Faith, Grace and Coincidences
Coincidences have always intrigued me. Not just the event or chain of events that could be considered coincidental, but the mechanics behind them.
I can look back over the 62 years that I have been alive, and point at a number of occurrences that were coincidental to the extreme, and in every single case either saved my sorry butt or changed my life's direction in the nick of time. And certainly, one thing they all had in common is that they were, without exception, fortunate. In fact, I can't think of a single coincidental event that worked against me. That doesn't mean there have not been all kinds of setbacks during the course of my life, just that they were the more or less predictable results of my own bad planning or dumb choices. On the other hand, I would need all my toes and all my fingers to count the number of incidents that were neither planned nor the result of any kind of conscious decision making, and yet proved very lucky indeed.
For a person who grew up in an environment lacking association with any form of religion or spiritual consciousness, and is, therefore, alien to the concepts of faith and grace, coincidental events can't be explained other than through the notion of coincidence as a result of random actions -- which in my opinion is a lazy man's dead-end street. If you want to find any kind of reason or logic behind coincidences, you only have one avenue to take, and that is through the acceptance of a reality beyond the mundane one that we live in. If, as our atheists tell us, there is nothing behind all this strange magic we live in, then coincidences could not happen, or everything that happens, moment to moment, would be ludicrously coincidental. There would be no order at all in this universe.
And let me be clear on the use of the word "coincidence" in this article. I am not talking about running into someone you haven't seen in years, or even winning a lottery. The kind of coincidence I am referring to would be an event that occurred at the exact and only instant it would have an impact that transforms your life.
One example that stands out in my mind is this:
Forty years ago, I mistakenly wandered into the wrong hotel room while on a walk-about five thousand miles from home. I instantly apologized and turned around, in the process catching a split-second glimpse of a photograph of a person who was not famous and I had never heard of. I didn't know that person at all.
More than a year later, when I went to pick up an item I had purchased through the classifieds, I saw the exact same photo hanging on the wall. This was half a planet away from where I had first seen it a year earlier, without having any previous connection whatsoever with anyone in either location.
When I pointed out the coincidence (as I said, this was not a particularly famous individual in the picture), the guy told me a few things about the person in the photo. When, by another strange coincidence, I actually met that person several months later, it changed my life forever, and in a tremendously fortunate way. To this day, that person is a very important part of my life.
So, how does a non-religious person accept something like that without just stating that it was a coincidence and leave it at that? I just can't do that.
I am not sure how, or when, precisely, I began to understand that there had to be an underlying reality that sustains the one we live in, the way an ocean carries a ship. It happened more gradually, I think, starting in my late teens. And, while it was more of a gut feeling that was trying to get its bearings by my reading philosophy and scriptures and what have you, the kind of coincidence I've described was more effective than all the books I ever read in helping me accept the fact that there is a hidden, underlying reality.
Now that I am old and not so much wiser, I no longer doubt that our mundane reality is no more than the tiny little tip of a humongous iceberg. The essence of life is hidden from our eyes and ears, but not from us -- which is a hugely important difference. We can, and many do, see that reality without the use of our eyes and ears, which are aimed in the wrong direction anyway.
The concept of coincidences, as far as I am concerned, is now inseparable from the notions of faith and grace. Like a triangle of magic, faith, grace and coincidences are bound together and dependent on each other. Faith opens you to the possibility, grace delivers it, and coincidence is how it is manifested. Pretty cool, wouldn't you say? And you don't have to be religious or believe in any of our manmade gods to experience that. All you have to do is be alive and conscious.
And that's not all, because from there, it's but a tiny step to realize that every moment of your life, every breath you take, is essentially a coincidence. Think about it. The number of things that had to materialize to make it possible for you to be here now boggles the mind.
So, for whatever its worth, here is my two pennies on this subject:
It seems that opposite forces are at work. There is you, just moving about, doing a bit of thinking, working, producing, consuming and so forth. And there is another force, a hidden force, but one that can certainly be felt and acknowledged, which pulls you toward itself very gently, as if with thin elastic strings. Your connection with that hidden force, whenever you feel it, is manifested as happiness, while its bond with you fulfills the purpose of that hidden force. It's a win-win situation. Of course, we are a pretty dense bunch, so we mess up, make bad decisions, take wrong turns, ignore the obvious, and otherwise test the elasticity of the strings that bind you with that power. So every once in a while, that power loses its patience and throws one or more events your way that are outrageously coincidental. As if saying: "Come on dummy, this is the direction you need to go."
But don't be waiting for the next happy coincidence, because it's not there to fulfill your expectations, nor is it going to ask for your permission. Just keep breathing, have faith, let grace do what it does best, and it will all come to you in the form of a coincidence.
I love a nice coincidence. Don't you?