I had thought the sync fairies would either respect my moratorium or ignore it. I hadn't expected them to explain themselves and make their case. Twice this week now I've had "recitation dreams" -- the kind where most or all of the usual imagery is shut off and it's just some guy talking. Well, in this case there was imagery, but it had more the feel of a PowerPoint presentation; the talking was the main thing.
The speaker was a slim white man who looked to be in his fifties, neatly dressed in smart blue clothing, with very short white hair and a demeanor that gave the impression of high-ranking military brass, though I don't think his clothing was a uniform. It was just a sweater and slacks, I think, but still came across as "very smart." He spoke extremely quickly but with extremely clear enunciation, as if his delivery were precisely calculated to deliver the maximum amount of information as efficiently as possible. He never introduced himself, but I thought of him as "Tim" and understood that it was in this form that one of the sync fairies had chosen to appear to me.
I can report very little of the specific content of these lectures. They were not delivered in English, nor, I think, in any other known language. I was left with the impression that the man had been speaking Latin, but I don't think he actually was, and I have no memory of any Latin words he used. Another impression was that he had been using something which, while still verbal, was more direct than human language -- something that stood in relation to our English or Latin as assembly language does to LISP or C. (Sorry, I know my computing references are just a bit dated!)
The main thrust of the lecture was that he and his colleagues were engaged in directing my attention -- the words directing your attention were displayed in English, in very large white italics -- and that this was an extremely complex and delicate operation. Its complexity was illustrated by means of a dizzyingly complicated multidimensional diagram that kept moving and changing and reassembling itself. Each attentional decision -- whether a choice of my own or a successful nudge from them -- opened up new attentional pathways and closed off others, and so the whole thing had to be played like chess, thinking several moves in advance and taking into account various contingencies. The purpose of any particular move might not become apparent until many, many moves later.
The first recitation was delivered during my ordinary sleep on Monday night. The second -- which had the same general message, though I don't think it was a repeat of the first -- was given in more unusual circumstances. I was in my study last night reading The Philosopher's Pupil by Iris Murdoch. I was starting to feel a bit tired and thought I'd finish the section I was on and then go to bed. I was on page 137, and flipping ahead I saw there was a good stopping place -- five or six blank lines indicating a scene change -- on page 140, so I planned to stop there. When I reached the end of page 137, though, I suddenly felt just overpoweringly tired, like I had to stop immediately. But the page ended with the first word of a new sentence -- "There" -- and I couldn't very well stop with that! I would at least finish the sentence. As it turned out, I read the next sentence, too, which brought me to the end of a paragraph:
There were meanings in the world. He had seen the number forty-four chalked on a wall.
The urge to sleep was now overwhelming, and was accompanied by a little singsong in my mind, some lines from Joyce: "Sleep now, O sleep now, / O you unquiet heart! / A voice crying 'Sleep now' / Is heard in my heart." I couldn't even delay long enough to go into the next room to bed. I put the book down, lay down on the floor, and there was Tim again, with a "thank you for coming to my Ted talk" look on his face.
When I woke up, after the second lecture -- at around 4:00 this morning -- I opened the book and saw how the next paragraph began:
That's when I realized I'd been outsmarted. I had taunted the sync fairies with lines from Lady Gaga -- "You can call all you want, but there's no one home / And you're not gonna reach my telephone." Well, they had just summoned me as if to a telephone ("Sleep now, O sleep now"), I had answered, and they'd said their piece. Those were the words that came to mind -- "said their piece" -- which put a song in my head:
If you think it's a jokeThat's all right, do what you want to doI've said my pieceAnd I'll leave it all up to you
The rest of the lyrics are relevant, too:
By the way, that bit about "forty-four chalked on a wall" is a reference to this from p. 92:
As he emerged later, ready to swim, from the changing-rooms, he noticed something disturbing. The number 44, which was the number of the cubby-hole where he left his key, was the same as the number of his house and was also the last two figures in the number of his car. It was also his age. Little things were significant. It was a portent and all portents now were frightening.
This got my attention at the time because it was a general reference to the phenomenon of synchronicity. Forty-four also happens to be my age as I read this book for the first time, despite buying it many years ago, but that's a weak-sauce sync.
What's the significance of these "44" syncs in the novel? Well, obviously the only way to find out is to keep reading. If I stopped right now, refusing to read another page until I've figured out this 44 business, that would obviously be counterproductive. But that's what I'd told the sync fairies. I kind of get what Tim was saying.
I idly wondered whether this specific sync from the novel -- seeing 44 everywhere -- was going to start invading my life, as literary syncs so often do. No, not in this case. For superstitious reasons, any number ending in 4 or containing repeated 4s is avoided in Taiwan. House numbers get out of sync because one side of the street is numbered 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, . . . while the other is 2, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16 . . . . Forty-four is one number I'm definitely not going to see chalked on a wall or anywhere else.
With that thought, I went to bed -- in the bed this time.
In the morning, I taught a private English lesson. My student had brought an article which begins thus:
Have you ever heard of collage? It's art that combines different materials or parts of images together to make something new.
It was illustrated with a photo of Georges Braque -- I at first took him for Madame Blavatsky -- and his Violin and Pipe, prominently featuring what looks like a pair of sunglasses.
