The sound to which I referred above was detected by the mammoth listening device called a "Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave" antenna, designed to pick up the sounds of so-called "ripples of space-time," another name for gravitational waves. These "ripples" of space time had been hypothesized by Albert Einstein one hundred years earlier as the "body" of our universe. This body, he thought, could be shaped and contorted much like a bed's mattress would be if you threw a rock in the mattress, only in this instance the contortion of the gravitational waves, or "ripples," was caused by a kind of apocalyptic collapse of two dying stars caught within the gravitational pull of the bodies, each circling the other.
That is my layman's description of the cosmic event which caught the attention of scientists around the world as well as many of us who continue to try to understand astral physics, quantum and gravitational fields, and Einstein's theory of relativity. So what is immediately significant about this and of value to you and me in our every-day life?
Let me give you an example. While I pondered the news of those black holes colliding into each other, rippling the gravitational waves of the universe, and uttering a sound we hear 1.2 billion light years later, a sound registered as middle C in our music scale -- while I thought about the utter awesomeness of the event and the equally awesome fact that we could pick up that sound, an interesting thing happened to me. I had just picked up my pen to write this blog. At that moment, I knew only that the black-hole event seemed important to me in some way which had not become clear.
Then, just as I had written the title of the blog and the first paragraph, I received an e-mail. All the way over on the other side of the globe, in Australia, my friend sent me a message whose subject line was: "A wow experience -- stunning time lapse will make you see the heavens in a whole new light."
"See the heavens in a whole new light" ... . That was exactly my experience of the two black holes colliding, emitting a sound we are hearing 1.2 billion years later, confirming Einstein's theory regarding the shape of the universe as it might shift its form in response to the pattern of gravitational waves and thereby change space and time as well. Just the idea itself that space and time are conditioned by the changing patterns of gravitational waves -- that in itself strains my understanding. But then, in addition, to receive a message from a friend on the other side of the planet, a message having to do with the ways we see and experience the universe, that also strains my understanding. We had not been messaging each other about the universe and its mysteries. Also, his message was not at all about the black holes but about the way we see and experience the universe.
This so-called "coincidence" of events such as happened with my friend, this in itself is a mystery. And it happens more frequently than we think. For example, I wake up thinking about an old friend I have not talked with in more than five years, and the phone rings. It is my friend who happened to be thinking of me. This experience of so-called coincidences is what Carl Jung named "synchronicity."
By synchronicity, Jung meant the meaningful experience of events that coincide in space and time for which there is no explanation of cause and effect. This is not telepathic communication between persons because there can be synchronistic events that do not occur between 2 or more persons, but also between persons and other objects. One example frequently cited is the "Pauli Effect." This refers to the reported tendency of laboratory experimental equipment to break regularly when the theoretical physicist, Wolfgang Pauli, came into close proximity with such equipment. (See George Gamow's account of this in his book, Thirty years That Shook Physics -- The Story of Quantum Physics, p. 64)
Jung's understanding of synchronicity is that there is a connection in the universe between all things. In his essay, Synchronicity -- An Acausal Connecting Principle, Jung attempts to link the academic islands of of psychology, philosophy, religion, and science by sketching the parameters of synchronicity as a "field" of meaningful connectivity that operates within the universe in addition to the quantum field, the magnetic-gravitational field, and the field of gravity.
My "take-away" from all this might be summarized with the following statements:
1. You and I are connected in ways we do not comprehend.
2. Occasions pop up in our lives when we may become aware of our connection in a meaningful way, a "synchronicity."
3. So it is throughout the universe that there exists a web of connectivity that cannot fully be explained by our present scientific paradigms.
4. This underlying process of connectedness seems to be what the Chinese philosophers call the TAO, defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as "... the basic, eternal principle of the universe that transcends reality, and is the source of being, non-being, and change." It may also be called the "Ground of Being," a term given us by the theologian/philosopher, Paul Tillich, to refer to "God," the ultimate source of all.
These are my statements. I offer them as someone who ponders the mystery of the universe with increasing marvel at the meaningful connections. At the same time, I am very aware of the danger of apophenia, the tendency to see meaningful connections or patterns where there are none, because of needing to see those patterns. This brings its own danger as well, however, and that is the tendency to see a pattern of no connections because we believe there could be none. This would perhaps be most tragic of all. How sad to be fully alive with another and not to realize the connection.