Sunday, April 24, 2005

Some readers of this blog may have noticed my interest in synchronistic occurrences of the number 23. As reported in a much earlier post, there's a hideous mock-NASCAR limo emblazoned with "23" I see around my part of town; I first saw it with Jason Sheets (who had come to see the director's cut of "Donnie Darko" -- a movie about synchronicity, among other things -- at the local theater) a day or two after mutually blogging about the 23 enigma. (Interestingly, "Donnie Darko's" nationwide debut was on the 23rd.)

Today I was walking in a park near a clot of particularly vapid war protesters when the NASCAR limo pulled up to let off some teenagers who looked only slightly more with it than the aging hippies lining the sidewalk. I managed to get one shot, which I readily admit could have been a lot better. Nevertheless, there's "23" in fluorescent green glory:

One of the reasons I like packing a camera is that it engages the part of my brain that processes "random," acausal events. I literally see things I've never noticed before; a sort of secret world opens up, if fleetingly, bringing to mind multiple transparencies stacked atop one another and brought to life by a projector. (Rudy Rucker, who's written on similar themes, thinks the universe is filled with "paracomputations" that take the form of natural processes. His trained awareness of relevant phenomena, such as the intricate geometric patterns on seashells and the interplay of wave-fronts in a pool of water, might help account for some of his acutely observant photographs.)

In my case, after seeing the "23" limo, I found myself inside a bus-stop with brown-tinted plastic windows. Someone had written "23" there, bedecking the number with a halo as if to memorialize it. (The recurring trumpet design from Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49" came to mind . . . as well as the sense of inhabiting a rather smug and mocking paracomputation.)

Later on the same walk I recalled a dream I had last night, in which I was playing with a sheet of aluminum foil that returned to its uncrumpled original state whenever I unballed my fist (the "memory metal" described by witnesses to the Roswell debris.) Moments later I found a sheet of foil on the sidewalk -- nothing remotely dramatic, but nonetheless a bit like some sort of retrocognitive memento. It's becoming steadily easier for me to imagine reality as a composite of overlapping possibilities -- a VR-like realm that creates itself from moment to moment rather than patiently awaiting discovery.


The Andy-Christ said...

My best friend's personal fetish-number is 27. He can spot the number 27 from a mile away. I keep pointing out to him that you can pick ANY number, and you will begin seeing it with startling regularity. You should try an experiment.

Mac said...

Very good point -- and one I return to again and again, actually. But the definition of "synchronicity" is "*meaningful* coincidence. In the Jungian sense, subjectivity is the whole point.

The Andy-Christ said...

You make a good point as well. It showcases one paradox of human existance when combined with my point. I agree that there is coincidence, and then there is synchronicity. The trick, it seems, is to learn to tell the difference.

JohnFen said...

23 is related to the Discordian Law of Fives (2+3=5), which state says that all things can be related to the number 5... given sufficient imagination on the part of the relater.

In any case, the "magic number" thing is classic psychology. You can do it with anything you see lots of... numbers, type/color of cars, words, etc. Pick something at random, and start looking... pretty soon you'll start getting creeped out.

23 is different, though, because it carries with it a specific and rich memetic payload, and has been used and spread -- quite intentionally -- where most other numbers don't get this special treatment.

Take the 23 on the bus stop, for example. The person who put it there chose the number 23 precisely because it already carries such meaning.

Mac said...

"Take the 23 on the bus stop, for example. The person who put it there chose the number 23 precisely because it already carries such meaning."

Maybe. Or maybe they were commemorating a favorite basketball player or something.

Ken said...

I was reading some Jung the other day and I learned that he had carried on discourse/correspondences with the physicists of his day. In other words, Jung was attempting to bridge his psychic theories (including his theory of syncronicity) to that of physics. I think that Jung was on to something, and that this idea was very good. It's too bad that in our day and age the sciences seem to have stagnated - and, as far as I can tell, there is no dialogue going on between psychology and physics. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears (at least to me) that most scientists today suffer from a profound LACK of imagination (and as I see it, great leaps in science are possible only with visionaries who possess the capacity for imagination).

Anonymous said...

One interesting thing about synchronicity is that Jung actually developed the theory in collaboration with the well-known scientist Linus Pauling. The idea was to propose an "acausal" connection between events rather than a causal one. Some theorists have even suggested that quantum entanglement is an example of synchronicity, which would mean that it's really "built in" to the basic structure of the universe.