After the lesson and before lunch, I checked William Wright's blog and read his latest: "Gordon Kor, a peaceful school bus, and Holy Places to Stand." He mentions an author called Gordon Korman, so I looked him up. His best known book appears to be one called Restart, with a broken-but-repaired pair of glasses on the cover:
Richard Arrowsmith used to talk about "strapping on the sync goggles" -- meaning tuning in to synchronicity -- so the glasses theme seemed relevant. Mr. Wright's post dealt with the Korman novel Schooled, so I looked that up on Wikipedia and read the first couple of paragraphs of the plot summary:
Capricorn Anderson, nicknamed "Cap," being arrested for driving without a license. Cap was driving his grandmother, Rain, to the hospital after she injured herself climbing a tree. He and Rain are hippies living on Garland Farm, a far-removed hippie commune with no telephone service. Rain's injury requires her to undergo physical therapy for two months, leaving Capricorn without a caretaker or a teacher. With no other choice, Capricorn is sent to a social worker, Flora Donnelly. Mrs. Donnelly, who also grew up on Garland Farm, realizes that she herself is the best person to look after Cap and takes him into her home. Flora decides to enroll Cap in Claverage Middle School (dubbed C Average by the student body) as an eighth grader while Rain recovers.At Claverage, Cap finds himself completely unfamiliar with most social situations and conveniences. On his first day, he meets eighth-grade bully and jock Zachary "Zach" Powers, who singles him out for the school's biggest prank: electing the most unpopular student as the Eighth Grade President and besetting the victim with impossible demands, causing them to break down. Cap also meets Hugh Winkleman, a geeky social outcast at school, and befriends him. Cap ends up becoming the eighth-grade president due to his abnormal appearance and nature. Flora, realizing that Cap's obliviousness to social life and bullying protects him from the brunt of the abuse, reluctantly keeps silent. Meanwhile, Zach advances his plans to break Cap, enlisting the majority of the students, one of whom is Naomi, a girl with a crush on Zach. Naomi writes Cap fake love letters to get Zach's approval but begins to find herself drawn to Cap. However, Cap is unaffected and carries on as usual.
Claverage is interesting because it suggests the Latin for "key."
Last night I checked the old Arts & Letters Daily blog, which used to be run by Denis Dutton before he died and hasn't been the same since. A link from there took me to "The 'Crispy R' and Why R Is the Weirdest Letter," which mentioned Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend as a notable "crispy r" speaker. This led to me rewatching the video for "Ya Hey," the only Vampire Weekend song I know, and noticing that, while the Chrysler Building is visible through most of the video, it ends with a long shot of the Empire State Building. (The champagne bottles are also a sync with Lady Gaga: "I'm in the club, and I'm sippin' that bubb', and you're not gonna reach my telephone.")
I only recently learned to recognize these buildings, the NYC skyline never having been one of my strong suits. (For example, I learned that the World Trade Center had been a pair of Twin Towers, and that they had been famous, on September 11, 2001, and not a day before.) I became curious about the Chrysler Building -- my one and only existing association being with a Calvin & Hobbes reference to "a slug the size of the Chrysler Building" -- and checked a few things. I remembered that my parents used to have a Plymouth Voyager, made by Chrysler, and that the Plymouth logo used to be a picture of the Mayflower. As for the name Chrysler itself, it looks like it has something to do with the Greek for "gold," but it's actually from the German Kreisel, meaning a spinning top. This made me think of the Shakespeare line "And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges," which I looked up. It's from Twelfth Night, the play in which a fake love letter (cf. Schooled) induces Malvolio to go cross-gartered in yellow stockings. The immediate context caught my eye:
FOOL. . . And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.MALVOLIOI’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you! [Exit.]OLIVIAHe hath been most notoriously abused.ORSINOPursue him and entreat him to a peace. [Some exit.]He hath not told us of the Captain yet.When that is known, and golden time convents,A solemn combination shall be madeOf our dear souls. . . .
The Fool then proceeds to sing "The rain it raineth every day."
The "whirligig of time" is juxtaposed with "golden time" -- my two interpretations of Chrysler. "The Captain" syncs with the Schooled character known as Cap, who is also notoriously abused. (The 42 trailer also has a line about "the abuse" Jackie Robinson is about to receive.)
The slug the size of the Chrysler Building made me think that I'd mentioned slugs before on this blog. A search turned up only the 2021 post "Horseshoes, leatherleafs, and inattentional blindness" -- highly relevant to the theme of "sync goggles" and directed attention.
When I went out for lunch, I saw Braque-style sunglasses on the street:
I also passed the restaurant that has a big horseshoe on its sign, which I had never noticed until synchronicities made it relevant -- another link to "Horseshoes, leatherleafs, and inattentional blindness." Noticing that, I decided to go to D&D again for lunch.
Something else I'd never noticed before: One of the interior walls there is made to look like a blackboard with D∞D written on it in chalk. (It's a printed image, not actual chalk.) D is the fourth letter, so DD = 44. The lemniscate is 8, which is 4 + 4. Yes, even in Taiwan, "he had seen the number forty-four chalked on a wall."
No sooner had I sat down to eat than a woman with very large breasts and a tight T-shirt -- real subtle way of "directing my attention," sync fairies! -- came into the restaurant and sat opposite me. The T-shirt said, "No rain, no flowers." This syncs with the Rain and Flora characters in Schooled and the Fool's song in Twelfth Night. A more common form of the proverb is "April showers bring May flowers," which syncs with Plymouth. It also fits with the message that the current rain of syncs, though sometimes annoying and seemingly pointless, may be preparing the way for something to blossom later on.
So -- sigh -- reporting for duty again, sync fairies.