Lately, I’ve been thinking about the concept of synchronicity. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (such as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality.”
Or, as Carl Jung put it, “a meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved.” My favorite description comes from a Psychology Today blog: when “the universe winks and nods at you.”
For example, a song you haven’t heard or thought of in ages suddenly pops into your head for no apparent reason. Humming the tune, you get into your car, turn the key in the ignition and that very song is playing on the radio. This has happened to me more than once. Sure, the fact that I work for (and therefore listen to) a classic rock station might have skewed the odds, but still, when it happens, I try to pay attention to what the universe is singing through my car radio.
I was recently invited to participate in a virtual storytelling festival sponsored by the City and County of Honolulu. The event’s theme was “Ho’omau: to continue.” For several days, I mulled over the stories in my repertoire, but none of them seemed an ideal match for the theme.
As I looked over my bookshelf for ideas, my eyes fell upon an old favorite: “Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories,” edited by Florence Sakade. First published in 1953, this is the first book I remember owning. The one on my shelf is not the same copy given to me by my mother; I’m not sure when or how I lost the original, but when I saw the familiar title at Barnes & Noble a few years ago, I had to purchase it. This copy is from its 52nd printing and contains the same illustrations by Yoshisuke Kurosaki that enchanted me nearly 60 years ago.
I picked three stores from this book, all of which matched the festival’s “Ho’omau” theme. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough space here to tell any of them, but after all, today’s column is more about synchronicity than continuity.
It took me about a week to write my versions of these classic folk tales, mostly because I spent so much time relishing each page, revisiting not just my childhood, but also my son’s. I remembered reading this book aloud to him, and how he delighted in the Kurosaki paintings as deeply as I had.
After recording and uploading my stories for the festival, I felt as though I had just returned from a wonderful adventure, like Alice emerging from the rabbit hole. Reluctant to bring the sentimental journey to an end, I kept the book at my bedside for another few nights before finally tucking it back into the shelf.
When I awoke the next morning, my phone was blinking with a message alert. My eldest granddaughter, who lives in Michigan, often calls or texts in the middle of the (my) night, forgetting about the time difference between us.
Apparently, Lilly had been down memory lane herself. She had found a long-forgotten gift from my mother and wanted to show it to me. The first photo she sent was of a handwritten message, obviously on the inside cover of a book. It was dated July 1, 2003, and read “For Lilly, From G’ma Yogi . . . I hope you enjoy the stories as much as I did . . . xxxooo”
The second photo was of the book cover: “Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories.”
Naturally, I again pulled out my copy, took a photo of the cover and texted it back to Lilly, along with a brief version of the story I just related to you. She replied, “Crazy!!!”
I suppose “crazy” is as good a word as any for synchronicity. And the universe continues to wink and nod.
* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every other Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.