The Daily Note (10.24)
Serendipity, synchronicity--and swords . . .
I don’t want readers to think I do nothing but watch television! In fact, I rarely “watch” anything on television—but I often have TV content in the ether, so to speak. Some people like to have music in the background, but for me, music requires a lot of emotional attention.
So for ambience, I prefer words. Information, discussion, and sometimes well-worn stories. My soundtrack for household chores and any kind of rote work (reorganizing files, fiddling with data, scheduling posts, cleaning up email, etc., etc.) is a mashup that includes, for example:
MSNBC (especially Nicole Wallace’s Deadline White House) and CNN (especially Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources)
Star Trek (various incarnations—I love the reboot but also like to revisit the classics, especially TOS and VOY)
Melvyn Bragg’s “In Our Time” podcast (intellectual chit-chat on a variety of topics—I’ll write more about this fantastic resource in another post)
Ghost Whisperer (further comments coming soon)
And of course Days of Our Lives—the last remaining old-school soap opera
I suppose that’s an un-asked-for glimpse into both my imagination and my daily life. But it’s also a bit of background on how serendipity operates for me. Like the little girl in Poltergeist, I get messages from the TV.
In fact, as reported recently in the story about Tarot on Have Gun, Will Travel, I have an actual Over-the-Air television that gathers information out of the actual “aether,” and processes same for audio-visual presentation. I also have a PC laptop, an iPad, and a PC desktop—so no lack of places for streaming content to be displayed.
Similar physics, after all.
And if we suppose that serendipity and synchronicity exist, it seems they might make use of these (pun intended) “channels.”
That calls for a distinction between two terms that are used almost interchangeably, but are quite different in both etymology and implication. According to Oxford Languages, the word “serendipity” was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754, taken from “The Three Princes of Serendip,” a fairy tale in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”
Which is pretty much my every day.
“Synchronicity,” on the other hand, is defined by Merriam-Webster as “coincidental occurrence of events, and especially psychic events, that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality.”
A couple of things here. First, the word “coincidence” originally (1600s) meant things that happen at the same time with no apparent connection. But over time, it has come to signify things that happen at the same time with no connection. As in “mere” coincidence, “just” a coincidence, and so on.
I usually write out the word to indicate its constituent parts: co-incidence. Which simply means “falling together,” and leaves room for the possibility of underlying connections.
Second, Jung appropriated the word “synchronicity” (which had already been in use for a while) as a way of describing meaningful or non-random co-incidences.
I keep “serendipity” and “synchronicity” straight in my own mind by remembering that serendipity occurs in a linear way (one thing leads to another), while synchronicity is non-linear—a set of things occurring simultaneously.
Now back to my TV life . . .
This morning I saw a quick spot on the underwater discovery of a 900-year-old sword, probably used during the Crusades. The story was all over Twitter, of course, and I might have seen it there—but I might not have. So it was delivered directly to my attention via television.
Taking that to heart, I’ve incorporated the story into today’s Note. A super-simple Tarot connection is obvious: sword/Swords. But here’s a deeper (pun intended) dive:
Having spent centuries lying on the Mediterranean seabed, the sword is encrusted with marine organisms that have turned to stone. So it is now a blend of metal and rock/earth, transmuted by water/salt. In short—an alchemical working.
As a consequence of starting out in Italy, Tarot’s suited component inherited the so-called “Latin” (Italian and Spanish) iconography: Cups, Swords, Batons, Coins. These have much in common with designs from Islamic decks (see a summary from Sherryl E. Smith) that were produced during a period in which the military class took on greater social status, and transmitted through trade along the silk Road.
The European assimilation of these suit designs took place in a cultural period strongly influenced by the Crusades, a series of military ventures in which Christians attempted to “reclaim” territory occupied by Muslims in the so-called Holy Lands. These activities took place mainly between 1095 and 1410—setting the stage for our earliest examples of Tarot imagery.
By now, most people don’t carry swords except at a Renaissance Faire, so we have effectively lost our awareness of swords as weapons. The suit of Swords is interpreted in a variety of ways (mostly based on elemental associations) but is rarely recognized for its roots as an instrument of violence—or as a symbol of the military class in feudal society.
I’m way past the three-minute mark for today, so will pick up again tomorrow with some other messages from the airwaves.
By the way—in his ironic PoMo Tarot, Brian Williams made the “weapons” point by changing Swords to Guns. And Wands became TV sets, so there you are!
Thanks for reading. C