A Coincidence of Strange: Is There Synchronicity in the Recent Alignment of Luther Strange, Doctor Strange, Dr. Strangelove & Taking a Knee?
Synchronicity is the word Carl Jung coined to describe meaningful coincidence. In his lexicon, coincidence was meaningful when contents from your unconscious mind (dreams) lined up in an unmissable and non-causal way with events in your waking life. Bottom line: When this happens, you should pay attention. The Universe may be trying to tell you something.
The word synchronicity has been thrown around a lot since Jung’s time. I’m not sure anyone really understands it. Even Jung’s thinking on the subject evolved over time, and he offered more than one definition. Nevertheless, it’s become a catchphrase for almost any series of coincidences, which seem to connect daily life with the paranormal or extrasensory perception (ESP). Synchronicity is even the name of a chart-topping song and the title of the 1983 Album of the Year by The Police, which in 2009 was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
What I’m going to describe here is probably not Jungian synchronicity in the classic sense (whatever that is). But rather, a coincidence of strange.
Last week, I finally got around to watching the Benedict Cumberbatch movie version of Doctor Strange. As comic book movies go, it wasn’t bad. Since I’m new to the story, I was surprised and intrigued by its background idea that an ongoing battle between good and evil is taking place all the time just on the other side of everyday life. It’s not a new concept, as any philosophy or theology undergrad will tell you.
But if it is true that we are influenced by an eternal conflict on the other side of an invisible veil, then the question arises: What must our role be? Are we the mere playthings of Fate? Or does our role consist primarily of aligning our thoughts with one side or the other? Or even to go one step further, as Rumi suggests, to that field beyond duality where ideas of right and wrong have no meaning? "When the soul lies down in that grass," he tells us, "the world is too full to talk about."
At the present moment in our history, the forces of light and darkness appear to be fighting their endless battle at the edge of a precipice, which threatens to bring about the dystopian reality too many people think about and even seem to hope for these days. So maybe that's why Doctor Strange struck a fresh chord with me as the idea of strange reverberated in the observable world.
For one thing, there was the Alabama senate candidacy of Luther Strange, who was favored by the current occupant of the Oval Office and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to fill the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he was appointed Attorney General. As you must know by now, POTUS 45 traveled to Alabama on Friday, September 22, to campaign for Strange. It was during that visit that DJT made his infamous remarks about athletes who “take a knee” during the national anthem. His comments included the decidedly un-presidential phrase, “fire the son-of-a-bitch.”
Mr. Strange lost the election a few days later to his conservative GOP opponent, Roy Moore, after which the president deleted his tweets in support of the loser. Tweets like: “Luther Strange has been shooting up in the Alabama polls since my endorsement. Finish the job — vote today for 'Big Luther.'” Strange, isn’t it, that the state of Alabama, which supported DJT in the 2016 presidential election delivered him this particular defeat?
But not as strange as the present moment in American race relations and nuclear armament. If you’ve been watching the news, you don’t need me to provide a rehash here. Instead, I’ll just share with you a few items of interest, which are part of the overall configuration of the moment, the passing strangeness of what looks like synchronicity when you gaze through the kaleidoscope long enough to glimpse whatever it is the Universe may be trying to tell us.
1) Going undercover in the Alt-Right. This is a hilarious but incredibly serious and perceptive TED Talk by Theo E.J. Wilson (also known as Lucifury), which offers among other brilliant thoughts: "Once you let go of your racist identity and latch on to your humanity--all your problems go away." It's worth your time. His brief talk reveals biases on both sides of the widening political and cultural spectrum.
2) Dallas Sportscaster, Dale Hansen in this three-minute monologue about the president's response to "taking a knee," which has gone viral.
3) This scene from Doctor Strangelove, the famous Stanley Kubrick movie about the insanity of nuclear war.
4) To round out this strange coincidence of strange, why not consider this beautiful James Earl Jones recitation of Othello’s famous defense before the senate, in which the term passing strange (which means incredibly, unbelievably strange) was unforgettably relegated to literary history by William Shakespeare:
In the midst of all this strangeness, the configuration of the present moment also asks us to revisit the sad history of the Vietnam War. Once again, images from that terrible time light up our TV screens—this time in High Definition. Documentarian Ken Burns told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that he makes these award-winning films because he's optimistic. He holds fast to the conviction that if we understand the incalculable cost of war alongside its causes, we will do anything to prevent it.
His remarks remind me of the closing pages of Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness and the final chapter of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. No one who reads those books can walk away untouched by the folly of violent excess. Unfortunately, as both novels make clear, the same old lessons must be learned all over again by each new generation that comes bursting into the drawing room, radiant with ignorance.
Tis strange, passing strange. Isn't it?
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