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Synchronicity

A synchronicity is a meaningful coincidence. Synchronistic events manifest ideas in real-world experiences. The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung coined the phrase almost 100 years ago as a description of the law of attraction and manifestation. You've probably experienced it: You think of someone and that person calls you within minutes of the thought; you continue to see the same number or image in different situations; the funnies have a theme running through unrelated comic strips that aren't tied to current events. These events come in all levels of relevance, from circumstances that led to a tragedy or prevented one, or from a simple curiosity to some of the most brilliant realizations that turned theories into usable practices. Maybe you've experienced it in the process of design. Have you ever worked on a design problem with no progress, and then something you weren't looking for—something unexpected outside your research and in the most unlikely place—suddenly appears and either leads you to or is perfect as the solution? Granted, this doesn't happen often, but it does happen from time to time. These are the gifts of synchronicity. Pay attention to and appreciate them when they occur.

You spend a lot of time following a thread: an email conversation, a sequential line of thought, and a step-by-step task list. There's a reason for that: It gets the job done. Tasks become more manageable when broken down into bits. Just think of the number crunching your laptop does when it's figuring out all of the complex connections it has to make to transform your inspiration into a final piece of design.

Or look at the source code on any HTML Web page, and you'll see the framework of letters and symbols that string technology together. When programmed well, the "skin" appears fluid and effortless as a final result, due to millions of tiny connecting configurations that are responsible for its creation. Thousands of pieces of code bring a comprehensible Web site into being or can create amazingly complex digital illustrations (Figure 1.11). Unless you're a Web developer, you don't delve into these details, much in the same way you don't think about the physical organization of cells, muscles, and skeleton as the underlying structure of who you are. You take your skin at face value.

Figure 1.11

1.11 The Sand Traveler is created with an open source programming language called Processing, and it is made up of 1,000 traveling particles, each in pursuit of another. Over time, patterns of travel are exposed as sweeping paths of color that coalesce into a synchronistic expression of organized art. Jared Tarbell, 2004.

People are connected by more than physical parts, as quantum mechanics is beginning to describe. This is the difference between the machines that are designed and the amazing composite of matter and energy that people are. You can't actually trace or find all of the bits, or understand how they connect you to the intangible that inspires you, but somehow they find each other, connect, and result in something miraculous that was previously invisible. Coincidence is very much a part of everyday life, but it takes awareness to notice it. With the understanding that everything in the world is connected with varying degrees of separation, coincidence could be considered a word that simply describes a connection more remote than others.

When you are sensitive and proactive with synchronicities, they connect you in unexpected ways with alignments that are important to you. As designers, one of the most gratifying things you can do is apply your skills to work that is personally meaningful. In the following story, David Berman tells of how his personal family history, his passion for design and ethics, and an unexpected commemorative project in his home country of Canada came together and synchronistically combined circumstances in a dramatically poignant result.

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