I’m hesitating launching into this as a topic, because I haven’t got my head entirely straight around what I want to say. But it’s a topic that I’ll be coming back to repeatedly over the coming weeks, and I’m hoping that something will crystallise from it beside just a bunch of stories.
Coincidences and Consequences fascinate me. To my mind, they’re two parts of the same puzzle, sections of the timeline.
I’m going to have to define terms. I’m not using dictionary definitions, I’m going to try to explain what I mean by these terms in the context of these posts.
Coincidence: what we observe when a series of (potentially unrelated) actions come together to create an identified outcome. Once the coincidence is identified, you can trace the threads back to see how you arrived at the point, but you couldn’t start with the individual threads and anticipate the coming together. The actions are traceable to the point of the coincidence once the coincidence is identified. Slight variations would have resulted in the coincidence not occurring or not being recognised.
Consequence: the results of deliberate or chance action which determine the course of future events, and where that course of events could have been significantly altered by a different choice, action or even randomness. Actions are traceable from a point. This is the “What If?” of the road not taken.
There’s not necessarily a direct link between these two except that, based on those definitions, there’s the potential for a singularity, a single point in time where the coincidence reveals itself and the consequences start to branch.
There are a thousand places these posts can go (look: consequences already), and that’s part of the challenge I’m setting myself here – can I hold the lines together without the subject spinning randomly away from me?
I have a few stories of both coincidence and consequence to share, but I’d be interested in hearing any more. I’d also draw readers’ attention to the Cambridge Coincidences Collection where Professor David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University has been inviting the public to record coincidences for some time. Professor Spiegelhalter’s specialism appears to be statistics and probability, and I think this is where the collection began – literally trying to answer the question, “What are the chances of that?” But by now it may just be a place to record interesting stories of coincidence, and I’ll be adding mine to his list as I go along.
Along the way I’ll touch on movies like Magnolia (which is all about coincidence) and Sliding Doors (consequence: different threads based on a seemingly random binary decision), as well as Alan Ayckbourn’s Intimate Exchanges plays. But mostly it will be about stories from my experience, and hopefully from yours too.
I hope you’ll stay with me.