Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Power of Coincidence

So, I've had this little snippet of classical music stuck in my head for months now with no idea what it actually was.  It might have been something I heard on the radio years ago, but it also might have been background music for a commercial or something else like that.  I suspected it might be something by Bach, but that was the best I could do.  It was really driving me crazy, especially since I could only remember the first few bars and really wanted to hear the rest.

Well, last night I went to my weekly choir rehearsal (yes, I sing in a small a capella choir that specializes in Renaissance music) and asked our director, Jay, if he had any idea what this tune was (obviously, it helps that I can actually sing).  He thought about it and said it might possibly be from Bach's "Italian Concerto".  That's a piece I've heard of, but don't recall ever actually listening to, so I told him I'd look it up on Youtube later and let him know.

After rehearsal, I got into my car and headed home.  The radio was tuned to WCRB (classical music), and literally the first thing I hear upon starting the car was, "Up next, Bach's 'Italian Concerto.'"  Cue the "Twilight Zone" music (doo-dee-doo-doo, doo-dee-doo-doo).  The first movement didn't sound particularly familiar, and neither did the second movement.  When the third movement started playing, though, shivers shot up and down my spine as I heard the exact same snippet of music that had been running through my head for months and that I had just asked my director about.  What an amazing coincidence!  I mean, I can't even begin to calculate the odds of it happening the way it happened, but they must be astronomical to the point where it couldn't have happened just by chance.  Except, of course, that it did happen just by chance.

Later that evening, I began to think more about my experience and started wondering what my reaction would have been had I previously taken some action that could somehow be interpreted as triggering this event.  What if, say, I had read a fortune cookie at the Chinese restaurant where I usually eat lunch and it had said something like, "Today, you will find the answer to your question."  Or, what if I had visited a fortune teller who told me that today was going to be my lucky day?  Well, I probably would have still chalked it up to just an amazing coincidence.  But, what if I were still religious and had prayed to God to please, please, help me figure out what this tune was before it drove me crazy?  And then I had this amazing coincidence happen?  Hmmmmm...

Growing up surrounded by theists, all my life I have heard so-called "faith promoting stories" that people have used to justify their faith.  Yes, I'm sure that some of those stories are complete fabrications, but I'm willing to accept that most of them are totally sincere and reflect instances where somebody prayed about something and then had something inexplicably amazing happen to them, something so bizarre that it couldn't possibly have been just a coincidence.  Or maybe they didn't even pray about something, but knew that whatever happened must have been because God was rewarding them for being faithful, or sending them a message, or whatever.  After all, what other possible explanation could there be?

OK, so maybe in the great scheme of things my little brush with coincidence wasn't all that earth-shattering.  Maybe it's not so bizarre as it seemed to me and stuff like this actually happens all the time.  Regardless, it seemed bizarrely inexplicable to me at the time and it gave me an appreciation as to why people are so willing to think that experiences such as this provide evidence (if not absolute proof) of whatever type of supernatural beliefs they hold.  Of course, since I'm using this experience to reinforce my non-belief in the supernatural, I suppose you could call this a "faith demoting story"...