Personal experience: Synchronicity and The Smell of Dead Fish

On 5/12/2011 I was working at my computer.  Just the day before I had begun a process to encourage homeowners around our local lake to clean up a good number of dead carp.  I do not live on the lake, and due to prior commitments was not planning on assisting.  But the need was there.  Over 2000 carp had died due to a disease that only carp get.  That meant that probably 3/4 of the population of the carp had died.  I had been making observations of the lake and was aware of what had happened and why.  I called a homeowner to discuss the situation, as well as to discuss other measures to keep down the carp population.  In this small lake, carp are a problem.  They are an invasive species upsetting the natural ecology of the lake.  They are one reason for the proliferation of blue-green algae, a species potentially toxic to humans, and not at all beneficial to other species that live in a lake (greatly upsetting the natural ecology).  In short, this is a shallow lake out of balance, and the invasive carp are probably one of the causes, because they have rooted out all indigenous underwater plants. In place of the indigenous plant life: blue-green algae.

I had been discussing methods to deal with the overpopulation of carp, and Nature goes ahead and kills off most of them on her own, giving us a window into what the lake might be like with fewer carp.

But the dead carp were going to rot and stink – soon.  So I agreed to e-mail an open letter to homeowners around the lake and set the process of carp clean-up into motion.

So I’m on my computer typing out the open letter, and someone e-mails me telling me that they cleaned up over 200 dead carp along their shoreline this day, and in fact the carp are already beginning to stink.  Right at that moment I began to smell dead fish.  The windows of my house were all closed, and in any case I was too far from the lake to smell rotting fish.  My first thought: I hope I’m not subconsciously giving in to an auto-hypnotic suggestion.  I couldn’t figure out the smell in my house, having been the first time smelling it.  Without more information I decided to let it go.

A few hours later, my friend Naomi comes up from the basement with some foul-smelling buckets.  It turns out she was cleaning her aquarium, and the aquarium had become unusually smelly.  That was the source of the odor.

What I find interesting is the timing, the smell in the lake and the smell in my house coinciding.  The next day the cleanup of the lake was underway, and I was coordinating the effort.

So why did the timing of the household fish-stink coincide with my reading of the e-mail report of the carp beginning to rot on the lake?  Was this event a mere coincidence or a synchronicity?  I do not feel that the event provided guidance, elevation of my consciousness, or meaning.  They just seem to happen at the same time.  And yet I was struck by the timing.

My first conclusion is that we need a new word for synchronicity.  Synchronicity, according to Carl Jung, is a meaningful coincidence.  The event seemed to be coincidental without meaning, but not merely coincidental.  The event mirrored my connection to the lake cleanup, as the hub of organization, without my needing to clean up a single fish.  The same may be said of my desire that a poorly managed aquarium does not overcome the basement.  So, perhaps this event mirrored connection, without the need to look for further meaning.   Maybe the meaning is in my connection to the events. Or, perhaps there was more to it than that: symbolic events pointing to the need for cleansing.

Recently, I heard a man on public television demonstrating qigong.  He stated: “Feel the synchronicity in your body.”  To me, that seemed like a blatant misuse of the word.  For me, synchronicity has a bit of magic in it, evidence from outside my personal consciousness of unconscious connections or surfacing intentions from behind the veil.

Perhaps my resistance to label the event as synchronicity stems from my belief that the word synchronicity has endured overuse and has been stretched into distortion.  That there are hidden connections between events seems to me to be self-evident.  Whether we are aware of it or not, I believe these hidden links (or threads) are what push at physical reality liked the roots that support a visible plant.  Sometimes those threads line up in ways that we become aware of consciously, so that we can see the connection with our own minds – viewing the linked perspectives.  Other times we miss seeing the connection.  And yet at other times we strain to make events appear linked and therefore meaningful, when they are simply coincidental.

Discrimination and clarity of perception are important because they help to remove doubt.  Personally, I’d like the word synchronicity used with more discrimination.  Or perhaps there is a scale of intensity that applies to synchronicities.

I knew the events were not simply coincidental.  Coincidence is a random lining up of events to which one just happens to become aware.  Given the sheer volume of time and reality, it seems inevitable that some events are merely coincidental.  Coincidence does not require examination.

My first impulse, therefore, was to call this an acausal connection – linked, but for no apparent reason. Then I wondered if the events were linked by a mutual intention, and therefore synchronous.  Could I have been the common ground between separate but similar processes? I was still not ready to use the label synchronicity.

Another route is to search for new descriptors.  Perhaps the concept I’m searching for in this little fish tale could be labeled as linked events, or perhaps as mirrored manifestation.  But since I’d need several more blogs to flesh out these concepts, perhaps I should just stick with synchronicity for now.

I had wanted to plant submergent plants into the lake to take advantage of the increased water clarity achieved by colder temperatures and a reduction in the carp population.  I visualized where I might initiate these pilot projects.  But I was unable to achieve permission from an overworked Department of Natural Resources.  Consequently, I did nothing.  So imagine my surprise, while kayaking on the lake, when I discovered the very aquatic plants I’d wished to plant, growing in the very places I thought to plant them.  Growing, I might add, in much greater numbers.

Another interesting outcome: some state officials had been trying to get support for a very expensive carp removal project that would have cost homeowners in the area a lot of money. Lots of money and an unpredictable outcome.  What we discovered is that the carp die out did improve water clarity.  But, as I feared, the outcome was mixed: increased water clarity produced more blue-green algae and more indigenous plant life. It’s not clear which species will win over time.  Nature had provided us with an “experiment” for free.

I want to add that I have been using shamanism in conjunction with my efforts , journeying to “best possible outcome,” which means that I admit what I don’t know and place my intention in the hands of helping spirits.


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