Have you ever been singing to yourself a song which seemed to have disappeared from the airwaves a decade ago, only to hear it mysteriously revived hours later on your favourite FM station? What are the chances?
Have you ever thought to yourself it's been a while since you've seen your favourite old movie, only to notice it on the programming grid later that week? What's with that?
Friday afternoon, I received two phone calls less than an hour apart. The first was from a neighbour who thought she was in early labour, the second was from my mother: my 94-year-old grandmother was being taken to the hospital. The wheel of life was grinding out one more rotation.
In Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator", Charlie's aged grandparents pop pills (Wonka-Vite) which peel back so many years, one of them disappears into nothingness and the other three are reduced to infancy. To solve this dilemma, Willy Wonka reveals another pill (Vita-Wonk) which can return these children to adulthood. The option exits to return the quartet to a more vibrant version of their former selves - 30-year-olds for instance - as opposed to the retirees they used to be. But no characters in the story want the grandparents without wrinkles, without stories to tell, without the hints of wisdom and dashes of grumpiness which accumulate over eighty years of life.
I sometimes imagine how nice it might be to have a do-over. Maybe I'd work harder in school, maybe I'd practice piano a little more diligently. But, then I wonder: how would that work, exactly? Would I return to elementary school with the knowledge I've already accumulated in this life? What fun would it be to have an adult’s mind yet be surrounded by elementary math and 7-year-old friends? Conversely, if I went in cold, without my current life experience, wouldn't I make the same mistakes all over again? Besides, my butterfly effect would be nullified; all the people whose lives I'd affected would have those changes reversed, for better and for worse.
I never give much thought to spiritual things. I'm a realist, peppered by a hint of cynicism and enough pre-occupation with my daily life as a parent, husband, and being my own human being to worry about whether there is meaning to the universe. If I was asked about a possible connection or energy between all living things and other entities in existence, I would instinctively answer that such a web is pure imagination and coincidence. People don't act crazier when the moon is full; we just take less notice of wackos throughout the rest of the month.
But, could there be some synergy through which newborns and those in their golden years coordinate their efforts? Is it possible there are no coincidences? What if humming my favourite song transmits human impulses to some program director miles away busy compiling a playlist for an FM station? Is it happenstance when I start thinking my wife and I are due for a date night, and hours later she suggests we organize a date night?
Maybe not. Maybe there is no cosmic energy. More likely, people who leave this earth take their energy with them, and leave behind only the accumulated consequences of their actions. And the newborns? They bring only themselves, and their ability to absorb the experiences which await them.
As for grand coincidences on a local scale, the jury is still out: the neighbour’s baby has, for the moment, changed its mind about being ready to join the world and is cuddled in her womb on this grey day, and my gramma is safely back in her bed.