Friday, October 05, 2007


Recently, I've experienced quite a few striking coincidences. For instance, I currently have two students who are in Italy. They don't know each other and work at entirely different jobs yet they both are there during the exact same two weeks, though they are in different cities and one is there for business and the other for pleasure. They also take lessons on Saturday morning one after the other. This situation is actually relatively fortuitous for me because it allows me to prepare information about travel to Italy and use it for both of them which cuts my work load in half. It also gives me my entire Saturday morning off for two weeks since they both canceled lessons during the same time period.

It's not so unusual for students to head off to the same destination and, if I had an entire school's worth of students and two were going to Italy rather than 2 of my crop of 12 students, this probably wouldn't stick out so much as an odd coincidence. It all may be explained though by the fact that Italy seems to be emerging as the travel "flavor of the month" in Japan if I follow the travel wishes of the students I speak with correctly.

One more coincidence piled on top of these onse a short time ago. I had just logged out of Skype after a chat with my sister and idly turned on the T.V. to find that the fashion show one of the students who had gone to Italy to be a part of (behind the scenes) was airing. It wasn't only that but the collection her particular employer was showing was the one that was showing at that very moment. Her employer is one of the lesser-known fashion designers amongst those who are not well-educated in the fashion world (though certainly known to those in fashion circles) so I wouldn't necessarily have expected their line to be shown on Fox Life.

These series of coincidences made me wonder at what point one's perception of a situation turns from "coincidence" to "fate" (provided one is inclined to embrace the latter concept). I've had plenty of situations in life where there have been statistically almost unbelievable coincidences but they didn't lead me to believe they were linked to fate because they were blips which lead to no greater experiences or purpose. For instance, I've ran into former co-workers in Shinjuku station. If you've ever been in Shinjuku station, you'll know that it is so huge and crowded that the chances you'll run into someone you know without carefully coordinating a location, day and time to meet is very low, particularly when your pool of former co-workers is relatively small as mine is and when you don't regularly pass through there.

Some people believe in fate and some simply feel that there are only just statistical improbabilities playing out in our daily lives. Generally speaking, when the sheer amount of coincidence in life defies belief, I think this is when notions of fate may enter the picture. However, it isn't only a matter of frequency of such experiences but also about where those experiences tend to lead. I'm pretty sure the coincidences I mentioned with my students really aren't amounting to much so it's hard to believe that it's "fate" whereas I feel meeting my husband was fate because it had such a great impact on the path my life took.

It seems some of us have a need to feel that the most important opportunities in our lives are being externally directed rather than simply random chances. Many of us like to believe that life is more than a lottery where we sometimes "win" or "lose" by chance because it lends credence to the notion that life is meaningful rather than something that just happens and then we die. I admit, I'm one of those people.


On a side note that is related by a hair, I never watch fashion shows and surely would have turned away had my student's employer's collection not been on display. I mainly watched so I could talk to her about her company's new line when I see her in a week. The reason I have little interest in such things was brought home to me when the Moschino collection was shown to include a variety of dog-shaped handbags. :-p On the bright side, the designer my student's company sells for had the most wearable clothing from a real person's daily living point of view, provided you're slender enough to carry off really sleek and simple lines.


Miko said...

I experience so many coincidences on a daily basis that I no longer think of them as unusual or strange. Many of them are very practical and helpful (such as: needing a certain piece of information and finding it by sheer chance in a book I pick up at random in a second-hand shop, or suddenly bumping into an old friend whom I'd been idly wondering about on the train), but hardly fateful.

At any given moment, at least two of my students are on the road, and most of them prefer Europe (especially Italy and France) as travel destinations, so I wouldn't be too surprised if they ended up in the same country at the same time. But two out of twelve is pretty amazing!

You bump into people in Shinjuku? Pah! I once bumped into an old boyfriend in Thailand.

Shari said...

Hmm. I rarely experience them. Perhaps you have a better psychic connection with this world and energy flows easily to you. ;-)

I'm guessing your base of students is quite a bit vaster than mine. With a relatively static pool of 12, it's a bit more unusual than with a large class or more of a revolving door situation.

