Reply To: On Synchronicity and Meaning
Stephen; Shaaheda, Marianne, and Drewie; I promised you a response and my apologies for taking so long but it just could not be helped. I have been working on this entry for days and days; and I hope you know that I did not forget all of you; but this humble piece is the best I could come up with given it is still somewhat a work in progress. So; such as it is here goes. I’ll start with some various Facebook entries.
Facebook discussion about Synchronicity experience – 4/17/2021
Hey Shaaheda; I’ve been trying to figure out a way to answer some of your questions without making a huge drawn out storyline without bringing in too much excess baggage and keep this narrative from getting bogged down with minor details and still address some of your points; which in my view have extremely valid relevance to synchronistic events and themes in all our lives; so the point of your questions has not been lost on me if I’m understanding them correctly. It’s just getting all this backstory organized and present it in a way that keeps it manageable.
Your questions to me were:
“James, I loved your story but I want to know more from your perspective, as to your own psychic condition before and after the experience. Could you elaborate upon that. Did you dwell upon it for days weeks and months and still do? And the meaning in that encounter…love to hear more about your second story.”
So here is what I’m going to say and combine the above first story with the second forthcoming one in a way that should marry both. First of all I think we all carry this what I call: “The what if” narrative from childhood into adulthood because it has to do with life possibilities. You look at something and ask yourself: “What if I did this and what would happen afterward”; and we are constantly evaluating everything as we do as we go along as measured against possible outcomes and how they might affect our lives within the choices we make; or put another way what we might call life potential for fulfillment. Now you could get Jungian about this and Joseph mentions the difference between the power drive and the erotic within the main drives of the ego system and that you are either one or the other and the libido; (or psychic energy if you will); gets caught up in this struggle of back and forth for balance so that it can flow properly when enantiodromia is taking place; but that is way too technical for what we are trying to flesh out; which is why do these moments of extraordinary coincidence strike us at certain moments and what do they have to do with our life track choices; because yes; I think synchronic moments have very much to do with how all these things affect us so profoundly and make us wonder why they happened and what to do about them.
So to answer your first query; I’ve had many of these moments all my life but I just didn’t know what they were and I’ll give you an example. One day I was leaving a job that I had and as I went out the door I was trying to decide which direction I needed to go to take care of some errand or something like that and in mid stride I suddenly decided for whatever reason I should go in the other direction and changed directions. After about 4 or 5 steps I heard screeching tires and a car slammed into a wall that probably would have killed me and I was pretty shaken up after seeing this and accessing what had happened. Now what had happened was an accident caused by a drunk driver; but immediately the question arose of why all these circumstances came together and what made me change direction or I would not be typing this. One might ask is that synchronistic?; well maybe or maybe not. But the experience made a profound impression on me that my life might be determined by some mystery force and I should be aware that this mystery was always close by ready to intervene whether I was paying attention or not; for after all is not the possibility of walking out in front of something and not seeing always a possibility?; well of course just as an earthquake or lightning striking or any other phenomena occurring that; but we go on about our business just the same; yet still aware we are not always in control.
So back to how we become aware of how this mystery dimension affects our lives; and steps in at the most unexpected moment to get our attention. Throughout a good part of my life many of my choices have been influenced by this awareness that following my intuition was what I was suppose to be doing; and I think for many of us it’s a guiding force that is directed from inside our consciousness be we are not always aware of it’s presence; and Joseph talks about this mystery dimension over and over again; but in different ways; and one of these ways is what we might call a Life Track; aka “following your bliss”; that is if it’s something that’s pushing you for your own inside or what you might call your sense of existence which he talks about in his conferences he would have with his students at Sarah Lawrence.
And to answer your question Shaaheda so many of my sychronistic experiences have been related to this dynamic but I was completely unaware that these experiences were connected to this idea.
