Take a Sad Song

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone,
“it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
Through the Looking Glass

I must not be in my masterful mode today.  I think synchronicity is the word I want, but lose my nerve and look up the definition.  Always a mistake.

Synchronicity is a concept developed by psychologist Carl Jung
to describe a perceived meaningful coincidence.
Tech Target

Dagnab it.  That’s not exactly it.  I’m not perceiving any meaningfulness in this coincidence — I get that what’s going on is happening in me, not in the outside world — I’m just taking meaning from it for me.  

So I dare the rabbit hole and try Google’s reverse word-look-up feature: What word means “taking meaning from repeated coincidental events”?

Baader-Meinhof is the phenomenon
where one stumbles upon some obscure piece of information
—often an unfamiliar word or name—
and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly.
Damn Interesting

But that’s not exactly it either.  I’m definitely encountering the same subject again, but it’s not exactly obscure content, wouldn’t you agree?

Oh.  Sorry.  You really have no idea what I’m on about, do you?  Let me ‘splain.

Seth Godin’s blog this week included a fabulous piece repurposing the “garbage in, garbage out” rule.

It’s one thing to make a sports car
that runs beautifully on smooth roads, perfect tires and premium gas,
but it’s a triumph of engineering to make one that runs beautifully all the time.
Avoiding the GIGO trap

His proposed new mantra?

Garbage in, gorgeous out.

And look what I already had on my desktop!  (If you’re not a Christian or even not much of anything, don’t be put off by the Jesus talk: You don’t have to believe in Jesus to have this knock your socks off.)

What Jesus did in his passion and death
was to transform bitterness and division
rather than to retransmit them and give them back in kind:

He took in hatred . . . and gave back love.
He took in bitterness . . . and gave back graciousness.
He took in curses . . . and gave back blessing.
He took in paranoia . . . and gave back big-heartedness.
He took in murder . . . and gave back forgiveness.

– Ron Rolheiser (edited for length; read the whole thing here)

Now if that isn’t “garbage in, gorgeous out,” I’m my Aunt Matilda.  And I don’t have an Aunt Matilda.

But I’m still looking for the right word for my experience of linking these two inputs, so I scan down the search results.

Serendipity:
the faculty or phenomenon
of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for
–  Merriam Webster

Now that’s nice: emphasizing the delight in unexpectedly finding something valuable, reinforced by finding it in more than one place.  OK, I may have added a few bits to the strict definition, but I’m feeling more masterful by the moment.

Anyway, maybe it wasn’t entirely “not sought for.”  Maybe I was searching.  Because as soon as I linked the first two, my subconscious offered me a third.

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better.
Paul McCartney

So there it is: however phrased, however framed, definitely a valuable thing.

 

10 Comments

  1. Tom Watson

    Interesting reflection, Isabel.

    What does anything mean, really? It is just what we have adapted it to mean in our time, and is that variable over time so that at some other point it will mean something different?

    A simple example would be the word “cool.” When I was young the word referred to the temperature of something. Still does in some senses, but when the word is spoken in these latter times it generally has to do with whether something is “in vogue” and “pleasing.”

    Just last night I went to the Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto to see the play “Orlando,” based on the 1928 Virginia Woolf novella by that name. The play certainly requires the contemplation of the change in meaning over time, including what it means to be human.

    Tom

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Tom – Yes, words change their meaning over time, that’s for sure. I admit to looking for the “authority” of a sizable speech community instead of just my own misapprehension, though!

  2. Jim Taylor

    Synchronicity, serendipity, baader-meinhof (can you imagine baader-meinhof-ing or -ism?) — all big words beloved by people who flaunt their oversize vocabularies. I think you’re looking for “something that opens my eyes to something I hadn’t seen before and now that my eyes are open I suddenly see it all the time everywhere.” Or, “like falling in love.” No?
    Jim T
    P.S. Try syzygy

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim – Yes. I’d put syzygy in the large-vocabulary category, along with synchronicity and such, but its secondary, simple meaning of “a pair of connected or corresponding things” works pretty well.

  3. I’m with Barbara, but it’s not New Age, it’s in the fabric of the Judeo-Christian experience. To live in the kind of isolation I have experienced and to have information arrive through a book someone thinks you might like or a newspaper clipping that an Aunt Matilda has noticed or for a new doctor to show up in your remote village who happens to have had experience with your relatively rare illness are signs that you are not alone in the universe and that some inconceivable power is guiding you.

    I was 66 before the entire direction of my life became visible to me on the day I recognized that Daniel’s Focused Listening was making him “more left-brained.” Everything, but everything, in my life came to fruition at that moment. Seth’s mantra applies: everything dreadful I had experienced funneled into a marvelous, important discovery. I realized that I had been on a journey that was not really of my own making. I had not been conscious of where that road was headed, except that verses of scripture sometimes would promise impossible things to me that seemed nevertheless true, and I wrote a poem or two and painted some pictures that suggested something “stellar” would happen.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Laurna – “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” And so it is for everyone, I think.

  4. Barry

    I wonder where my mind was? I had a totally different connection when I read “Baader-Meinhof”.

    “The considerably catchier sobriquet Baader-Meinhof phenomenon was invented in 1994 by a commenter on the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ online discussion board, who came up with it after hearing the name of the ultra-left-wing German terrorist group twice in 24 hours.”

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Barry – Yes, it’s funny how some phrases catch the popular imagination, and some don’t. Baader-meinhof is a tricky one, I think, because it gives the uninitiated no helpful clue as to what it’s about. At least a regular word often has cognates that help us guess the meaning.

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