Anyone out there read this crazy article? Setting aside all talk of near-death experiences and the human soul, I want to talk about something as…deserving of skepticism: monopsychism (popularly referred to as the collective unconscious, though that really means something else.) In brief, the belief that all of life has a shared communion with a sort of world consciousness.
It’s the stuff of New Age pamphlets handed out at the local mall by a middle-aged lady in a Sari. But, along with ghost stories, it’s also the stuff of, “Yeah, I’ve got a story like that, this one time […]” Usually these stories involve the synchronicity of friends’ thoughts, occasionally on opposite coasts. Some stories even claim that synchronicity between strangers, though these are more dubious than the former—why wouldn’t like-minded friends think exactly alike on rare occasions? Of course, I have my story too, of the former variety, and it’s one I have a hard time not giving credence to.
In short, my father is a “Serious Record Collector” (any Fanfare Magazine readers out there?) with a classical music collection that’d last around 50 days of straight, mind-shattering listening (upwards of 1000 albums if you’re wondering.) And while there’s a fair amount of repeat repertoire, that’s still a substantial amount of music.
That’s maybe half of his collection (the rest is scattered on bookshelves and in boxes.) I have maybe half of his total collection imported to my iTunes library, but the half that’s missing I’ve replaced with as much popular music. With that amount of music to choose from, the odds of deciding to listen to the same piece of music within a day of each other (or less) should be rather astronomical. In fact, it’s one in a million: (1/1,000) x (1/1,000) = (1/1,000,000). Despite that, the number of times I have returned home for a visit, only to discover my father listing to the same piece I’d listened to earlier that day is, frankly, absurd. We’re probably talking 5% of the time, or 1 out of every 20 visits.
For instance, I’ll be at work and think, “I haven’t listened to Mahler’s 9th Symphony in a while.” I listen to it, lovin’ every second. Next day, I head up for a weekend with the folks. Late in the evening, my dad puts on Mahler’s 9th, the very same recording at that. Of Mahler alone there are 15 works we both have in our libraries (most all with multiple recordings), so it’s not as though we were both just in the mood for Mahler. And this happens all the time, has even happened with such prolific composers as Beethoven and Brahms.
It’s important to remember that this synchronicity only takes my perspective into account. How many times did the opposite occur, he listen to a piece the day before me? How often when we’re apart does this synchronicity take place? It also bears mentioning that these occasions are never instances of me scrolling through my iPod and picking something at random. It is always that the music pops into my head untriggered and I have to listen to said music to sate the earworm. And then, of course, my dad is afflicted by the same earworm.
And you can’t simply chalk it up to cues in the environment, because our environments barely overlap—we frequent different pages of the internet, he doesn’t watch any TV shows or movies, we read different books, have different jobs, different friends and lifestyles. And since much of classical music is absolute (without programme) and completely auditory, it’s even harder to imagine shared cues.
And that’s what gets me seriously considering that the collective unconscious exists.
But I refuse to believe in a truly unified, single consciousness—it’s not as if the whole world sits down and listens to Mahler’s 9th. But maybe, just maybe, my father and I are connected at a level beyond the confines of our body, beyond the confines of the atomic universe. No scientist knows what exists beyond the quantum state, it’s all mere conjecture. So perhaps my father and I have a quantum connection unboundaried by time and space. An intimate connection where he and I occasionally tap into each other’s thoughts through the medium of the quantum universe; that the thought occurs in some microtubule of mine, and that quantum vibration triggers a synchronous quantum vibration in one of my father’s microtubules.
Perhaps that is what intense love and friendship is. A bonding of quantum states, a sharing of minds, a foundational unity between two distinct persons. When we are around our partner, or even thinking of them, the insular self dissolves to a degree, and we expand out into the vastness that is the collective other.
Actually, I feel that way when I experience love, a warm and comforting dissolution outwards. Also, from what I’ve read, this is how people experience LSD. Which, incidentally, is how others describe near-death experiences. Which is what this article was trying to argue…
But I ain’t convinced about souls and the afterlife. That’s all wish-fulfillment (and a bad wish at that.) No, it’s about love, wonderful love.
P.S. If any of my readers have ever tried LSD, please let me know if this rings any bells.
P.S.S. Would it be tacky of me to seek a drug-connect through my blog?