Today let’s pay attention to the strangeness of language. We’ll take a look at a handful of odd coincidences (collected in an article on Oddee), but the coincidences to really pay attention to are those in your own life. What is it about the power of a human name that we usually only notice when staring into the face of the bizarre and inexplicable?
What I invite you to do is rid yourself of preconceptions about language in much the way that Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) asked Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) to attend to his dreams in the movie Inception. To refresh your memory, remember this dialogue from a dream-within-a-dream sequence:
[the room shakes]
Dom Cobb: You feel that? You’ve actually been trained for this Mr Fischer, pay attention to the strangeness of the weather, the shift in gravity. None of this is real, you’re in a dream.
[everyone in the bar turns to look at them]
Dom Cobb: Now the easiest way for you to test yourself is to try and remember how you’ve arrived at this hotel. Can you do that?
Robert Fischer: Yeah… I…
Dom Cobb: Now breathe…breathe, remember your training. Accept the fact that you’re in a dream and I’m here to protect you. Go on.
What is it about a baby that seems to call for one name to be given it rather than another? How is it that a spouse’s name calls us or repulses us? How is it that we give names to our pets?
Twin Boys, twin lives
The stories of identical twins’ nearly identical lives are often astonishing, but perhaps none more so than those of identical twins born in Ohio. The twin boys were separated at birth, being adopted by different families. Unknown to each other, both families named the boys James. And here the coincidences just begin. Both James grew up not even knowing of the other, yet both sought law-enforcement training, both had abilities in mechanical drawing and carpentry, and each had married women named Linda. They both had sons whom one named James Alan and the other named James Allan. The twin brothers also divorced their wives and married other women – both named Betty. And they both owned dogs which they named Toy. Forty years after their childhood separation, the two men were reunited to share their amazingly similar lives. (Source: Reader’s Digest, January 1980)
The conventional view is that individuals make conscious choices based on their likes and dislikes in naming things. But these strange stories suggest something else entirely: something difficult to describe, almost impossible to conventional thinking, is going on. You might even say the names seem to be choosing us.
Just like Edgar Allan Poe’s book
In the 19th century, the famous horror writer, Egdar Allan Poe, wrote a book called ‘The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym’. It was about four survivors of a shipwreck who were in an open boat for many days before they decided to kill and eat the cabin boy whose name was Richard Parker. Some years later, in 1884, the yawl, Mignonette, foundered, with only four survivors, who were in an open boat for many days. Eventully the three senior members of the crew, killed and ate the cabin boy. The name of the cabin boy was Richard Parker.
The scientific materialist view of the world has no place for events like this, but I believe their reality is an alarm bell waking us from the dream of conventional reality. An odd scene 0f murder on a lifeboat occurs years apart, one fictional and the other “real,” but they are united by a name. A name.
The spooky stories pile up:
Three strangers on a Train, with complementary last names
In the 1920s, three Englishman were traveling separately by train through Peru. At the time of their introduction, they were the only three men in the railroad car. Their introductions were more surprising than they could have imagined. One man’s last name was Bingham, and the second man’s last name was Powell. The third man announced that his last name was Bingham-Powell. None were related in any way. (Source: Mysteries of the Unexplained)
We live in a world where the president of the most powerful country on Earth is named Barack Hussein Obama and the country’s two arch foes are named Hussein and Osama. And yet all of this is accepted as mere coincidence, completely irrelevant to the goings-on of the order of things. But all around us there are examples of names seeming to attract like names or repulse other names… all of which goes routinely unnoticed.
Except when it slaps you in the face, as it did George D. Bryson:
Two Mr. Brysons, same hotel room
While on a business trip sometime in the late 1950s, Mr. George D. Bryson stopped and registered at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. After signing the register and being given his key to room 307, he stopped by the mail desk to see if any letters had arrived for him. Indeed there was a letter, the mail girl told him, and handed him an envelope addressed to Mr. George D. Bryson, room 307. This wouldn’t be so odd, except the letter was not for him, but for room 307’s just-previous occupant – another man named George D. Bryson. (Source: Incredible Coincidence, Alan Vaughan)
If you laugh off events like this one (which probably occur more often than we realize), you’re given the gold medal seal of approval by Conventional Reality. On the other hand, you may be missing an opportunity to awaken from the strange dream. Could there be a reason for the coincidence, a synchronicity?
A novel that predicted the Titanic’s destiny, and another ship that almost followed
Morgan Robertson, in 1898, wrote “Futility”. It described the maiden voyage of a transatlantic luxury liner named the Titan. Although it was touted as being unsinkable, it strikes an iceberg and sinks with much loss of life. In 1912 the Titanic, a transatlantic luxury liner widely touted as unsinkable strikes an iceberg and sinks with great loss of life on her maiden voyage. In the Book, the Month of the Wreck was April, same as in the real event. There were 3,000 passengers on the book; in reality, 2,207. In the Book, there were 24 Lifeboats; in reality, 20.
Months after the Titanic sank, a tramp steamer was traveling through the foggy Atlantic with only a young boy on watch. It came into his head that it had been thereabouts that the Titanic had sunk, and he was suddenly terrified by the thought of the name of his ship – the Titanian. Panic-stricken, he sounded the warning. The ship stopped, just in time: a huge iceberg loomed out of the fog directly in their path. The Titanian was saved.
Perhaps if you are not Morgan Robertson and are generally unwakeful about coincidences in your life, then you have the luxury of dismissing coincidences as rubbish. But if you had taken the “mature, adult” point-of-view on the Titanian vessel, instead of the “foolish, childish” perspective of the young boy on watch, then you would have failed to sound the iceberg warning and your vessel and its crew would have been doomed.
Dopplegangers in this world exist, although if you haven’t found any of yours yet you may be sadly underappreciative of their power to open our eyes to perceive the enchantedness of the world.
King Umberto I’ double
In Monza, Italy, King Umberto I, went to a small restaurant for dinner, accompanied by his aide-de-camp, General Emilio Ponzia- Vaglia. When the owner took King Umberto’s order, the King noticed that he and the restaurant owner were virtual doubles, in face and in build. Both men began discussing the striking resemblances between each other and found many more similarities.
- a) Both men were born on the same day, of the same year, (March 14th, 1844).
- b) Both men had been born in the same town.
- c) Both men married a woman with same name, Margherita.
- d) The restauranteur opened his restaurant on the same day that King Umberto was crowned King of Italy.
- e) On the 29th July 1900, King Umberto was informed that the restauranteur had died that day in a mysterious shooting accident, and as he expressed his regret, he was then assassinated by an anarchist in the crowd.
My belief is that there is nothing more vital a task for anyone seeking wakefulness than to attend to the strangeness of the dream that is our symbolic consciousness.
What is it about the power of a name? Is there is a “magical” truth underlying the conventional reality, a truth disclosed through greater linguistic awareness?
These are some of the questions we will be exploring on Beyond Language. I have some insights and surprises in store for you, beginning with the posts on sound symbolism which help to set the stage. Thanks for reading along…