Perhaps you were meant to start something up with the old boyfriend, eh? Either that or you lot of old boyfriends. ;-)

Luis said...

A little more than one year ago, I was birdwatching by Tokyo Bay, and decided to get back to my scooter as storm clouds were coming in. Lightning had started up, and I was recording audio on my digital camera to see if I could record a good peal of thunder. Well, I did--when lightning struck a few feet away from me and sent a jolt of electricity into my foot. I even caught it on the recording.

But that's not the coincidence. Half a city away, at about the same time, a woman named Barbara was out jogging. Suddenly, lightning struck just a few feet away from her, sending a jolt of electricity into her arm.

Barbara sits at the desk next to me at my work. Neither of us were hurt, fortunately.

But what have the odds got to be against something like that happening?

And yet it does. Twenty years ago, I had a job in an obscure countryside town in Japan, half a world away from my home town. Only 30 non-Asian foreigners lived in the entire prefecture. And yet, I happened to run across someone in a coffee shop who knew my sister, and had tried to ask her out once.

We all get these things, or at least most of us do. I suppose it would take a statistician and someone with a helluva lot of knowledge about human experience to tell us if such things are truly remarkable, or if they are almost bound to happen now and again. As with most things in life, in the end we simply have to make of them what we will.

Emsk said...

Many years ago a friend and I hitch-hiked round the UK following this American punk rock band on the road (L7 in case you're curious). They're all women - they were made up that we did this and they kept sticking our names on the guest list.

A couple of coincidences happened on this tour. Number one, we were in Liverpool. The support band said they'd give us a lift to Nottingham, but when we went to the place at the arranged time they weren't there. Pissed, we hitched a lift and got a ride from a middle-aged couple. An hour down the road we pulled into a garage only to see the support band's van. We rapped on the door - they didn't seem over the moon to see us, but they nonetheless gave us a ride.

After that show L7 told us that they'd stick our names down for gigs in Brussels and Amsterdam. By chance we were going to Amsterdam anyway a couple of days later. We would have a day back in London before we caught the boat to Europe. We started hitch-hiking home late that night. First of all we were dropped at an awkward place and had to walk down the hard shoulder of the motorway (we were stopped by the police and my opening words were, "I know we're not supposed to be here, but..."). We arrived at an all-night service station and went to the cafe. My friend said that we should see if anyone there was driving back to London, so I picked an unassuming looking man in his 30s and asked him if he would mind dropping us off. He was really reluctant, but after a couple of minutes he said, "Well, all right." (What a cheek we had!)

As it happens he turned out to be a nice guy which, given that he was so unwilling to take us back, I'd guessed he was. After all, if he'd been too happy to give two young women a lift, I would've been a bit worried. I did most of the chatting with him and in the conversation I mentioned that my dad had just started a magazine (my dad's quite famous back home).

Well, guess what? Our driver had recently done some freelance work for my dad!

We got a lift all the way to my front door. And of course weeks later, my dad told me that he'd met someone who gave me a lift home.

Shari said...

Your stories are always so interesting, Emsk. I often feel like they should be post addendums rather than comments! I appreciate the time you take to relate them.

I'm one of those people who feel we are all linked and our energies are drawn to those of people that are in our "inner circle" (as it were). I think you approached that fellow who worked for your dad because, on some level, you detected a link. I think this also is why we feel very put off or afraid of other people who may be a danger to us. It's a sense animals act on much better than we do because they act on those energies with less interference from rationalizations (so many people talk themselves into a bad idea or out of good ones).

I think the mechanism behind this is very deep and widespread and independent of time (which I don't feel exists anyway). Of course, this cannot be "proven" necessarily but even if it could, science would find a means of rejecting any possible evidence since it is preoccupied with disapproving anything remotely metaphysical sounding.

Emsk said...

Thanks Shari. I think that some of these comments would make good stories on my own blog, but there are some things I don't feel I can say right now.

The reason I enjoy your blog so much is because it's so diverse and it inspires me not to just include Japan-related stuff on mine. I wish I could find a way to get it out to more readers though 'cos I'm not sure how to do this.

I feel a coincidences post of my own coming up soon!