not recently written two blog posts about the same topic. (Oct 22 & 29)

Mere coincidence? Yes, I think so. I used to think it was an indication of some cosmic force at work, but in the course of keeping this nature blog, I've come around to the coincidence theory.

Mathematically, millions of bits of information present themselves to us in a day. The odds are pretty good that once in a while, two of them will be similar, and if we're paying attention, we'll notice. THAT's the key element---IF we are paying attention. Just one more pleasure to derive from the simple act of being mindful. Yay.

It's also likely that we increase the odds of the kind of coincidence in question by our self-selected behavior patterns. That is, a person who chooses to sit in the backyard for at least an hour a day is way more likely to be reading a book by Philip Lee Williams than one by, say, Michael Crichton. dkm
"And so today I praise the strength that still courses through my hands and the joy of seeing the sunlight scattered on the pine needles."
---Philip Lee Williams, in The Heart of a Distant Forest

8 comments:

Pukeko G said...

You must have a lot of attention in your wallet .. you seem to be paying it out all over the place. I guess you reap what you sow :-)>

Pukeko G said...

ps .. There was another explosion in the coal mine yesterday and all 29 men are now presumed dead. Access difficult because of the dangerous gases etc. Very sad for very many people. This part of the country (mid south island) is pretty sombre at the moment.

dkm said...

Yeah---a lot more attention than money! Also more time, now that I'm partially retired.

We read about the second explosion today, and we grieve for the families. How near are you to the site of the mine?

SAMUEL PARK said...

Fascinating. Probably the best explanation I've heard for coincidences so far. I think you're right--it's only a coincidence in the sense that we pay attention to a pattern that otherwise goes unnoticed--whether it's things, events, or people. Although I still like believing that cosmic forces create events beyond our control--which is fun. Thanks for the post.

dkm said...

And I agree, as well, that I WANT there to be cosmic choreography---it is fun to imagine it---to preserve the mystery and awe. I'm just not sure I can buy it. It's one of those things we can't know for sure, so I guess we can believe whatever we want to. Dangerously like religion :-)

lisazinn said...

I completely agree! There is a great radiolab on this topic. Do you ever listen to radiolab. It is one of my favorite podcasts. I introduced Hannah to it, too. This one is discussing how coincidences work. It is fascinating. Check it out sometime if you have a chance. http://www.radiolab.org/2009/jun/15/a-very-lucky-wind/

dkm said...

Thanks! Will check it out!

Ellen said...

and as humans we are hard wired to look for connection I think.