Coincidence and Anna Z

Sometimes life seems to meet itself coming around a corner… where an incident occurs which relates to an idea or concept that you’ve been thinking about; working on; that’s been occupying your mind.

I’ve been finding this a lot recently. It’s almost as if there’s matter amassing around your head, like a magnetic cloud, which appears to attract other instances of this concept that has assumed a different form.

And it doesn’t only seem a coincidence. There are many theories of time coalescing and forming in different patterns: chaos theory; the butterfly effect; periodic orbits.

The theory of periodic orbits (Robert L Devaney) posits that time itself is cyclical in the way that a snail’s shell is, so that you come to similar occurrences over a number of years, which are however marked in some way as different – a different size, shape, patterning, or perspective – which means that the incident itself builds on its parallel that existed before, resulting in the end in the formation of something new, something that has been created as a ‘thing’, only because you have noted the parallel incidents and thus built them up and constructed them to create a recognizable form.

From a statistical perspective, coincidences are inevitable and often less remarkable than they may appear intuitively. Mathis says that an example of this is ‘the birthday problem’, where the probability of two individuals sharing a birthday within a group of 23 people already exceeds 50 per cent (

Carl Jung was particularly interested in the idea that a given set of coincidences is a form of synchronisity: that the experience of events is causally unrelated, yet individuals group them together by their meaning. Since ‘meaning’ is a complex mental construction, the grouping of events is siginifcant only to the person observing the events. The percieved ‘meaning’ suggests the existence of a ‘deeper order’, where the individual is both embedded in an orderly framework and is the focus of that orderly framework.

Recently one such coincidence occurred to me, which prompted this deeper level of interest in the idea.

I am about to go on a ‘family history’ trip, to travel to Hungary, where my father is from, to find out more about my grandparents. We will be staying with my father’s cousins, who I have never met and only some of whom he has met, in a small village of approximately 800 people near the Austrian border. This village is so small that we are staying in a nearby larger village, Gyor, whose population is approximately 130,000.

About a month ago I was a first-time participant in a voluntary tree planting group, which was holding an event to attract more people to engage in the activity. There were about 80 of us who turned up on a crisp beautiful winter’s day, in the hills about 90mins out of Melbourne proper. We were encouraged to plant in pairs, and rotate partners so that we would plant a ‘tree per person’. Given the average planting time this meant we were able to meet approximately 20 new people throughout the day.

As part of this rotation I met woman named Anna Z. Anna Z was herself half Hungarian, and 20 years earlier had traveled to Hungary to find out more about her own father, who came to Australia just after the war, and had died when Anna Z was in her youth.

As it transpired, Anna Z’s father had grown up near Gyor, had left Hungary the year before my own grandfather, had come to Melbourne via the same Italian port, and had settled in the same country town as my grandfather.

I was blown away that Anna Z’s father had partaken on a journey so similar to my own grandfather’s. Had Anna Z’s father known my grandfather? And how was it that I met Anna Z so soon before departing for my own investigative experience, which would mirror Anna Z’s not only via the nature of the quest, but also as because of the similarity of experiences that Anna Z’s father had to my grandfather.

What events had passed that resulted in meeting Anna Z? Was it purely a coincidence that I decided to go tree planting on that Saturday? Is it enough to think that my own magnetic cloud of thoughts of Hungary and my family that swirls around my head gathering momentum attracted me to this activity and this location on this particular day, to plant with this particular woman.

It would be nice to think that meeting Anna Z was an event caused by the ripples and changes of my thought process emitted into the universe – it makes me feel special, significant, and part of a ‘deeper order’. But perhaps I am essentially assigning a form to causally unrelated events; shaping this experience so that it reflects my own thoughts; and thus creating meaning and validation of the significance of my trip.

Emily Hollosy