Recently I have been plagued by coincidences. I was talking on a train about someone I hadn’t seen for thirty years, and then met them coming out of the train toilet. Had I subconsciously seen them on a platform and not consciously registered it? I don’t know, but coincidences of that nature have been occurring recently with a strange frequency. I have never quite been able to get my head round the theory of synchronicity.
In about 1986 I was working in the trade department of the British High Commission in Lagos. I went to visit a Yoruba turkey farmer near Ijebu-Ode who wanted help with his meat processing and freezing machinery. I spent an extremely pleasant day with his family. He showed me the massive church he was building, with a cantilevered roof. He had ordered a mighty organ from Rushworth and Dreaper, one of the world’s last manufacturers of real pipe organs.
The following week I left on leave. Before actual holiday I was doing a tour for ten days around the UK, visiting companies who wanted advice on doing business with Nigeria. The Department of Trade and Industry organised the itineraries through regional offices. In Liverpool I was delighted to find I had been sheduled to visit Rushworth and Dreaper and witness the skills and craftsmanship that go into building a pipe organ (there are literally hundreds of unglamorous wooden and lead pipes packed behind the showcase guilded exterior ones – which sometimes are simply dummies. Each pipe is a first class musical instrument).
Rushworth and Dreaper were most impressed that I had visited their customer just a week before. It was quite a coincidence given that, as far as I or the High Commission knew, he was just a turkey farmer and nothing to do with organs. But not that big a coincidence.
My tour over, a fortnight later I took my wife and children on holiday to Hong Kong. We went on to one of the big junks that sail Hong Kong Harbour as floating restaurants in the evenings. It was very packed, and we shared a table with a pleasant English couple. We introduced each other. “I am a director of a little Liverpool company that makes pipe organs”, he said, “It’s called Rushworth and Dreaper”.
As I said, I have never got my head round synchronicity. In some way human consciousness must on occasion be able to shape events that, by laws we understand, ought to be outside such influence. I have no idea how, why or how often, and to express such an idea is to invite ridicule. But that is what I observe.