It would take way too long reconstruct completely how all these pieces of a puzzle were interconnected to where I am now; (but they most certainly were); but I can tell you a short example. Many years ago when I first started playing I ran into someone one night I had briefly met a year or two earlier that was a recording artist and he had moved away but was in town to play a concert the next night and was looking to jam with somebody for some fun. I had already finished my evenings performance and had packed up but I knew the band across the street and told to wait and I would try and set things up. Well; it was a fortuitous moment and everything fell into place and I pulled out my equipment and joined in and everyone had a great time. So when we were all about to leave he asked if I would be interested in coming to play a few songs at his performance the next night and I did. Well; just as I was about to leave he asked if I would be interested in finishing his album tour and I said of course. Here is where it starts to get interesting; he said to wait by the phone and he would call because he had to clear it with his manager. So all the next I waited and that night I decided to go out for a bit but I asked my roommate to watch the phone and take the message and number to call him back. when I returned there was no message on my door and his lights were out so I went to bed. The next morning my roommate rushed in with the call back number at his hotel and of course they had just left with no forwarding number to reach him by. Well that’s the end of that I thought and forgot all about it because there was nothing I could do anyway. Well one fine day months later around Happy Hour I decided to stop in this same place we had jammed in for a beer and someone bumped into me from behind and low and behold it was this same fellow. We both had a good laugh when I explained what had happened and he again made me the touring offer which I accepted and I toured with him for 3 different albums over the course of three years before we went our separate ways. This work was very important in that moment of my musical career for it raised my status as a sideman to a whole other level. and during this time I met another by-chance encounter that led to even more touring work. So I’m going to end the story here because it’s relevance is concerned with synchronistic possibility about which you asked.
(I’m going to add a footnote concerning the above story that underlines the significance of “meaningful chance” to this encounter that I meant to mention but I accidentally left out. The fellow that I ran into was only in town for “one day” to pickup his belongings from the place he had formally been living just outside of town. And the odds that he and I would bump into each other at that particular moment were literally as the saying goes: “a million to one”. I’ve thought about this often over the years and Joseph’s saying that: “if you follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been waiting for you all along; and people will open doors to you and the life you are living is the life you ought to be living and you can see that.” I would also add an important caveat that “bliss does not necessarily mean: “happy, happy, joy, joy all the time” but can also include great suffering for it represents as Joseph also said: “the push out of your own existance”; and this understanding represents if followed the metamorphasis out of which your life path comes to realization. Only now am I coming to realize the depth of this understanding which I will attempt to explain below.)
(The bottom two excerpts were taken from a couple of exchanges I had at the: “Friends of Central State Hospital Cemetary” Facebook website out of which a forthcoming book is being published in the coming weeks ahead.) This website was put together in efforts to raise some kind of effort at restoring the 1700 grave stones that have been removed; so that all one sees is an open field as though these people never even existed. And what prompted these exchanges was what I would definitely call: “syncronistic experiences of connection” because of their relation to my past as you will see.)
Decenber 30th, 2019
About a week or so ago I was watching the evening news covering a gathering commemorating the passing of the homeless who had died on the street. No one knew who they were; no family or friends to mourn them. And one woman being interviewed; with tears in her eyes defiantly said:
“Everyone deserves to be remembered. And although I didn’t know them; I am here on their behalf to remember them.”
This city has a long history with cemeteries located all over town where family members are laid to rest that bear reverence to those who died. Military as well as civilians have special designated cemeteries that honor the memories of those who were either killed in battle or have passed on. We even hold special memorial services with parades commemorating public military events where their lives are celebrated. Yet the most vulnerable among us whose only crime was they were sick from a mental disorder are ignored and forgotten as though they never even existed. Every life has value; every life has meaning; and the way we treat those that are helpless as individuals is a reflection of who we are as a society.
Our stories are our legacy that we leave behind that says: “We were here; this is who we were”; their stories are important too and worthy of the same respect.
First off; I want to say I how much I admire what you are doing; words like: empathy and compassion immediately come to mind; but I have a personal connection to this place that bears a special meaning for me; one that is not easy to talk about; one that holds a story very difficult to tell. I’ve been reluctant about sharing it since it involves a connection to a piece I think is very important to the history of this place; but may cause distress to some who have memories of it.
My mother was a patient off and on here for many years throughout my entire early life. And the treatment she got was sometimes very inadequate; over medication; lack of proper diagnostic care; even shock treatments. Over the years as she was admitted in and out for treatment. At one point she lost all hope; and quietly one morning slipped out the gate; took the bus downtown and went to the tallest office window she could find and ended her life. She is not buried in the hospital cemetery; but in her family’s plot.
But what I’m about to share takes this situation much deeper and involves one of the most important mental health scandals in the city’s history; and telling it may cause pain to those whose loved ones are buried there. If you find it unsuitable for what you are doing with this site; I will certainly understand a request to remove it.
About 2 years after she died the Tennessean newspaper decided to do an undercover expose’ on the unacceptable conditions that existed there. They had a young reporter named: “Frank Sutherland”; (who years later became the paper’s editor); trained to be a patient suffering from deep depression with suicidal tendencies; and under an assumed name was admitted where he stayed for a month while in touch with the paper. When he released himself; (again walking out that same front gate); he wrote about 18 articles documenting his experiences.
