Friday, April 1, 2011


Probably the most influential book I have read in my entire 61 years is the Richard Wilhelm translation of the Chinese I Ching (Book of Changes), which includes an Introduction ‘for the Western mind’ by the great Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung; did you know Paul Mellon underwent analysis with him, and later was responsible for the publication of Jung’s complete works in English by the Bollingen Foundation, which Mellon endowed (somewhat like the TRF, I guess – great blog on industry responsibility on that issue by Sue Finley today) of Princeton University? Anyway, one of the concepts Jung outlines is what he called ‘synchronicity’ – that what we sometimes consider ‘mere’ coincidence is really a bit more than that: events which actually co-incide in time.

Continental and United are now one
So I was traveling yesterday on Continental (soon to be united as United) from Edinburgh, my home airport, through Newark (the usual 90-minute delay), to my home state to visit family, including my dad, Harold, now 92 and the editor of his building’s monthly newsletter, which he does on Photoshop or whatever on his computer, and which is 14 pages this month. When people ask me where I’m from (I do live in Scotland, and do not have a Scottish accent), I sometimes ask them to guess, and the clue is that the most famous person from my home state is imaginary. A lot of people guess Florida, because they think Mickey Mouse comes from Florida; but, of course, the original Disneyland is in California, and he’s not the most famous person from either state. No, it’s Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz; we’re from Kansas.

Newark's Terminal A is due for a refurbishment
Here’s where the synchronicity comes in. When you’re traveling solo, especially on the commuter jets like from Newark (Terminal A, not nearly as hospitable as the international Terminal C) to Kansas City, if you’re sitting next to somebody it’s pretty hard not to talk to them. So yesterday I was sat next to a pretty strong guy with what I thought might be (Native American) Indian features who said he was from Kansas; turns out he is half-Samoan and grew up in Pasco, in the Tri-Cities area of Southeastern Washington, but has lived in Council Grove, Kansas, I think he said for the last fourteen years. He’s a railroad engineer (translation for Europeans: drives trains), in his case drives freight trains out of Herington, Kansas, west to Pratt and east to Kansas City. Had a Scottish father, but if you think somebody named Al McBee is going to be some Scottish-looking guy, no; the Samoan dominated. Anyway, you don’t want to know his whole life story, or mine, but, like so many people, his story is so interesting. Everybody’s is, somehow or other, and it’s striking to think that, if the computer put you in a different seat, you’d never had met that person or had that conversation; you’d have had a different one, or none at all (of course, you do have to ask, and be genuinely curious). I think that’s what Jung meant by synchronicity: the intersection of things, in time, at a place. Al, thanks for chatting, hope this doesn’t embarrass you, and good luck, man.


TDN Staff Blog said...

Here was my I Ching moment from this weekend. In 7th grade, we took a field trip to Sturbridge Village. I had two best friends at the time, who decided to sit together on the bus, and asked me if I'd mind sitting with another girl, Sue J. We rode up and back together, and became best friends, which we remain today. I went on to marry my husband Bill, who introduced Sue to his best friend David...and they got married and had three kids. This weekend, I had lunch with Sue and her youngest daughter Jennifer...who wouldn't be alive today if either one of my best friends had wanted to sit with me on the bus to Sturbridge Village in 1975.

Anonymous said...

Loved your post, and it struck me as funny since I think Synchronicity is a name the Moss' should consider when Zenyatta has her first foal.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bill for the bit of recognition, as I told you after the flight, this was, by far, one of the most interesting flights I've ever had. You were very easy to talk to and I too enjoyed your story as much a you did mine. I look forward to reading your blogs and if I ever get into twitter, I'll become one of your "twits". Oh, just to let you know... I'm posting this from my smart phone. I think you need one right? Take care I just may end up visiting Scotland one day.
-- Al McBee

Anonymous said...

Tweets, Al, Tweets! not Twits! LMAO!

All in good fun,