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January 21, 2006

'The most painful coincidence in recorded history'


William Grimes of the New York Times was both judge and jury.

    His citation, as it appeared in yesterday's paper:

    The award for the most painful coincidence in recorded history must go to the poet Simon Armitage, who chanced upon a used copy of a book of his poems in a trash bin outside a thrift store.

    On the title page was the following inscription, in his own handwriting: "To Mum and Dad."

Those were the concluding sentences of Grimes' mostly bemused review of a new book entitled "Beyond Coincidence: Amazing Stories of Coincidence and the Mystery and Mathematics Behind Them."

I must say that when I happen on a signed copy of one of my books in Amazon's used bookstore I do wince a bit: at my signing at the local Barnes & Noble it wasn't as if they were stacked high and moving fast.

And that's an understatement.

Oh, well, what can you do?

Write another one, I guess.

Might happen: with me you just never know.

Anything that attempts to demystify coincidence, fate and chance always gets my attention, for one simple reason: I have long believed that coincidence is a glimpse of the scaffolding underlying the fabric of reality.

Only as long as everyone agrees not to look underneath at the same time will we continue to have consensus and keep things more or less predictable.

When I was in college I made up a little poem that reflected my thinking, both then and still today.

It goes like this:

    Fate and chance,
    Chance and fate.
    Who knows
    Whose lives
    They await?

January 21, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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