Those articles exploded across the front page causing the most profound uproar the city had ever experienced concerning mental health treatment. State and local legislative measures were immediately proposed and he covered the results of those efforts as they evolved. From January through February on into March the stories ran and public concern and outrage changed the public’s perception of what mental health treatment had been and what it should be.
About 1980 President Ronald Reagan signed the new Omnibus budget: (the beginning of what came later to be referred to as: “Reaganomics”; and the Federal Funding for large institutions like Central State were drastically cut back causing many of the places similar to this across the country to close down. Thousands of patients were left to survive on their own; many of them: “Vietnam Veterans”. A new word began to enter our vocabulary: “Homelessness”. I remember seeing some of these people for years sleeping on park benches and begging for food.
Central State became: “Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute”; and closed in 1995; and there were other similar institutions across the city that suffered from these cutbacks as well.
(excerpt #2 from the same above conversation)
Over the years it was always difficult for me to revisit thoughts of this place; and since each person’s story is different; mine was hard to process because of the personal trauma involved. I came by the front gate and took a couple of pictures of it in 1992 when it was still in existence as the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute; but when I came back recently to take a few more current shots I was staggered by what I saw; nothing left; nothing of what was once there; it was though it never existed. I was stunned; I drove into the Dell complex and could not believe what I was looking at. The Central State complex had been like a small city that was almost completely self-contained; a little world unto itself.
When I would go to see my mother we would walk around the grounds and she would describe some of the things that were there. When she would come home for a visit there was always the sad moment when we had to take her back. She had periods where she was well enough to go back to work and raise her family; but always the deep debilitating Depression would return and she would have to go back for treatment; (which was not very successful); read the expose’ included earlier for insights into why this was the case for so many people who were treated there).
Seeing the entry gate house again all nicely manicured instead of the natural foliage that previously enclosed it; only underlined the starkness of the total transformation that had taken place. And except for the new historical placard recently put next to it; you had no way of knowing when looking at it; what had previously existed there before.
She was usually housed in the newer Hauk building instead of the much older ones in the surrounding campus; but when visiting you could not help but notice the large number of people who were in residence crisscrossing each other with their families on visiting days. It was a huge place in constant movement; but one you were glad to leave when returning home; (hopefully with your loved one).
Over the years experiences that I had were directly linked to another place where I myself had lived for 5 and a half years that also had a huge connection to my mothers placement in the above institution and her later tragic death which put me on this road that I will try and explain which is why it has taken me so long to assemble a response to the above topic of “synchronistic meaningful chance”; for it was these experiences that told me I was following my own “Bliss Journey” but that I did not know what was pushing me from inside at the time. And it is only recently when I visited this former place and saw it completely demolished that I came to understand the realtionship of what I experienced there along with my mother’s death that I was able to assemble all the various pieces of this life puzzle into a comprehensible and explainable whole. (It’s still ragged but it will have to do for now.)
Mother’s Day has always been a particularly difficult time for me to celebrate because her suicide had been on May Day and of course Mother’s Day follows in close succession. And when my mother passed because we were so close I usually tried to block all this past history out.
Well; after getting more familiar with Joseph’s and Jung’s themes over time I began to realize these things you repress will begin to resurface and demand attention and all of your powerful earlier experiences will need to be assimilated in a different way and in some way re-introducted and “integrated” from their earlier repressed state or they will continue to manifest into a more darker aspect of the shadow.
One of the things that keeps coming back to me is where Joseph mentions along this line in my own words is this realization of: (that which you embrace will inform you and enrich you; but that which you deny will destroy you. And this embrace of the shadow; or your dragon if you will; takes on a difference tone of which instead of threatening you will show you in some kind of way how your difficulties may actually be your saviors in a different way.) And over time I have been able to come to terms with many of these experiences and understand that without them I would not been able to become the person I am now. We are not talking about perfection and enlightenment in the way of a sage; but that if we are able to recognize and assililate our shadow’s dark experiences a change begins to take place within the psyche that brings the “senex/crone” archetype into play; and the path you are on is not one of accomplishment; but of “meaning” which is the “marga path”; or that of the animal path that is followed back to it’s den which represents the human heart.
So in essence it is only now that I’m coming to realize that all of those earlier experiences were part of a larger mosiaic that brought me to where I am now.
(I will stop here for now since this entry could become much larger and is already becoming quite unwieldly. Hopefully it makes some kind of sense in relation to the above discussion we are having about: “Synchronicity and Meaning”. Sorry this took so long; it’s the best I can do for now.)