Mists clear; webs appear,
Spoked motif of passing bike.
Sunday afternoon, stuck in Ikea's Marketplace somewhere between the tapers and the tea towels, the mobile on my belt commences to ring (and vibrate!). As my wife pinballs from display to display, I'm daydreaming a bit, wondering if the butcher had heeded (or even heard) my voicemail detailing the butterflied turkey instructions we'd left for tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner. I resign myself -- if he got it, he got it; if not, it's hotdogs and beans for ten. The vibro-ring persists and I am pulled from reverie. "What time ya comin' in to pick up da boid?". "Rick?". "Who the _____ else would ask ya dat?" I marvel at the universe and its interconnected wonders (not to mention Rick's skill with a boning knife) and speculate on the chances of that particular thought floating up at the precise moment the butcher decides to call and to see if he's going to be stuck with a splatch-cocked gobbler in his display case.
Coincidence. Perhaps. But, come on, at that exact moment in time! Not likely. Ten days ago I'd left a message with a man in Newfoundland responsible for evaluating applications for registration to practice in that province. Part of this process is having a 'police check' executed (to shake out any skeletons that may have found their way into one's closet over a lifetime). I'd mis-read the requirements and, having to return to the station to expand the search (i.e., to include the garage and basement, as well as the closet!), I was in the process of completing a second form. The phone rings / vibrates. "David?". "Yes." "It's John with the NL Psychology Board. Apologies for not getting back to you sooner. . ." Now this is getting really weird!
Carl Jung has a word for these experiences. He calls them synchronous events: meaningful coincidences. Now, if I was as smitten by The Secret as a shamefully large segment of the self-help book consuming population seemed to be, I might be inclined to take this as 'proof' that those compelling vibes I'd put out to the universe (or taped to my bathroom mirror) were just 'coming back to me'. But I'm not and I don't. If I strayed a little too far over that fine line that divides sanity from its less desirable twin, I might be inclined to 'read in' a bit of too much into these moments, perhaps seeing some causal connection between my thought and the events that immediately follow. But, last time I had my oil checked, I was neither paranoid nor schizotypal -- no magical thinking resident here!
Still there must be something between the outright dismissing of these occurrences as nothing more than an 'accident of timing' (or worse, not noticing at all!); and assuming oneself to be so potent and figural in the grand scheme of things as to be able to influence this marvelous coalescence of events. (Almost sounds like intercessory prayer to me.) In
fact, the idea is far from new. Indra's web is a lovely, 19 centuries old image that captures what the Buddhists would call interpenetration (aka, coalescence, inter-connectedness) wherein all phenomena are intimately bound together, one to another. Covering the universe, this web or net has, at each 'knot' a jewel, each holding the reflection of all the other jewels. These 'pearls' are variously interpreted as points of energy, individual souls, events; in their total, representing all such instances of same. And underscoring how each of us is connected with every other. Alan Watts, the British philosopher and popularizer of Buddhist thought in the West, likens this to a dew-laden spider's web, the water droplets mirroring all others.
The haiku at the top of this piece took shape, coalesced as it were, as I was riding one early morning in Tuscany. The fog had lifted; but, with its passing and its 'remains', it had summoned forth the myriad spider webs at the road side. Normally unnoticed, near invisible, the mists had condensed on the delicate silk bringing them into sharp relief -- and into my consciousness. Had I attended even more closely, I would have seen my own reflection, mirrored in each of those thousand prisms, connected to but seemingly so unrelated and separate from those passing structures. One's regular practice (whether it be a daily sit or a daily ride!) is a best way of opening us to Indra's web; making the room to notice these seemingly inconsequential 'knots', jewels. Easy enough to dispense with them as trivial or the product of a troubled mind. But a reminder nonetheless of the ties that bind us all -- if only we pay attention.